Shenzhen is located in the very south of Guangdong Province. Overlooking Hong Kong to the south and bordering Kowloon, this area is commonly referred to as Hong Kong's "backyard". Although the population of the city is about 5 million, only 1.5 million people are legally registered permanent residents. The remainder are a bizarre mixture of businessmen, investors and illegal immigrants, all here in an attempt to get a share in the Special Economic Zone's wealth.
The area is actually divided into three parts, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Shenzhen City and Shenzhen County. Virtually all the action is situated around the SEZ which is the business and financial heart of the city and the reason why most visitors come to Shenzhen.
Although there can be no doubt that the SEZ is a huge financial and commercial success it is not a particularly charming or pleasant city. Businessmen and delegates from all over China regularly visit Shenzhen to see this economic success in action. The general feeling however, is that the city lacks something in other areas.
The absence of history and culture here make Shenzhen seem almost desolate and the abundant wealth and investment do not compensate for the lack of soul and the drab atmosphere in the city.
Most people who visit Shenzhen do so on business and there are an abundance of hotels and other facilities catering to the business traveler which help to make a stay in Shenzhen more enjoyable. What's more, the city is well located next to Hong Kong and a day trip to the big city for some culture is very convenient.
Geographically speaking, Shenzhen is a 'buffer zone' between socialism and capitalism in China. This was one of the first Chinese cities to open its doors to the West in 1980 and is a model of what can be achieved with massive amounts of capital in a short space of time. It seems hard to imagine it now, but Shenzhen in 1979 was a small and undeveloped town.
In 1980, the government awarded the area the status of Special Economic Zone and millions of pounds was invested in the city.
A stock market was established and office blocks and factories shot up at an unbelievable rate. Today, the city is vibrant but somehow lacks soul.
Shenzhen has its own unique political, economic and cultural norms and customs that differ from the rest of China. The Shenzhen municipal government exercises a relatively self-governed legislation and the incentives for investors are high.
Although the organizational structure is consistent with national style, operation practice and management are different. In line with the basic laws of China, Shenzhen enjoys the autonomy of handling its own foreign affairs, public security, personnel, financial, industrial and commercial issues.
Without the burden of history, the theory is that Shenzhen will be able to seize the day and the future too. In practice, what Shenzhen has done for China is to encourage Chinese people elsewhere to consider the advantages and downsides of capitalism at work in their country.
China tours inclusive of visiting shenzhen