what has shenzhen’s significance been in post mao china?

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Shenzhen, Shenzhen TV uploaded a survey on significant events in the SEZ’s early history. Of the 23 Shenzhen firsts, site visitors were asked to vote on the ten most significant. The list is interesting for a variety reasons. One, it demonstrates the importance of Shenzhen in restructuring Chinese society after Mao. Two, it reminds us that many taken-for-granted elements of capitalist society had to be introduced and cultivated. Three, it reminds us that much of what once made Shenzhen “special” is now “common” and many recent policy decisions must be seen as efforts to regain competitive advantage (in the absence of preferential policies). Four, it shows the voting results, allowing visitors to get a sense of how others have evaluated this history. Below, a synopsis of the list.

1. On June 8, 1983 the Shenzhen Baoan County Cooperative Shareholding Company issued “Shen Bao An”, the first stock issued since the founding of the PRC.

2. On December 1, 1987, the Shenzhen Municipal Government auctioned Lot  H-4094, opening the first real estate market in post Mao China, introducing a legal division between public and private holdings into urban space.

3. In 1982, the head of China Merchants Shekou, Yuan Geng promoted the idea of “time is money, efficiency is life”. In 1984, During his first southern tour, Deng Xiaoping approvingly commented that “Progress in Shenzhen is fast. Progress in Shekou is faster.”

4. In August 1983, Shenzhen was the first city in China to institute contracts between labor and management. These contracts allowed management to fire workers for unsatisfactory performances and were a first step to “breaking the iron rice bowl”, as the socialist system of guaranteed employment was called.

5. In the mid 1980s, Shenzhen’s Guomao (World Trade Center) was constructed at one floor every three days, setting the standard for “Shenzhen speed”.

6. The Shekou Export Processing Zone was established in 1979, a year before the establishment of the SEZ. In order to build the Zone, Shekou began by detonating a mountain to reclaim coastal land. This “explosion” began China’s foreign trade.

7. Shenzhen began construction of the first post Mao Science and Technology  Research Park in China.

8. In 1982, Shenzhen was the first city to have markets for daily necessities and to begin dismantling the rationing system that defined the planned economy.

9. On September 29, 1989, Shenzhen established the first volunteer brigade in China. Their motto remains, “If you have problems, come to the volunteers. If you have free time, be a volunteer.”

10. In January 1992, as part of the Center’s efforts to jumpstart the Chinese economy in the aftermath of Tian’anmen, Deng Xiaoping gave his famous Southern speech during his second visit to Shenzhen. The keynote of the speech was the announcement that Socialism with Chinese characteristics would continue to be the guiding principle of economy, opening for further economic liberalization, even as political reform was glossed over.

12. In December 1978, the first of Shenzhen’s “three processing and one compensation” factories, initiating the era of “factory working girls”. These factories processed materials, models, and assembled parts as part of compensation trade agreements.

12. In 1983, Shenzhen was the first Chinese city to begin selling life insurance instead of providing universal benefits, which had been part of the socialist work unit.

13. In October 1993, “Shenzhen Youth” Magazine was the first to have bidding on manuscripts, initiating the era of commercial publishing and cultural production.

14. Shenzhen was the first city to push public culture as forms of citizenship and to encourage the development of Shenzhen identity. In 1986, “Everybody Happy” stages organized workers in public culture events and in 1994, the “Shenzhen is my Home” cultural movement was launched. Other Shenzhen cultural events include “Shenzhen reading month”, “Shenzhen citizen lecture series”, and “Creative December”.

15. In 1987, Shenzhen legalized giving stock options as a way of luring talent to the SEZ’s businesses. In 1993, to encourage the return of Overseas Chinese to work in Shenzhen, the City also offered preferential salaries, residential permits, and housing options.

16. In September 1987, Shenzhen was the first Chinese city to establish a securities company. This laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Shenzhen Stock Market in 1990.

17. Shenzhen was the first city to allow for enterprises to establish banks. In 1984, the city saw the first internal accounting offices in Shekou, which were the forerunners to country’s first enterprise held bank, China Merchants which opened on April 8, 1987.

18. On December 28, 1987, the Shenzhen Development Bank was established. It was the first bank in China in which stocks were shared by the Country, an enterprise, and private investors.

19. On July 1, 1992, the Shenzhen Municipal Government was the first government to issue laws that were specific to the city. These three hundred laws accelerated decentralization of political and economic power throughout the country.

20. In 1993, Shenzhen was the first city to experiment with blood donations and set up the first donation blood banks.

21. In 1980, Shekou was the first area in China to recruit cadres, rather than apply through the Center for assigned bureaucrats.

22. In October 1978, Shekou stunned the nation by instituting 40 cent work incentives for surpassing work tarkets.

23. In 1984, Shenzhen was the first city to institute a labor market, initiating the commodification of labor.

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