40 Years of the Shenzhen miracle: from 'China's Silicon Valley' to 'engine of Greater Bay Area'

Aug. 26 (NBD) -- This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China's first special economic zone, namely Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, the trailblazer in reform and opening-up.

Being one of the youngest first-tier cities in China, the southern metropolis, since its establishment, has successfully transformed from a "world factory" in the first three decades when it centered on manufacturing, to the shining "China's Silicon Valley" in the last decade with incessant innovation.

Photo/Shetuwang

Shenzhen has always been the vanguard of China's innovative development. Official statistics indicate that from 2013 to 2017, the annual growth of R&D expenditures of the city averaged 14.9 percent, and the proportion of R&D expenditures to its GDP soared to 4.35 percent in 2017 from 3.67 percent in 2012, taking a lead globally.

The striking number of patents also implies Shenzhen's innovative genes. An official report showcases that in 2019, Shenzhen submitted 261,502 items of patent application in China, a year-on-year increase of 14.39 percent, and received 26,051 authorized items, only second to Beijing, marking a year-on-year rise of 22.25 percent.

Last year, China issued the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (the "Plan"), granting Shenzhen a new unparalleled role and further lifted its position.

The Plan listed Shenzhen, along with Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macao, as the "four engines" for the regional development, and boost the development of other important cities, such as Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, etc.

"In the past, Shenzhen didn't keep a close tie with the surrounding cities," recalled Lin Jiang, professor at Lingnan (University) College of Sun Yat-sen University, in an interview with National Business Daily (NBD). 

But it has improved cooperation with cities in Guangdong Province in recent years, he added. "For instance, Shenzhen built a special cooperation zone with Shanwei, and another zone with Heyuan recently, making enclave economy a new highlight."

In June 2020, the Shenzhen authorities proposed a guideline on the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, revealing that Shenzhen is planning to build the area in 8 major aspects, including technology and innovation, finance, infrastructure, culture and tourism, ecology, the Belt and Road Initiative, etc.

While Shenzhen is playing a leading role in the construction of the Greater Bay Area, it's also enhancing relationship with other cities in the area.

"For example, if Shenzhen wants to enlarge the scale of subways and other rail transits and expand their benefits, it wouldn't be possible without collaborating with the surrounding cities such as Dongguan and Guangzhou," explained Lin to NBD.

"Looking to the future, Shenzhen endeavors to be the best example among Chinese cities of achieving harmonious development between human and nature, as well as cities and rural areas, and the unity of traditional and brand-new infrastructure," said Lin, "Shenzhen needs to make breakthroughs in the existing development model and play a key role in linking others amid the development of the Greater Bay Area."

 

Email: gaohan@nbd.com.cn

Editor: Gao Han