Op-Ed Contributors

Shenzhen heads toward a new era

By Qin Xiaoying (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-06 07:59
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Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is set to leverage further economic reform and social development

With a string of events being sponsored to celebrate Shenzhen's 30th anniversary as a special economic zone (SEZ), it is necessary for China's earliest SEZ to look back at the special initiatives it has taken over the past three decades to spearhead the country's economic boom and explore new ones to lead the city and the whole nation to a larger economic miracle.

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During an inspection tour of the prosperous southern city from Aug 20-21, Premier Wen Jiabao urged local officials to adhere to the SEZ's accumulated spirit and experiences in its explorations for special and new initiatives to boost local economic and social development.

The anniversary comes at a time when a number of other cities, especially those in coastal regions, have also achieved significant economic progress over the past years.

Shenzhen, as the earliest window of China's reform and opening-up to the world, should rely on much-needed, sober recognition and judgment among its people toward the direction of its future development, to keep its leading position in national economic development.

It took Shenzhen only 30 years to complete its industrialization, urbanization and internationalization, a process that developed countries used nearly 300 years to achieve. However, the Chinese city has also encountered all the problems that developed countries faced in this marathon process. The problems have emerged in a more concentrated, intensive and fierce manner. Compared with some domestic second-tier cities and even with first-tier metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai, Shenzhen has to brace itself for an earlier burst of a variety of problems.

Since the global financial crisis, Shenzhen has also been the first Chinese city to sustain enormous pressures from its economic transformation and industrial restructuring. To help mitigate such pressures, the city's widely circulated plan to transfer some labor-intensive industries to inland regions has also caused nationwide controversy.

Suicide attempts by employees of the Shenzhen-based Foxconn manufacturing workshop have been reported over the past year as part of protests against bad working conditions and poor treatment. The ensuing decision by the Taiwan-funded Foxconn's management to raise wages for local employees and the chain reaction it has triggered in other ventures in southern regions, as well as the rest of the country, have fueled discussions at home and abroad about the long-latent labor-capital contradictions in China and the end of a cheap-labor era in the world's most populous nation.

To some extent, these events highlight Shenzhen's status as China's window to the world and as a barometer of the country's economic and social development. However, the concentrated outbreak of a series of economic and social problems in the SEZ has also posed as a harsher test to its current economic mechanism and its social management.

To play its leading role in the country's development in the new era, Shenzhen should continue to push forward its effective economic and social development.

In political restructuring, the country is striving to ensure people's democratic rights and their legitimate rights and interests, as well as extensively mobilize and organize people's participation in and supervision over the government's administrative affairs.

As the country's earliest SEZ, Shenzhen should feel more need to promote equality and fairness and take more effective measures to fight corruption. The city should try to create a favorable environment to fight any collaboration between power and money.

As the window of China's reform and opening-up to the world, Shenzhen should continue to play its leading role in the country's drive to cleanse the market environment and fight corruption.

Shenzhen should also make full use of its characteristics as a young and booming city, as well as a city of immigrants, to widely absorb talent from across the country and the world to serve its modernization. Shenzhen has achieved unprecedented progress after 30 years of reform and opening-up, but it also faces unprecedented problems from the initiative. Only by sticking to the initiative can the city embark on a new starting point for larger progress.

Regression and stagnation will not only end the achievements of the three-decade-old reform and opening-up drive as well as the rare opportunity for development, it will also suffocate the vitality of China's socialist cause with her own characteristics, as Premier Wen put it. As a small village that boomed into a city of 14 million people in the past three decades, Shenzhen has shown that reforming and opening-up is the only road to prosperity and people's happiness.

The author is a researcher at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies.