With Hong Kong in Turmoil, China Upgrades Shenzhen’s Status

  • Shenzhen was established in 1979. In the past 40 years, the total GDP has ranked among the top three cities in mainland China.
  • Dissidents believe that Hong Kong has been competing in a fully open international market for many years.
  • Hong Kong has erupted a large-scale "reverse delivery" demonstration since June, and various extreme behaviors have been escalated.

Hong Kong broke out again in “reverse delivery” protests Friday, opposing the now-withdrawn extradition bill to mainland China, and demanding democracy in the city. The organizers said that the number of people participating in a human chain reached 1.7 million. On the same day, Shenzhen, a mainland Chinese city adjacent to Hong Kong, received a “birthday gift”– the Chinese government issued a plan to build Shenzhen into a pilot demonstration area for socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Shenzhen was established in 1979. In the past 40 years, the total GDP has ranked among the top three cities in mainland China. In 2018, the total economic output exceeded Hong Kong’s. The plan from Beijing proposes greater liberalization of the financial sector, the free trade zone, and other policies. Some economists said that in view of Hong Kong’s political controversy, China’s move is intended to strengthen Shenzhen’s weight in the Dawan District and weaken Hong Kong’s position.

Protesters form a human chain in Hong Kong Friday, on the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way protests. The 419 mile-long human chain, formed by approximately two million people in then-Soviet occupied Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, itself occurred on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Dissidents believe that Hong Kong has been competing in a fully open international market for many years. No matter the degree of internationalization, the internationally recognized legal system, and the talent density, it is hard to replace in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong has erupted in large-scale demonstrations since June, opposing extradition to mainland China, or “reverse delivery.” Various extreme behaviors have escalated since then. Hu Rong, Assistant Professor of Real Estate and Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that the new policy of the Shenzhen Demonstration Zone launched at this time reflects the Chinese government’s major adjustments in its long-term policy plan.

Shenzhen’s political status has suddenly risen, and it needs to be combined with the planning timetable of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Hu Rong said that the deepening of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao cooperation to promote the construction of the Dawan District framework agreement was signed on July 1, 2017, the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return. The selection of this date reflects the Chinese government’s approach to Hong Kong in the entire Greater Bay Area.

In February of this year, the Chinese government issued another more detailed planning outline. In this document, Hong Kong is positioned as an international financial, shipping, trade center, and international aviation hub, and it is necessary to vigorously develop innovation and technology undertakings to nurture emerging industries.

Shenzhen is China’s fourth most populous city, at approximately 10.4 million people. It was also established as China’s first Special Economic Zone in 1980, giving the city more economic freedom and flexible government policies, compared to the centrally-planned economy elsewhere in China.

In this plan, the division of labor between Hong Kong and Shenzhen is clear and emphasizes complementarity. Not only that, this document mentions Hong Kong 102 times, Macau 90 times, Guangzhou 41 times, and Shenzhen 39 times, reflecting Hong Kong’s core position in the Greater Bay Area.

However, four months after the launch of the outline, Hong Kong’s “reverse delivery” demonstrations broke out. After the demonstration lasted for more than two months, Shenzhen suddenly “upgraded.”

Hu Rong believes that a series of events since June prove that the expectations of Hong Kong may be only the unilateral good wishes of the mainland central government. The young people in Hong Kong do not have a high sense of identity with the mainland, and may not necessarily integrate into the economic development of Dawan District. Totally relying on Hong Kong, it will bring variables to the long-term plan of the Greater Bay Area.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.


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