Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of opinion pieces paying tribute to the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.
According to the classification of cities for 2018 recently published by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC), Shenzhen has for the first time entered a list of the world’s first-tier cities.
GaWC, one of the most famous global city rating agencies, is a think tank that studies the relationships among world cities in the context of globalization and measures cities in terms of their service industries and integration into the world city network. It has been publishing global city rankings since 2000.
On the one hand, despite the fact that Shenzhen took the last place in the global first-tier city list, it is still a great achievement for a city with a history of only 40 years. On the other hand, cities’ rankings are nothing for their governments to get excited about. Instead of worrying about where their locations are in the list, governments should pay more attention to governance improvement, livelihood betterment, environmental protection and other important issues that will bring benefits to all citizens.
Compared with other Chinese cities on the list such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei and Guangzhou, Shenzhen still lags behind in political hierarchy and international connectivity. For example, Shenzhen does not have the right to host any foreign consulate generals and its international flights to other countries have also been restricted in recent years. However, as a successful special economic zone and China’s test ground for its reform and opening-up policy, the burgeoning city boasts unique advantages in its inclusive market, flexible mechanisms, vibrant economy and technological innovation, thus leading to the flourishing of famous high-tech and civilian-run companies such as Huawei, Tencent, DJI and others over the past decades.
A single flower does not herald spring. In my point of view, the ranking as a global first-tier city means not only robust economic development and advanced service industries, but also bigger social responsibility and more contribution to the country and even to the world.
Ranking first in terms of GDP in China, the development of Guangdong Province as a whole is very imbalanced, with some developed cities concentrated in the Pearl River Delta area while many poor cities are still struggling in the northern and western parts of the province. As a pace-setter and a relatively richer city in Guangdong, Shenzhen is ready to join the rest of the province to share opportunity and help relieve less-developed cities from poverty. Over the past years, Shenzhen governments at municipal and district levels have allocated a total of 16.5 billion yuan (US$2.38 billion) to help the cities of Heyuan and Shanwei improve their country road construction, irrigation facilities, school construction, shabby housing renovations and other infrastructure projects.
Besides poor cities within Guangdong, Shenzhen’s poverty alleviation efforts have been extended to other provinces and regions in the country such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi, Sichuan and Heilongjiang. With Kashgar in Xinjiang as an example, remoteness and inaccessibility once severely hindered the city’s economic development and its link with the outside world. However, since Shenzhen began to give a helping hand in 2010, the remote city has witnessed an annual GDP increase rate of 13.19 percent.
Under the guidance of the Central Government, Shenzhen is also trying its best to help needy countries across the world. While attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Meeting in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, earlier this month, President Xi Jinping took time to the opening ceremony of Butuka Academy, a China-aided school project. The academy, firstly established in 1984, is once again showing its vitality after reconstruction, which was financed by Port Moresby’s sister city — Shenzhen.
According to Chinese philosophy, teaching one to fish is better than giving him a fish. With a total area of more than 50,000 square meters, the new campus has separate buildings for primary and secondary schools, a multifunctional hall, and courts for basketball and volleyball. It can accommodate over 3,000 students from local communities and help nurture talented youth for the South Pacific nation.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)