Shenzhen’s most recent Party Secretary, Ma Xingrui (马兴瑞) infamously told Shenzhen and its boosters to get over the jubilation for its recent rise in international prestige. On the one hand, there is something snarky and mean spirited about Party Secretary Ma’s scolding. After all, Shenzhen’s raison d’etre has been to make a place for itself in the emergent world order and for most of its existence, Shenzhen has been ignored by Beijing-centric views of China (both in and outside China). On the other had, many agree with his assessment that Shenzhen is not yet a first rank world city.
The new Party Secretary’s surname—Ma—is a homophone with the character for “scold / tell off” (骂)”. In that spirit, the OCT Lifestyle website put out an article in which Shenzhen clearly comes in second behind world class cities such as Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore. With Beijing the comparison is about the internet. Hong Kong stands for level of globalization, Taiwan a sense of well-being, Japan for professionalism, and Singapore for the ability to attract and keep talent. In other words, Shenzhen wants to be best at all of that, which may in fact be its charm—composite rather than first rank across categories. Continue reading