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Nowadays, more than ten million people live in Shenzhen, a growing city on the Pearl Delta in Southern China. Its incredible evolution in the past few years is a great example of how quickly cities around the world can develop and emerge to the global stage. Just a few decades ago, in the 1970s, its inhabitants numbered just over 30 thousand. They now number in the millions, and its GDP is now comparable to Sweden’s. What are the factors and consequences of this sudden, and spectacular, growth ?
When arriving in Shenzhen, the landscape is striking, especially in the Nanshan, Luohu and Futian business districts, where the skyscrapers keep on growing faster and faster. Currently there are 59 buildings which are over 200 meters tall, like the Ping An Finance center, the China Resources headquarters and the Shun Hing Square. Why did the houses which once made up most of the city’s buildings transform into huge, towering buildings ?
The location of the city next to the coast is a major asset and permitted its opening to the world and the international streams. It maintains a close relationship with Hong Kong and other cities on the Pearl Delta, which greatly helped their development and their insertion into the world, leading this region to achieve an annual economic output as large as Italy's.
The development of Shenzhen happened in large part thanks to the creation in 1980 of the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in China over the current districts of Nanshan, Luohu, Yantian and Futian. A Special Economic Zone is a place in the country where the laws concerning taxes for firms are different, making it interesting for other countries to install their firms and to invest. The concept worked brilliantly, Shenzhen became an attractive city and many international factories were built. Therefore, the economic growth rate increased suddenly and was at a staggering 40% per annum for several years. In 1990, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange was created to correspond to the need of the rapidly growing city. Today the growth rate is around 10%, which is still higher than most developed cities, and the GDP amounts to 294 billion dollars in 2016. Its global influence is recognized worldwide, as the city was ranked 19th in the 2016 Global Financial Centres Index. Shenzhen was chosen by several high-tech companies like Huawei, One-Plus, TP-link, and banks like Ping An Bank and China Merchants Bank to be the location for their headquarters, showing its emerging importance.
To support the development of the city and serve all the districts efficiently, an improvement of the transports was necessary. Following the creation of the Special Economic Zone in order to facilitate trade with other countries, the international airport was inaugurated on the 12th of october 1991, 35 km away from the city center. It is now the main airport for several Chinese companies. Besides, a ferry exists to go from the Hong Kong Airport to the city center. The coast of Shenzhen is stretched over 260 km and is a convenient place for a port. In the middle of a multitude of small ones, a larger one is emerging and was ranked the third busiest port in the world, giving Shenzhen the opportunity to import and export lots of marchandises.
In 2004 the subway started running and now 8 lines representing 286 km under the city are in service. As the city is still evolving and spreading additional lines and extension are in construction and will be ready in 2020.
Thanks to the revolution in transports Shenzhen is now easily accessible and the distance between two opposite sides of the city can be traveled exceptionally fast.
While the city is full of economic opportunities, in order to really prsoper it needs to be attractive to all segments of the population. Education is primordial in the development of the city as the need of people with high qualifications is increasing. With 13 colleges and universities and 7 international schools, the education network in Shenzhen is very developed.
Tourism also plays an important part in development. The goal of the construction of the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition center, the He Xiangning Art museum and Shenzhen Cultural center and many other museums was to provide entertainment for Shenzhen’s inhabitants and visitors, and to attract intellectuals from all over the world. Shenzhen has a lot to offer to tourists, with emblematic places such as a China folk culture village, coupled with wonderful beaches and many parks inside the city.
Shenzhen managed to integrate itself to our complex world. Many links were created with 25 cities around the world from Montevideo, Uruguay to Brisbane, Australia, through to Luxor, Egypt.
As every metropolis, Shenzhen encounters different problems such as traffic, pollution and security and needs to find a solution to overcome these hurdles which are preventing the city from growing and functioning at best as it could. Pollution, as in toher parts of China, is especially problematic, with many suggesting it could lead, over time, to severe health issues amongst the population. The rapid development also engendered problems with housing, which has become increasingly scarce and expensive over time, and is an issue that needs to be resolved. The city aspires to keep growing and see its influence worldwide develop.
The progress achieved by the city in the last 35 years is incomparable, and is a striking illustration for how fast the pace of development can be in the 21st Century, but there is much more to do in order for it to become a truly global city, with new developments to accomplish and challenges to face.