This experimental megacity rose out of farmland in 1979. A few decades and 20 million residents later, is Shenzhen a success?
Shenzhen rose out of farmland and fishing enclaves in 1979, the first of China’s self-designated “special economic zones” designed to catapult an isolated nation into the 20th century. A proving ground for China’s grand experiment in market capitalism and its first city to allow foreign investment, Shenzhen became the nucleus of the country’s almighty manufacturing sector.
GOOD sent me to track the city’s remarkable growth back in 2008. Now, with the emergence of a middle class and government efforts to kickstart an innovation economy, the city is once again a bellwether for China’s lofty ambitions. But the past and present are colliding, a housing crisis is brewing, developers are pushing subway lines into once-remote villages, and Shenzhen is searching for a new identity.