Shenzhen is the symbol of the transformative reforms launched by China 40 years ago: former fishing villages that evolved into an economic hub.
Today Shenzhen is again at the heart of a new policy aimed at turning China into a high-tech innovator.
Modern skyscrapers housing corporations and ambitious startups tower over the city of 13 million people — among them is Wu Yebin, 35, who runs his own tech firm from his 35th-floor office.
His own story mirrors those of countless others who have risen from modest backgrounds following the reform and opening up.
The son of poor farmers, Wu arrived in the city in 2005 and over the years he assembled electronic devices on the production line.
He now leads his own electronics firm, MeegoPad, which boasts an annual turnover of US$28 million making products such as miniature PCs.
“We are very attached to intellectual property and patents,” Wu said.
Shenzhen, which lived off fishing and rice paddies, became a testing ground for the reforms when it was designated as the country’s first special economic zone in 1980.
Today Shenzhen is the headquarters of some global corporations, such as telecom company Huawei and Internet giant Tencent, and the city of tens of thousands of factories is dubbed the“Silicon Valley of Hardware.”
The metropolis is now seeking to turn itself into the home of innovation, in line with the “Made in China 2025” plan to dominate key high-tech industries such as robotics, electric vehicles and artificial intelligence.
Talent from abroad has been flocking to Shenzhen.
Meng Jie, who is French and in his 30s, left California’s Silicon Valley in 2017 to create Maybe, a company that makes smart speakers that help people learn Mandarin.
“Silicon Valley is still way ahead in artificial intelligence. But you can find the electronic or mechanical component you need three times faster in Shenzhen,” Meng said.
“It’s like going from a road to a motorway,” he said.
Pointing to the skyscrapers outside his office, he said: “People see Silicon Valley as the tech Mecca. They underestimate Shenzhen a lot because they don’t know what’s happening here.”
“This place was just sand and water 40 years ago. In 10 years, Shenzhen will be a very important world city. It will be the capital of innovation,” he said.
Those who have witnessed Shenzhen’s rise marvel at its progress. Shenzhen is “really nice fertile ground for innovation,” said Duncan Turner, managing director of HAX, an incubator for startups based in the city.
Turner, who moved to Shenzhen in 2009, said the biggest change he has seen in the past decade is how young people are “becoming incredibly inventive, entrepreneurial R&D (research and development) experts that are leading the way of technology in certain areas.”
Improved higher education has created a new generation of engineers, such as Zhang Zhaohui, chief executive of Youibot, which set up his company in HAX’s incubator to make the first autonomous maintenance robot for buses.
“Shenzhen has huge potential,” Zhang, 26, predicted. “The city could very quickly catch up to Silicon Valley.”
From: Shenzhen Daily