Tag Archives: SEZ

Welcome to Shenzhen – where the pollution comes from

20 Sep

Shenzhen skylineI had the honour of a few days in Shenzhen this week. For those of you who don’t know, Shenzhen is Hong Kong’s younger brother across the border in mainland China, about an hour’s MTR ride away. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, he’s brash, dirty, full of money he doesn’t know what to do with but on the plus side has a very clean and efficient metro system. That last one was just about the city.

Shenzhen is the product of former Communist Party supreme leader Deng Xiaoping’s vision to liberalise a country brought to its knees by his boss for so many years, Mao Zedong. Deng’s idea was to set up Special Economic Zones which would act as a kind of canary down the mine and see if the Communist state could pull off the immense balancing act of maintaining its totalitarian rule while allowing capitalism to thrive. In just 30 years the small village on the Pearl River Delta grew to a city of 14 million. Yeah, you could probably say it worked.

Except, arriving in Shenzhen from Hong Kong, it definitely hasn’t. It’s provides a horrifying insight into the kind of cities dotted all over the People’s Republic – all mouth and no trousers. So bereft of any cultural history it makes Hong Kong look like Kyoto. Actually, it make Vegas look like Kyoto.

What it does have, however, is shitloads of fake stuff. From knock off iPhones to Gucci handbags, it can be a shopper’s paradise, which is ironic considering most mainland Chinese come to Hong Kong to shop for their label goods because of the lower tax there. That’s legit stuff though, this is most definitely tat with a capital T. Just don’t expect much of it to last.

Don’t go to Shenzhen either for a gourmet experience of the ‘real China’. The restaurants I ventured in – and I went to some pretty swank ones – were universally dreadful. All of them smelled very strongly of fetid antisceptic wash and stale smoke, food arrived barely warm and just not right. Maybe I am too programmed into Hong Kong’s niceties. Or perhaps I was immediately put off the place by getting embroiled in the middle of a massive anti-Japan protest as soon as I stepped of the metro.

I’ll give the Chinese something, though, they know how to run a police force. This lot made Judge Dredd look like that bender from Allo Allo. All kitted out in the latest riot gear – I would have taken a few pictures but was quite frankly terrified. So, in recap, if you want to find out why you can’t see from one side of Victoria harbour in Hong Kong to the other if the wind’s blowing the wrong way, take a trip to Shenzhen. If not, well…