learning from the prd

This week in The Economist, an introduction to the PRD as China’s most dynamic, open, and innovative region. Good overview that introduces landmarks for navigating a landscape which has changed and continues to change China. And yes, Learning from Shenzhen gets a shout out!

Thinking Macau

Happy serendipity. I have been trying to make sense of my superficial impressions of Macau and this morning, a former student pointed me to the article, Capital Flight of China’s Wealthy Gets Ready for Takeoff. Long story short — using credit card purchases to transfer Chinese savings into international accounts. If this loophole sounds suspiciously like the money laundering another friend attributed to Yongfengyuan, that’s probably because the same group of people are involved: China’s officials and/or those with business ties to the current administration.

What have I seen and overheard? Continue reading

渔农村: border lives

Connecting the Shenzhen Metro and the Hong Kong KCR, the recently opened Futian Checkpoint has provided incentive for building higher end real estate for those who live in, on and from the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border. The area teems with residential and leisure developments that target variations of Shen Kong lives.

Yunongcun (渔农村) is one of the closest urban villages to the checkpoint; simply exit, turn right, and walk 500 meters or so. The walk from the checkpoint to the village area reveals layers of history, both in the making and the discarding. One sees, for example, a soon to be razed 90s food street and mid 90’s housing, and then buildings from roughly ten years later, including a large spa and even newer shopping mall, as well as the Shenzhen river, which is guarded and sealed off from pedestrians.

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What one does not see on this walk is Yunongcun’s important place in Shenzhen’s village renovation movement (旧村改新). Over five years ago on May 22, 2006, the Shenzhen government began the movement with a nod to Shekou’s “first explosion (circa 1979),” by detonating “the first explosion” of the village renovation movement and bringing down fifteen illegal buildings all at once. Villagers had put up these buildings as part of their negotiation for a better settlement package. A kind of holdout, but at a much larger scale than the individual family because the area only became prime real estate with the completion of the checkpoint. Continue reading

special is as special does

The new Qianhai Bay Shenzhen Hong Kong Modern Service Cooperative Zone (前海深港现代服务业合作区), which has been billed as “the Special Zone’s Special Zone (特区的特区)” illustrates the principal that in Shenzhen, the character “special (特)” is often most usefully translated as “privileged”.

As yet, the Shen Kong Zone does not exist; it will be created through reclaiming coastal land along the Pearl River Delta. However, it has been planned, approved, and contracts signed. Not unexpectedly, as the City revs up for a prosperous Year of the Rabbit, Qianhai has become a media focus.

What’s special about the new zone? One, it will be administered under Hong Kong law by a joint committee of Shenzhen and Hong Kong representatives and is thus, the latest incarnation of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. Two, in order to build the New Zone, the Eastern Coast of the Pearl River will be narrowed and the actual river bed deepened in order to serve even larger and more ships. Three, like Guangming and Pingshan New Districts, Qianhai is one of the few areas in the city with Government mandated competitive advantage.

Clearly, Shenzhen and Hong Kong are cooperating in order to create one of the largest and most comprehensive service ports in the world. The media is gushing about all the money that this project will bring to the two cities specifically and the Delta more generally. However, as development rights have already been allocated, the money that will be earned there has already been divvied up and so what we’re left with is a promise that trickle down economics might kick in at some point.

Sigh.