The urban laboratory of President Xi’s vision

Shenzhen, which was once the cradle of China’s reforms under Deng Xiaoping, is set for a major makeover. Under President Xi Jinping, the hi-tech metropolis has been given a pioneering role — of a model city showcasing socialist imagination of urbanisation at the highest level.

In late September, People’s Daily — the flagship of the Communist Party of China (CPC) — ran a major article authored by He Lifeng, Minister of National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC), China’s premier macro-planning hub.

The write-up pointed out that the Central Committee of the CPC, the engine of the party-state, has assigned Shenzhen the role of a “Pilot Demonstration Area of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. In plain language, this meant that Shenzhen would be a “lab”, experimenting with new ideas and concepts of modern urbanisation, based on the principles of advanced socialism, as conceived by the CPC.

A model for reforms

“This is a major decision based on the overall situation of new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics under the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core. It not only reflects the Party Central Committee’s full affirmation of the achievements of Shenzhen’s reform and opening up, but also… provides a strong impetus and fundamental follow-up for Shenzhen’s future development,” said the article.

Shenzhen rose to international fame after Deng, in 1980, decided to turn around the sleepy fishing village, not far from the financial hub of Hong Kong, into a model for China’s economic reforms and opening up.

Shenzhen’s first phase of reforms has yielded stunning results. Today, it is the headquarters of the DJI — the world’s largest drone maker. It is also home to BYD — a global icon in the electric car arena.

The Ping An International Financial Centre, in picture, which stands tall as the world’s fourth highest skyscraper, is pioneering fintech in China. Tencent Holdings, which is also stationed in Shenzhen, is the world’s biggest maker of video games. WeChat, a huge micro-blogging site, which also serves as a digital payments platform, and much more, is part of Tencent’s stable, founded by digital pioneer Pony Ma.

Industries of the future

“We are moving towards the future industries — the examples include a combination of biotech and hi-tech,” Yao Weizhi, an official at the Shenzhen foreign affairs office earlier told The Hindu. “The point is that we do not want to do biotech and hi-tech separately. The key is integration. When we integrate bio-engineering, hi-tech and couple it with Big Data, the whole ecosystem will change, generating massive value and opportunities,” he observed.

Mr. Xi now wants to leave his mark for posterity by taking Shenzhen’s development to the next level. “At present, China’s reform and opening up has reached a new historical juncture. The complexity and arduousness of promoting reform and opening up is no less than that of 40 years ago. The Party Central Committee supports Shenzhen to build pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics with the hope that Shenzhen will… explore new paths for the new era of reform and opening up,” said the article.

With social unrest rocking Hong Kong, the CPC has declared that instead of emerging as a rival, Shenzhen will guide Hong Kong’s integration into the Greater Bay Area — a massive undertaking, integrating development of coastal China’s booming Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macao. The People’s Daily article was explicit in stating that Shenzhen’s rise would enrich the “one country, two systems” — the template of autonomy at the heart of Hong Kong and Macao’s economic enmeshment with the mainland.

“Shenzhen (would) adhere to the ‘one country’ and make good use of the ‘two systems’, continue to rely on Hong Kong and Macao, serve Hong Kong and Macao, support Hong Kong and Macao to integrate into the overall development of the country and maintain long-term prosperity and stability,” the article noted.

Since July, when Mr. Xi unveiled Shenzhen’s “grand blueprint” for the future and entrusted a “Leading Group” of the CPC to steer coordinated development of the Greater Bay Area, it has been decided that Shenzhen would become a world-class smart city, hosting an ecosystem that deploys 5G connectivity, Artificial Intelligence, integrated circuits, biomedicine, and advanced financial services.

Atul Aneja is The Hindu’s Beijing correspondent


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