SHENZHEN, Guangdong - President Hu Jintao hailed the southern economic powerhouse of Shenzhen as a "miracle" on Monday as China marked 30 years of reforms of the city that provided the blueprint for the country's economic rebirth.
"The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) created a miracle in the world's history of industrialization, urbanization and modernization, and has contributed significantly to China's opening up and reform," Hu said during a visit to the southern city, which borders Hong Kong.
President Hu Jintao lays a wreath in front of the statue of former leader Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's reform and opening up, in Shenzhen on Monday. Hu delivered a keynote speech hailing the southern economic powerhouse as China marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the country's first special economic zone. [Photo by Li Xueren / Xinhua]
"The central government will, as always, support the brave exploration of the special economic zone as well as its role of testing and carrying out reforms ahead of others."
Shenzhen was China's first SEZ. Xiamen, Shantou, Zhuhai and Hainan are the country's other SEZs.
Hu urged the SEZs to be bold in reform and innovation in their roles as the "first movers".
The SEZs could experiment with reforms in economic, political, cultural and social systems, he said.
Hu called for "expanding socialist democracy" and speeding up the construction of "a socialist country under the rule of law."
He said efforts should be made to carry out democratic elections, decision-making, management and supervision in order to safeguard the people's right to know, to participate, to express and to supervise.
Li Ka-shing, chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, said in a speech that the Shenzhen SEZ was the "driving force" of China's reform and opening-up.
"Overseas Chinese have been heartened and convinced by the achievements of the country's reform and opening-up," said Li, Hong Kong's richest man.
Wang Rong, secretary of the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, said the city will continue to play the role of "first mover" and strive to be at the "vanguard of China's scientific development."
Shenzhen is endeavoring to build itself into a "modern and international" metropolis, Wang said.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, late last month decreed the southern city "a national economic center" and "a city of global clout" in cultural, economic and technological exchanges.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Shenzhen is widely viewed as the cradle of China's dramatic transformation into a world economic and trade juggernaut. In August of 1980, it became the first area in China to be designated as a special economic zone that could accept foreign investment, under reforms pioneered by late leader Deng Xiaoping.
It offered lower taxes and less red tape to attract overseas investors whose factories - staffed by China's abundant cheap labor - set the mold for the country's explosive manufacturing-based economic growth.
The reforms touched off an annual economic growth rate of 25.8 percent over the past 30 years in Shenzhen, compared with about 9.8 percent for the entire country, according to government figures.
The population has ballooned to nearly nine million people, most of them members of China's huge army of migrant workers, according to official data.
Authorities expanded the area of the zone about five-fold to just less than 2,000 square kilometers this year, nearly the size of Luxembourg.
Located in the Pearl River Delta, the heartland of China's export-oriented economy, Shenzhen boasts one of the highest minimum wages in China at 1,100 yuan ($160) per month and the country's highest per capita GDP of about $13,600 last year.
It is home to a number of high-tech firms, including Taiwan IT giant Foxconn, which employs more than 400,000 people who make products for Apple.
Le Zheng, president of the Shenzhen Academy of Social Sciences, suggested the local government make more efforts to improve the social security system and public service performance to benefit all residents, including a large population of about eight million migrant laborers.
The local residents polled by China Daily show more concern about their living costs and quality of life issues, such as housing prices, children's schooling, air pollution and transportation. They called on the local government to put more resources in these sectors. The city also put on a 30-minute fireworks show Monday night to mark the 30th anniversary of the SEZ.
Xinhua and AFP contributed to this story.