The Miracle of Shenzhen

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It’s hard to believe it now but it’s exactly 40 years to the day since Deng Xiaoping travelled south by a slow train from Beijing on what became known as his “southern sweep” and, with one withered finger pointing towards the agricultural plains that surrounded the small fishing town of Shenzhen, he launched China’s first “special economic zone” and opened mainland China up to the rest of the world. The first ‘outsiders’ to arrive were the entrepreneurs from Hong Kong who seized on the opportunity to move their factories across the border and enjoy the tax concessions, cheap labour and plentiful land available to them so close to Hong Kong’s border…..and the rest is history.

40 years later, President Xi Jinping returned this week to conduct his own southern tour and, during a major speech yesterday, referred to the growth of Shenzhen as a “miracle in world development history”, confirming that China “must remain committed to opening-up on all fronts and continuously enhance the attractiveness of “bringing in” and the competitiveness of “going out”. According to CGTN, “the President called on Shenzhen to accelerate the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (‘GBA’), an important strategy of China, and Shenzhen is a major engine driving its development”. From everything I’ve heard, the GBA strategy is President’s Xi’s biggest priority and one which will determine his longer term legacy, so expect to read and hear a lot more about it in the years ahead.

For a taste of what a modern Presidential southern tour looks like, please watch this short video compiled by the South China Morning Post:

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