Shen­zhen: Dream­ers’ Heaven

Shen­zhen has be­come a top des­ti­na­tion for the thinkers of to­mor­row.

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Shi Lei

Twenty-eight years ago when I first ar­rived in Shen­zhen, only a sin­gle bus line reached the Shekou In­dus­trial Zone from the Luohu Rail­way Sta­tion, and a sin­gle trip took two hours. In those days, only small pri­vate stores sold elec­tric ap­pli­ances like tele­vi­sions and re­frig­er­a­tors and of­fered no war­ranties or re­pair ser­vice. Even so, many young peo­ple like my­self chose to stay be­cause the city was to­tally dif­fer­ent from China’s inland cities. De­spite its rus­tic qual­i­ties, it gave us hope—hope to change our lives.

In the early 1980s when the Shen­zhen Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone was first built, man­u­fac­tur­ing en­ter­prises from Hong Kong and Tai­wan dom­i­nated the place. In the 1990s, con­sid­er­ing its lim­ited ter­ri­tory, Shen­zhen eyed up­grad­ing its industry to high-tech realms that re­quire smaller spa­ces, emit less pol­lu­tion and have greater added value. But the city lacked col­leges, in­sti­tutes and a tal­ent pool. So the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment of Shen­zhen in­vited some inland uni­ver­si­ties to es­tab­lish re­search in­sti­tu­tions in the city. At the end of 1996, the first lo­cal academy—re­search In­sti­tute of Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity in Shen­zhen—was launched jointly by the Shen­zhen mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment and Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity. The for­mer in­vested 80 mil­lion yuan in the con­struc­tion of the in­sti­tute, a big ex­pen­di­ture for a gov­ern­ment whose to­tal an­nual rev­enue was only 3.7 bil­lion yuan at that time.

Thanks to the sound aca­demic and in­dus­trial en­vi­ron­ment of Shen­zhen and Guang­dong Prov­ince, this new type of re­search and devel­op­ment in­sti­tutes en­joyed rapid growth. Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity has taken ad­van­tage of its alumni re­sources and global reach to help its grad­u­ates win sup­port from the Shen­zhen mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment’s “Phoenix Pro­gram” and Guang­dong Prov­ince’s “Pearl River Plan” and built a plat­form to help over­seas grad­u­ates re­turn to start busi­ness. In re­cent years, the in­sti­tute has pro­duced five

A true im­mi­grant town, Shen­zhen is so in­clu­sive that every­one strives for a com­mon goal and eas­ily reaches con­sen­sus.

teams that have won grants un­der the “Phoenix Pro­gram” and three teams for projects un­der the “Pearl River Plan,” not only en­hanc­ing its re­search level but also ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in­dus­trial strength for the city and the prov­ince. The city hopes all of these teams will be­come high-tech gi­ants in the fu­ture.

To­day, more than 60 uni­ver­si­ties from around China and the world have set up re­search in­sti­tu­tions in Shen­zhen. Over the past two decades, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment launched a se­ries of plans to at­tract high-cal­iber pro­fes­sion­als by pro­vid­ing sub­si­dies to new grad­u­ates. Shen­zhen is now home to more than 20 mil­lion res­i­dents, ten times more than the pop­u­la­tion in the 1990s. And the av­er­age age of its pop­u­la­tion is only 30 years old. The in­flux of so many young peo­ple has in­jected con­sid­er­able vigor and cre­ativ­ity into the city. A true im­mi­grant town, Shen­zhen is so in­clu­sive that every­one strives for a com­mon goal and eas­ily reaches con­sen­sus.

Ad­her­ing to its orig­i­nal as­pi­ra­tion to be­come a high-tech city, Shen­zhen has evolved into an ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy hub. Ra­di­at­ing from the high-tech in­dus­trial park in its Nan­shan Dis­trict, Shen­zhen High-tech In­dus­trial Zone now houses over 60 in­sti­tutes and head­quar­ters of many elite high­tech en­ter­prises like Ten­cent and DJI. Thou­sands of such com­pa­nies op­er­ate in the area cov­er­ing only sev­eral square kilo­me­ters but cre­ate a to­tal in­dus­trial out­put worth thou­sands of bil­lions yuan. The high-tech in­dus­trial park in Nan­shan Dis­trict alone hosts 150 listed com­pa­nies, over 80 per­cent of which are high-tech firms.

Over the past 20 years, Shen­zhen has be­come the top des­ti­na­tion for in­no­va­tive star­tups. It has be­come the city for dream­ers due to its sound mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment, ad­vanced model of gov­er­nance, pref­er­en­tial in­dus­trial poli­cies, per­fect in­dus­trial sup­port and chains, abun­dant pri­vate in­vest­ment cap­i­tal and spe­cial cul­ture of an im­mi­grant city. These fac­tors have also fu­eled Shen­zhen’s mirac­u­lous growth in the past few decades.

Shi Lei, as­sis­tant pres­i­dent of the Re­search In­sti­tute of Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity in Shen­zhen, in his of­fice. Thanks to the sound aca­demic and in­dus­trial en­vi­ron­ment of Shen­zhen and Guang­dong Prov­ince, the in­sti­tute en­joys rapid growth.

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