There’s been enthusiasm about the question: why is Shenzhen called Shenzhen and not Bao’an City? Most responses have been as speculative as my own; to date, no one has mentioned a paper trail that actually says why Shenzhen and not Bao’an. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, I’m going to outline the facts as I understand them.
In 1953, the Bao’an County seat moved from Nantou to Shenzhen Market. In 1979, when Ba’an County became Shenzhen City, the place name Bao’an ceased to exist. The site of government for Shenzhen City was the original Shenzhen Market. In 1980, Shenzhen City became the Shenzhen SEZ. In 1982, Shenzhen City was divided into the SEZ and Bao’an County. Thus, the name Bao’an as a marker for the rural was only rehabilitated in 1982 as part of ongoing restructuring in the 1980s. There was no premeditated preservation of the rural; that was an effect of attempts to govern the newly established city and SEZ.
So I’m going to make the question more explicit: who knows if there is an official reason that the name was changed from Bao’an to Shenzhen? Who has suggestions for where I should look for this paper trail? What level of leader would be involved in this kind of decision?
To contextualize even further: Shekou was part of the Xihai Commune. When it was selected as the site for the China Merchant’s Industrial Park, the new industrial park was called “the Shekou Industrial Park.” There was no name change for a place that would have been more familiar to Hong Kong people or foreigners. Both Chiwan and Mawan, for example, are historically more famous than Shekou, and are in fact part of present-day Shekou, but the name wasn’t changed.
All this to say, I get naming the SEZ Shenzhen because the experimental epicenter was located in and around the old Shenzhen Market. However, renaming Bao’an County is the part I’m struggling with. Indeed, for at least the first twenty years of Shenzhen’s history, we only talked about the SEZ. All this to say, the Shenzhen SEZ could have as easily been located within Bao’an City borders as within Shenzhen City borders. I’m looking for the logic behind the change, or, an explanation for the absence of geographic logic as a feature of Shenzhen’s establishment.