For the curious, a series of posts on Ghanian entrepreneur, Desmond Koney’s visit to Shenzhen.
Yesterday I walked the Huaqiangbei pedestrian street, from Shennan Road through the Jiufang (九方) Mall and then deeper into the area, which nearly forty years ago was known as the Shangbu Industrial Park. Yes, come November, we’ll be celebrating (or not) the fortieth anniversary of Reform and Opening. That’s ten years longer than the Mao era. Indeed, for many in Shenzhen the reference that many have of “long ago” is now the 1980s. Impressions from my walk: traces of early manufacturing are scattered between the malls and towers, as is evidence of the shift from textiles and electronics to a focus on cell phones and IT.
If memory serves (and it tends to serve some agenda), I first visited Huaqiangbei (formerly the Shangbu Industrial Park) in 1995, when it was still primarily a manufacturing and residential area, but didn’t know what I was looking at. The big ideas in my head had to with workers rights and feminism, and so I was aware of the factories, the state sponsored housing, the few department stores, including the then still operative Friendship store, and the iconic Shanghai Hotel with its surprisingly good Cantonese dim sum. I noticed that neighboring Gangxia and Tianmian were under construction, but glossed this new urban morphology as a “new village.” I didn’t realize that the scale of immigration and construction that happened during the 90s and defined “Shenzhen” for me would be different enough from the 1980s that friends who arrived during the Special Zone’s first decade laughing asserted that Shenzhen was changing so quickly that if they didn’t visit a neighborhood for several years it was easy to get lost; Shenzhen in 1989 and 1999 were two different cities. And that was almost two decades ago.
One would think, and one would not be wrong, that I spend much time thinking about urban villages and glass towers, or the differences between informal and formal settlements. That said, however, it is probably more to the point is that semi-formality allows Shenzhen to function as well as it does.
“Semi-formality,” Mehran Kamrava argues in his analysis of The Politics of Weak Control: State Capacity and Economic Informality in the Middle East,
Is not simply the result of entrepreneurs’ natural impulse to evade state regulations. It is, more fundamentally, a function of the state’s own limited capacities to fulfill the regulative tasks it sets for itself. The state’s uneven enforcement of regulative policies—uneven over time or in relation to different economic actors—allows nonstate economic actors, whether overwhelmingly in the formal sector or in the informal sector of the economy, to slip in and out of semi-formality.
Thinking about hi-tech and Shenzhen? Well, actually Alibaba isn’t based in Shenzhen, but that said, the idea of setting up platforms to enable exchange and small-scale business is a very Shenzhen strategy of development. Indeed, according to David Li, this strategy distinguishes the Huaqiangbei model of shanzhai maker-ship from the Silicon valley model of R&D. Full article, here.
Image Credit: CNBC
World War III is coming, but it will be a good thing, according to one of Asia’s richest men.
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA), said Tuesday that the Internet and its various platforms will usher in a wave of global conflict. It will not, however, pit countries against each other, but instead will see the likes of China and the U.S. teaming up to defeat societal ills.
“The third world war is going to happen, and this war is not between nations,” Ma said during a speech hosted by the Economic Club of New York. “In this war we work together against the disease, the poverty, the climate change-and I believe this is our future.”
Ma said working to incite such a conflict is his life’s passion, and Alibaba’s mission of globalizing e-commerce can help.
“It’s not about the…
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Shenzhen is gearing up for the Maker Faire, and clearly there’s a bit more than hype in the mix. Seems all sorts of folks are interested in connecting to larger markets via “the Silicon Valley of hardware” — Shenzhen. Of note du jour: the Hax Accelerator Program:
How It Works: Selected teams relocate to our offices in Shenzhen, China for 111 days, where they’ll finalize prototypes and learn to scale their businesses with the help of our awesome full-time staff and extensive mentor network.
Each week, you’ll meet with advisors who will offer feedback on your team’s evolving strategy and prototypes, as well as provide valuable insight about how to scale a company in terms of manufacturing, supply chain management and distribution.
The final 2 weeks of the program will be spent refining your pitch, in preparation for our demo day showcase and launch event in San Francisco. Then it’s time to get some press, meet with investors, and (optionally) kick off a killer crowdfunding campaign!