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Shenzhen's next move: The Greater Bay Area

Shenzhen's next move: The Greater Bay Area

Credited as the architect of China’s reform and opening up campaign, reminders of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's contributions to the city are hard to miss. (Photo: Olivia Siong)

SHENZHEN, Guangdong: Overlooking the city of Shenzhen, perched on top of Lianhua Hill - is a statue of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Credited as the architect of China’s reform and opening up campaign, billboards and other such reminders of his contributions are hard to miss around the city.

After all, Shenzhen was where China’s “economic miracle” started when Mr Deng decided to embrace market mechanisms and to integrate China into the global economy four decades ago.

That policy helped turn Shenzhen from a small fishing village into a city now referred to as China’s answer to Silicon Valley.

From a small fishing village, Shenzhen has been transformed into a city now referred to as China’s answer to Silicon Valley. (Photo: Olivia Siong)

Mr Deng’s legacy is also recorded at a museum in the Shekou district, which charts China’s reform journey over the last 40 years.

“It’s good because it shows the Chinese Dream," said Mr Fang Hedong, who was speaking to Channel NewsAsia after visiting the exhibition.

"Shenzhen in itself is an innovative city, which has developed very fast. A lot of people come here with dreams.”

“I think the great men before us helped to lead the way. If not, how would we have our good life today?" added another visitor known as Ms Zeng.

Also recorded in the exhibition is what’s seen as the next step in the narrative.

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s bay area plans, Shenzhen will be turned into an innovation and technology powerhouse. (Photo: Olivia Siong)

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s bay area plans, Shenzhen is one of nine cities in Guangdong province that will be turned into an innovation and technology powerhouse, together with Hong Kong and Macau, to rival Silicon Valley in the US.

However, experts say the scheme can only work if the various cities can integrate.

”Hong Kong and Macau are under the “one country, two systems” policy, all are separate customs territories, which means the law is different," said Mr Guo Wanda, Executive Vice President of the China Development Institute.

"The currency is also different, even language wise, there are a few. So, this presents its diversity, which could present some challenges – with differences in culture, law. From the government’s perspective, how do you implement the plans for this metropolitan region?”

In March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said a detailed plan for the area would be rolled out soon.

Though against the backdrop of a trade war with the United States - this has yet to be released.

For example, it was recently announced that Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents would be given a new ID card to allow them the same access to public services as those on the mainland. 

China has also said it will provide greater funding access and support to Hong Kong scientists.

Deng Xiaoping's legacy is recorded at a museum in the Shekou district, which charts China’s reform journey over the last 40 years. (Photo: Olivia Siong) ​​​​​​​

President Xi’s recent trip to Shenzhen and other southern cities has drawn comparisons with that of Mr Deng’s in the 1990s.

In fact, many had hoped that Mr Xi’s trip would build on Mr Deng’s visit and get stalled reforms moving.

But against the backdrop of a worsening Chinese economy and an expanding trade war, some analysts think it may be tough to repeat Mr Deng’s success.

“The comparative advantages of doing exporting business and absorbing more industry relocation has become more and more difficult for Xi’s presidency," said Yue Su, a Beijing-based economist with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

"Xi has also mentioned lots of times that he wants to expand and strengthen the state sector and make the state owned enterprises compete with other companies globally. So I think that’s the reason why Xi has to balance the state owned sector and the private sector...The economic slowdown and its uncertainty on income and employment is the biggest concern for the Chinese government.”

Also, the line between the state and private sectors has been blurred in the years since Mr Xi came to power.

By some estimates, at least 10 private conglomerates have been nationalized this year.

Even though the Chinese Communist Party has time and again pledged to deepen the reform and opening up process, implementation has been lax.

But hope is what the Greater Bay Area scheme offers – not just to those living in the area, but also for President Xi, who is making his bid for his place in the history books by pitting himself against Mr Deng’s legacy.

Source: CNA/nh

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