Reflections on Shenzhen's 40th Anniversary

Shenzhen is the archetype of modern China's development success, in very many ways. The most obvious, and the most frequently commented on, have to do with the unmatched growth in the economy, which has gone from a small village to become a multi-billion dollar engine which is now larger than the economy of Hong Kong. Shenzhen has also become a world leader in technology, home to the world's unquestioned leader in 5G, Huawei, among others. 

In addition, Shenzhen is a model of effective cooperation between government and the private sector. Businesses, local and foreign, bear witness to the smoothness and efficiency of the Shenzhen public services, and their active support of innovation and new technology. 

Shenzhen illustrates the flexibility of government functions which is an outstanding characteristic of the Chinese system. Cities such as Shenzhen enjoy a degree of autonomy which allows the city administration to respond actively to local priorities and to take advantage of local opportunities. Their autonomy allows them to negotiate local arrangements, incentives and practices which are different than elsewhere in China, but consistent with national policies and priorities. This arrangement, which also allows for autonomy of provincial governments consistent with the national strategy, is a strength of the Chinese system from which other countries can learn.

Another area where Shenzhen typifies a strength of the Chinese system is in its dynamic approach to economic policy. Chinese policy makers do not rest on their laurels, and their willingness to change in response to opportunities and performance is an important reason for their success. As Shenzhen looks to the future, the city is being promoted by the Central Government as a node in the Greater Bay Area megalopolis, playing the leading role in the China's economic transformation. To this end there has been considerable investment in roads, bridges, metro systems and airports, and changes have been made to the regulatory framework and business incentives. 

As the city celebrates its 40th anniversary, it has the enviable distinction of having been at the vanguard of the policies of opening up that have galvanised China's remarkable economic success. Over these 40 years, Shenzhen has acted as the economic area where new policies intended for widespread use in China are put to the test. Good experiences and useful lessons from Shenzhen's policies and their effects have been expanded to other areas in China to lend to more general prosperity. The city is now more dynamic and innovative than ever, and as a result it has been awarded the honour of pioneering the next phase of Chinese enterprise development. 

The whole world has shared the benefits of the last 40 years of expansion in Chinese production; by strengthening the institutions of international cooperation the world will ensure that all mankind continues to benefit from the fruits of China's new economic thrust. China's support of the organs of the United Nations, and its new economic thrust in Shenzhen, are therefore to be welcomed, not just in China, but by countries all around the world.

DeLisle Worrell is an international economic consultant and President of the Association for Barbados-China Friendship. He is a former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados. See