Open Democracy’s Cities in Conflict project has a posted “Shenzhen: Constructing the City, Reconstructing Subjects” by Jonathan Bach, a scholar who crafts elegant and insightful essays on Shenzhen. Here’s a taste:
Premised on exports and experiment, Shenzhen is a city stretched between high expectations and the unintended consequences of constant expansion. Great expectations lie in its DNA; from Deng Xiaoping’s conviction that the creation of Shenzhen in 1979 would spur China’s reform and opening, to his prodding in 1992 that the city not “act as women with bound feet,” to current leader Xi Jinping’s symbolic choice of Shenzhen for his first official visit in December 2012 to signal his reform agenda. Shenzhen did meet expectations, and then some. As one of our greatest contemporary urban experiments, the staggering growth that made Shenzhen synonymous with the rise of “Made in China” must be regarded as much as the result of massive improvisation as of master planning. And today, what started as a city of exception is a site of an ongoing struggle to define the rule.
Visit Open Democracy not only to read this essay, but also to contextualize what’s happening in Shenzhen with respect to other mega-city projects worldwide.