Shenzhen is a city born against the backdrop of China's reform and opening-up. Rising from a small border town to a global metropolis with a GDP of more than RMB 3 trillion, it has ushered the nation into a new era powered by special economic zone (SEZ) development with enterprising and pioneering spirits. Built from scratch into a large city, Shenzhen is one of the first SEZs engineered by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chinese people. It represents a typical practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Shenzhen's duties, missions and tasks are evolving with the times. The city is moving from the SEZ era to the era of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), or from a pilot zone to a demonstration zone with enterprising and pioneering spirits even greater than ever. As the core engine of the development of the GBA, Shenzhen always dares to try things out, staying at the forefront of the times and standing on the high ground of the era. Looking back at the historic crossroad, the biggest success of Shenzhen is not the number of large businesses created or GDP growth, but is the practices generated that can be replicated. The city has discovered many successful pathways to surpass itself and drive national upgrade and development.
An enterprising and pioneering SEZ
At its very birth, Shenzhen SEZ assumed the historic mission of being a pilot ground for reform and opening-up and the "two windows".
Over the past 42 years, Shenzhen has always kept in mind the strategic intent of the CPC in founding the SEZ and stayed true to the original aspiration of reform and opening-up. The miracle of Shenzhen is an epitome of the success of China's reform and opening-up; the glorious journey of the SEZ is a mirror of the progress of national reform and opening-up.
Over the past 42 years, Shenzhen has built and enhanced its image as a true pioneer of reform and opening-up and established its distinctive strengths as a SEZ. The pioneering spirit has become part of its "DNA".
At the early stage of reform and opening-up, based on its conventional "three-plus-one" trading mix, Shenzhen has formed a "front shop, back factory" model that capitalizes on collaboration with Hong Kong SAR. This model has been proven a great success. However, Shenzhen is not complacent about the achievements already made. It has implemented many initiatives and plans to reduce its reliance on limited industries, including full support for emerging industries – the first Chinese city to do so. As a result, the city's industrial structure has been continuously transformed and upgraded, injecting greater impetuses into the economy.
In the first half of this year, Shenzhen's 20 industrial clusters of seven strategic emerging industries registered a gross added value of RMB 627.164 billion, accounting for 41.8% of GDP, a year-on-year rise of 7.2%, outpacing GDP growth by 4.2 percentage points. Tremendous momentum has been provided for the city's high-quality economic development. Some of those industrial clusters have experienced fast growth, with added value growth in high-end medical devices, intelligent connected vehicles, new materials, smart sensors, maritime economy, healthcare, software & IT services, machine tool, etc. exceeding or being close to 10%. The output of new energy vehicles, charging piles, 5G smartphones and civil drones expanded by 174.0%, 164.0%, 67.0%, and 28.8% respectively. With the production of major high-tech products showing the momentum for continuous and rapid growth, Shenzhen has developed into a key source and benchmark city for emerging high-tech industries in China.
As a special area of the SEZ, Qianhai is the testing ground for China's reform and opening-up in the new era. Today, "making one institutional innovation in three days" in Qianhai echoes Shenzhen's miracle of "building one floor in three days". Up to now, Qianhai has launched more than 680 innovative policies concerning such areas as investment facilitation, trade facilitation, financial opening-up innovation, in-event and post-event supervision, rule of law innovation, talent management reform, and mechanism innovation. Focusing on the two key tasks of "expansion" and "reform and opening-up", Qianhai is striving to become an experimental platform for comprehensive deepening of reform and innovation in the GBA, as well as a gateway for high-level opening-up, by continuously establishing international partnerships and new competitive advantages.
Shenzhen is determined to expand opening-up in an all-round way, and by effectively leveraging its advantageous geographic location as an important link in the "dual circulation" development paradigm, it continues to deepen practical cooperation with countries and regions along the Belt and Road, encourages businesses to "go global", and strives to build new advantages in terms of open economy. By the end of this March, Shenzhen enterprises have invested in 8,307 companies and organizations in 146 countries and regions, with an agreed investment aggregating USD 73.421 billion.
Pursuing reform and opening-up is a crucial move in making China what it is today. Over the past 40 years, with its missions firmly in mind, Shenzhen has dared to try things out – entering the "forbidden zone" of auctioning state-owned land use rights, stepping into the "minefield" of liberalizing the market price system, pressing into the "difficult zone" of breaking the "iron rice bowl", and breaking into the "dead zone" of joint-stock reform of state-owned enterprises... Being No.1 in more than 1,000 areas, Shenzhen has explored first the way for national reform and opening-up.
Nowadays, in keeping pace with the times, Shenzhen is deepening reform comprehensively and constantly making breakthroughs in the reforms. It has taken the lead in carrying out a pilot program on statistical accounting of data elements and establishing and implementing a punitive compensation regime for intellectual property right infringement; innovated an ex-officio deregistration system for commercial entities; carried out the reform of mixed use of land in secondary and tertiary industries on a trial basis. The Regulations of Shenzhen SEZ on Personal Bankruptcyis the first legislation on natural person bankruptcy in China; the Regulations of Shenzhen SEZ on Data is the first fundamental and comprehensive legislation regarding data in China; the Administrative Regulations of Shenzhen SEZ on Intelligent Connected Vehicles is the first bylaw on the management of intelligent connected vehicles in China. These are some of its many pioneering achievements, and have activated drivers for the development of the SEZ in the new era.
From a SEZ to the core engine of the GBA
From the flourishing maritime era to the current digital era, bay areas always assume the mission of fostering economic prosperity and technological innovation. A pleasant coastal environment, a vibrant city belt, high-end industrial chains, intensive headquarters enterprises and massive economic volume are the essential elements that constitute a metropolitan area in the GBA.
In February 2019, the Outline Development Plan for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area was released, which upgraded the GBA development plan to a national strategy. The GBA is a rising world-class bay area, marking the advent of China's bay area era. With the rise of world-class cities in the region amidst the changing times, the GBA is gradually making its vision a reality, writing a colorful chapter on the blueprint for China's opening-up and development. Shenzhen has been strategically positioned as the "core engine" of the GBA. From a pilot zone to a demonstration zone, the city has adapted itself to the fresh needs for the integrated development of the GBA and reshaped new edges of reform and opening-up. The GBA's development presents a significant historical opportunity for Shenzhen to advance its reform and opening-up in the new era.
The GBA has a solid foundation for development. With the world's largest cluster of seaports and airports, the GBA accounts for 0.6% of China's land only but more than 11% of the national GDP. In 2021, the GBA recorded a GDP of up to RMB 12.6 trillion, making it the city cluster with the highest GDP per land area in China as well as the strongest growth driver for technology in the world. Foreign trade exceeded USD 1.8 trillion, comparable to the three largest bay areas in the world.
Thanks to more than 40 years of development, Shenzhen has become the largest city in the GBA in terms of GDP. As a city strong in technological innovation in the world's second-largest economy, Shenzhen has topped the list of Chinese cities by competitiveness and creativity for years. It is undoubtedly the brightest star in China's bay area era, as it has become a high-tech industry center and financial innovation center. The landmark buildings outline the city skyline, as they enhance the city's value and represent the city's spirit. The gathering of high-end industries such as sci-tech innovation, digital finance and modern services leads to the combination of high-tech and financial capital to generate prosperity and vitality in the GBA. The high-level economic contribution and leading role in innovation have made Shenzhen a bellwether in the national strategy. There is no doubt that Shenzhen has prompted and witnessed the rise of a bay area by playing its pilot and demonstration roles.
The development of the GBA is driven by two key drivers: technology and finance. As for technological development, Shenzhen's technology leaders such as Tencent, Huawei, DJI, among others, have a global influence. Tencent focuses on digital technology to facilitate industrial upgrades, while expanding into the domain of industrial internet. Huawei has launched its Alfa S Huawei HI version in the automobile field, which is the first mass-produced car equipped with Huawei's smart solutions. DJI on-board vehicle systems are embedded with smart driving solutions and core components, which have received widespread attention. Shenzhen's technological innovation potential and advantages are increasingly prominent. Going ahead, the city will concentrate on deepening reform and opening-up, building a center of tech and industrial innovation with global influence, and enhancing the competitiveness of its modern industries.
At the same time, the financial technology (fintech) ecosystem in Shenzhen is getting more robust. With many fields leading among Chinese cities and in the Asia Pacific, the city has the fundamental conditions for becoming a global fintech center. The network of fintech enterprises with distinctive characteristics and diverse models has taken shape in Shenzhen, with leaders such as Ping An Group and CMG Fintech. Technology subsidiaries of licensed financial institutions such as Kasikornbank, CICC and Shanxi Securities have established a presence in the city. Outstanding fintech service providers such as Sunline and Kingdom have emerged. Twenty-three companies including OneConnect were included in 2021 China Leading Fintech 50 and Future 50 lists of KPMG. A number of fintech subsidiaries of Hong Kong virtual banking and insurance institutions have entered Qianhai. WeBank, Tencent, Huawei Technologies and other Shenzhen firms have developed and launched influential open source projects such as FISCO-BCOS. Futian, Nanshan and other key areas are accelerating the building of the GBA international fintech city, international fintech park, Shenzhen-Hong Kong fintech hub, etc. Many fintech incubators, accelerators and other vehicles have been formed, and they have substantially facilitated the cultivation of fintech firms and the commercialization of research achievements.
A leap from SEZ era to GBA era
Shenzhen has achieved a leapfrog transformation from a SEZ to a core engine of the GBA, and this process has demonstrated its pioneering spirit and power. On the new journey, Shenzhen is continuing to enhance its role as the core engine, comprehensively deepening reform and opening-up, boosting innovation-driven development and promoting high-quality development, as a pioneer in reshaping the development landscape. It is a powerful engine that supports the development of the GBA.
In 2021, despite the more complex and severe external circumstances and the more difficult tasks of reform, Shenzhen's economy reached the level of RMB 3 trillion. With more than 20,000 national-level high-tech companies and more than 2 million sci-tech experts, Shenzhen continues to be the city with the highest entrepreneur density. The total output of enterprises above the designated size exceeded RMB 4 trillion for the first time; the added value of strategic emerging industries stood at over RMB 1 trillion; 2,000 businesses managed to transform themselves to enterprises above the designated size from small- to medium-sized ones. Shenzhen is still one of the cities with the strongest enterprise growth and economic growth. Up to now, Shenzhen is home to enterprises from more than 160 countries or regions around the world, including about 300 among the world's top 500 with a total of more than 100,000 approved foreign direct investment projects. In particular, some 6,000 foreign-invested entities were established in Shenzhen, an increase of more than 30% in the year of 2021 alone. All these indicate that Shenzhen has reached a new level of city capacity, the reform and opening-up have provided new energy for development, and the market orientation has unleashed new vitality.
High-quality development has also brought about urban development miracles that truly impress the world. In the last decade, Shenzhen has made significant economic achievements: GDP reaching RMB 1 trillion in 2011, RMB 2 trillion in 2016, and exceeding RMB 3 trillion in 2021. These amazing achievements made within ten years represent the enhancement of comprehensive economic strength. Shenzhen keeps forging ahead toward high-quality development and has made itself the youngest, most dynamic and innovative city with an RMB 3 trillion GDP in the world, occupying an important place in the global economic landscape.
From a SEZ to a key engine of the GBA, Shenzhen's success can be observed in figures. Over the past decade, the total number of commercial entities in Shenzhen has grown to 3,813,500, and by the end of July this year, the city has 512 listed companies. In the first half of this year, there were 216.29 commercial entities per 1,000 people and 134.67 enterprises per 1,000 people, based on the latest population data. On average, there are about 10.5 national-level high-tech enterprises per square kilometer, and GDP per square kilometer is around RMB 1.5 billion. The limited land in Shenzhen has created the largest density of entrepreneurs and national-level high-tech enterprises.
With high-quality development, Shenzhen is the "Chinese miracle" created by reform and opening-up and is also a "model" for urban development created by China. Extraordinarily eye-catching advanced manufacturing, strategic emerging industries, finance, high-end services, foreign export, consumer retail, etc. keep growing steadily. Emerging new forms of business and models are fresh drivers for economic growth. Among Shenzhen's GDP, strategic emerging industries account for more than 38%; among the service industries, high-end service industries account for 70%. Shenzhen also leads large and medium-sized cities by the share of R&D investment in GDP. In addition to eight Fortune Global 500 companies, many Shenzhen-based large companies such as Ping An Bank, BYD, CIMC and CGN are making great contributions and have become an important driving force for the city's economic growth. Today, Shenzhen's growth drivers are diverse and balanced.
(Source: Released by Xinhua News Agency & Economic Information Daily in Shenzhen)