On March 1 this year, media reports saying Hong Kong’s GDP was overtaken by Shenzhen’s GDP of 2.2438 trillion yuan in 2017, were incorrectly based on figures calculated by the exchange rate of that day, which calculated Hong Kong’s GDP of HK$2.6626 trillion to 2.1529 trillion yuan.
Shenzhen’s GDP did in fact surpass provincial capital city Guangzhou’s in 2016. But if the news that Shenzhen’s GDP had overtaken Hong Kong’s were true, it would mean that Shenzhen had become the largest city within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in terms of economic strength.
The Shenzhen Municipal Statistics Bureau quickly denied the media reports, saying that instead of using the exchange rate of a certain date, the average exchange rate of the yuan against the Hong Kong dollar for 2017, which was 1.1552, should have been used, so as to make Hong Kong’s GDP last year equivalent to 2.3049 trillion yuan, still 61.1 billion yuan more than Shenzhen’s.
No matter whose GDP is bigger, it is an undeniable fact that Shenzhen is playing greater and greater a role in the Greater Bay Area and China. Construction of such a bay area was pushed forward by Premier Li Keqiang in his work report last year, as part of the Central Government’s strategy to achieve better regional coordination in the country. The area is comprised of two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macao) and nine cities in the Pearl River Delta (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing) with a total economic volume of US$1.4 trillion.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up to the outside world. After China’s introduction of such polices in 1978, many Chinese cities in South China such as Shenzhen and Dongguan took the chances to enter a boom of export-oriented and foreign direct investment-driven economic expansion and then successfully shifted to industrial upgrading after the traditional processing industries lost steam.
As the country’s most successful special economic zone, Shenzhen has undoubtedly been the largest beneficiary of reform and opening-up policies. Supported by the Central Government, Shenzhen has created more than 100 “firsts” in China. For instance, as early as in 1980, Shenzhen developed the first commercial residential area for sale in the country; in 1983, China’s first stock “Shenbao’an” was issued in the city; in 1987, the city hosted the first public land auction in the country.
Due to its pioneering spirit, Shenzhen, originally a small fishing town, has developed into an international metropolis, and remarkably, its GDP has increased by more than 11,000 times over the past 40 years. In the initial stage of the 1980s, Shenzhen relied heavily on low-end processing and labor-intensive industries. The city later experienced painstaking industrial transformation and economic upgrading. With the development of high and new technologies as the main driving forces, Shenzhen now boasts many internationally famous high-tech companies such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, DJI and others.
Shenzhen’s quick expansion proves that the city has done a great job in past years. Nevertheless, achievements belong to the past. I am wondering what pilot programs and greater functions Shenzhen can do for the whole nation in the future. To gather new momentum, further opening up is still the choice of China after 40 years’ practice. In this year’s ongoing “two sessions” of the national legislature and political advisory body, Premier Li set a GDP growth target of 6.5 percent, unchanged from last year’s. However, this year’s target did not contain the previous wording, which said that “a higher growth rate will be pursued if possible in practice.” Such a change means that the emphasis in China’s economy has been shifted from the previous era of high-speed growth to one of high-quality and sustainable growth.
Today’s international situation is totally different from that of 1978, and China herself is moving toward an innovative economy now. Innovation is risky and unpredictable, so the market, not the government, is more competent in selecting winners. Under the new circumstances, as the country’s innovation hub, Shenzhen is able to accumulate more experience and offer greater contributions to the country’s sustainable development.
In February this year, the State Council approved the construction of an innovation demonstration zone in Shenzhen, meant to implement China’s plan for the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the demonstration zone as a new starting point, I sincerely hope that our city will explore and form an applicable, replicable and effective operation mode for the healthy and sustainable development of megacities in China.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)