My favorite city so far.
01/26/2013 - 01/26/2013 70 °F
Shenzhen, 135 kilometers southeast of Guangzhou and just north of Hongkong, is the first and one of the most successful Special Economic Zones (SEZs) of China. It holds sub-provincial status, with administrative power slightly less than a province.
Shenzhen's modern cityscape is the result of the vibrant economy made possible by rapid foreign investment since the institution of the policy of "reform and opening" and establishment of the SEZ in the late 1979, before which it was only a small village. Both Chinese and foreign nationals have invested enormous amounts of money in the Shenzhen SEZ. More than US$30 billion in foreign investment has gone into both foreign-owned and joint ventures, at first mainly in manufacturing but more recently in the service industries as well. Shenzhen is now considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shenzhen)
China's continuing urbanization, one of the largest mass migrations in human history, means that all Chinese cities have large and growing contingents of immigrants. But Shenzhen, because of its extremely short history, is by its nature, the most extreme example of this internal immigration and at the same time, unlike all others. Its economic opportunities bring a continuing stream of young and well-educated people seeking high-paying jobs and an environment favorable to entrepreneurship. These young educated professionals are the engine behind Shenzhen's economy.
Unlike most cities, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, citizens generally speak Mandarin rather than any local or regional dialect. Shenzhen is also unique in that, because everyone comes from somewhere else, there is no "native" population to hold reservations or suspicion towards non-locals, something typically experienced when a Chinese citizen travels outside their native district.
I don't know if such statistics exist, but to me Shenzhen seems to have more high-rises than anywhere else. The skyline is breathtaking, especially at night when all the lights come on. The architecture is unique and interesting. Shenzhen is also the cleanest city I have experienced in China (perhaps the average educational level has something to do with it). If I had to choose a place in China to live, Shenzhen would likely to be near the top of my list.
What motivated me to visit Shenzhen are two of my good friends from college, Jieping and Peng. They both settled down in Shenzhen after graduating from Wuhan University. We saw each other just last May when I brought a class of American students to China, but I felt the visit was rushed because I was wearing the hat of responsible chaperone. This time, I felt a lot more relaxed to simply visit with them.
Zhexiong drove us to Shenzhen from Guangzhou Friday night. After having a hot-pot dinner in Guangzhou and two hours on the highway, we arrived around midnight. The kids were both asleep by the time we checked in to the hotel. Saturday morning, Ellie woke up to this really "cool" bathroom. After finding some western style foods at the breakfast buffet, she was in a really good mood.
It took forever for us to negotiate the traffic even on a Saturday morning to get to Kingkey 100, the currently tallest building in Shenzhen. Here are some shots of the streets we drove past. I was quite impressed by the design of street lights: they have both wind wheels and solar panels. I wonder if the power generated can provide enough for the lights themselves. The streets are clean and well landscaped with beautiful evergreens and flowers. In a way, I was pleased that we had some time in the car to see the city.
Here is the famous giant portrait of Deng Xiaoping at the center of a busy intersection downtown. He was the third president, and began the economic reform of China that continues today.
Finally, we have Kingkey 100 in our sight.
The 96th floor of Kingkey 100 is the lobby of Hotel St. Regis. It is open to the public with a visitation fee of 100 yuan ($16) per person. The lobby is nicely furnished with a lot of shining modern artwork, staffed with well-dressed hotel receptionists. In fact, when I brought a group of American students here last year, they felt severely under-dressed in their shorts and T-shirts. The lobby offers a 360 degree view of the city. The tallest building in the picture, with two wires on top, used to be the tallest building of Shenzhen before Kingkey 100 was completed in 2011. I was told that a even taller building is currently being constructed. So Kingkey will be on the throne for less than five years. Chinese do seem to have an addiction for tall buildings.
After Kingkey 100, we visited the Shenzhen museum. Among all the museums I visited in China, this one is my favorite. It is well-organized and displayed the history of Shenzhen with vivid exhibits that sustained visitors' interest. There were two special animal exhibits that piqued the kids' interest this time.
We arrived mid-afternoon at the restaurant where we were having dinner with Jieping and Peng and their families. We would have met them earlier during the day, but Jieping had to work this Saturday. As a matter of fact, he had to work one Saturday every month for Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider with offices in various parts of the U.S. He is paid well, but certainly works hard. The restaurant we made a reservation with is inside a big shopping mall called Cocopark. It seems to be very common in China nowadays to have a central place with shopping, dining and entertainment all under the same roof. A kids' play area is a must, and the entrance fee tends to be pricy. This time, we found a play area that charges $10/kids for unlimited play. It is small and crowded, but Skyler and Ellie started running towards it the moment they caught it in their sight. They had a good time and were drenched in sweat after one hour of hard play.
The dinner last four hours, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.. The food was good, but the company was even better! What other words could I use to describe the time spent together with good friends? It was PURE HAPPINESS. We ate, drank, talked and laughed... It wasn't until the end of evening before we remembered to take a picture.