Sunday, March 19, 2006


I met Helen almost a year ago to the day strictly by chance at Beijing airport. She has since graduated second in her year and been moved south by her new employer to Shenzhen, a long way away both physically and psychologically for this daughter of Beijing. I knew vaguely of the city by name but only now am I unmasking my ignorance. Helen has since moved on to Chang'sha but that is a story for another day.
Economic prosperity fuels the rivalry between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Shenzhen is the mainland place where two ideas come to-gether. It fuelled the vision of Deng Xiaoping as China moved away from its communist model. Shenzhen embodies the new national mantra "To get rich is glorious." In 1980 it was a fishing village of barely 25,000 inhabitants. Now it is eight million strong. The twin cities are merging into a megalopolis which is fast becoming ground zero for global economic activity. Within the decade it will be home to thirty million people. Despite underwriting much of the frenetic expansion, Hong Kong looks on with trepidation at its neighbour. The invasion from the mainland has something of "the barbarians at the gates" ring to it. Shenzhen for all its growth will always convey the symbol of cheap knock-offs, big box stores and pirated software compared to the brand name sophistication of its Kowloon partner. Although many international business people head directly there now, by-passing Hong Kong, there is no doubt Shenzhen is also amassing the pollution, the poor and the tired masses also so much the scene in the uneven expansion of the People's Republic. Undoubtedly one part of the globe to keep tabs on.
Source: article by Don Gillmor, The Walrus, March 2006.