Value Creation

If UABB Hong Kong was greeted by a storm of controversy, its counterpart in Shenzhen went off without a hitch. “Cocktails and happiness! No protest at all!” wrote one participating artist on Facebook. This year, UABB Shenzhen — which bills itself as the “world’s only biennale dedicated exclusively to the themes of urbanism and urbanization” […]

From Industry to Art at Warp Speed

It’s a familiar story: old industrial area becomes creative hub. What makes OCT Loft different is that the entire process took just six years — and it’s on the vanguard of Shenzhen’s transformation from factory town to Chinese creative superpower. In the mid-1980s, a swath of farmland in the newly-established Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was […]

Shenzhen from Above

Thirty years ago, Shenzhen was a collection of farming towns and fishing villages home to not much more than 300,000 people. It is now a sprawling metropolis of several million, with around 3.5 million in the city centre and another five or six million in the suburbs and industrial towns that stretch for miles beyond. […]

The Pearl River Megalopolis

Shenzhen from above “China to create largest mega city in the world with 42 million people,” announced a breathless headline in Sunday’s Telegraph, detailing plans to combine the cities of Guangdong province’s Pearl River Delta (PRD) into a massive urban conurbation. “Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, […]

40 Seconds at a Shenzhen Streetcorner

17:05:46 17:06:26 Corner of Jiabin Road and Renmin South Road, Luohu, Shenzhen

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Outdoor Billiards in Shenzhen

In Baishizhou, five yuan will get you an hour of pool and a big bottle of strong beer. This is one of Shenzhen’s largest and liveliest urban villages. Pool is one of its favourite pasttimes. The village is hard to navigate, with aimless roads and dark, foreboding alleyways, but I’ve come across a few outdoor […]

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Deng vs. Mao

I wonder what Mao Zedong would have thought of Shenzhen.

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Life in Hong Kong’s Birthplace

The layers of irony in Nantou can be hard to appreciate. Here is a town that reigned supreme over the surrounding lands for hundreds of years; when China lost the first Opium Wars, it was here that British emissaries met Chinese officials to claim the nearby island of Hong Kong. Later, as a result of […]

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The Shenzhen Flâneur

It’s easy to spot Mary Ann O’Donnell in a Shenzhen crowd. She’s the one wearing a pink-and-orange linen scarf and flowing dress. She’s also white — a rather rare sight in a wealthy city that is still off the radar of the roving crowd of expatriates that have settled in Shanghai and Beijing. Don’t let […]

Shenzhen’s Future: Special Political Zone?

The police have taken over the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. They are rehearsing for an official event to happen later in the day and many of the biennale’s outdoor installations at Shenzhen’s massive Civic Square have been temporarily closed off to the public for the occasion. Ou Ning, the biennale’s curator, […]

Barbecued Euphoria in Shenzhen

Mark Ndesandjo, Barack Obama’s half-brother, is a talented guy. After graduating from Stanford and Brown, he moved to Shenzhen, where he gives piano lessons to orphans. Just the other day, he released his first novel — inspired partly by his troubled relationship with his father — and he’s now working on an autobiography. But out […]

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Shenzhen Overpass

Hong Kong businesspeople and pro-Beijing politicians like to daydream about the day when Shenzhen and Hong Kong will be completely integrated, the border between them either gone or reduced to an anachronistic formality. For now, though, the two cities remain strikingly different despite their proximity and shared history. Shenzhen is brash, devious and seedy, but […]

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Shopping in Shenzhen

According to many, especially disgruntled Hong Kong shopkeepers, Shenzhen’s Luohu (Lo Wu) district functions as a giant discount mall, just over the border. There’s even a book (widely available in Hong Kong) titled ‘Shop in Shenzhen’ with advice on where to get the best knockoff purses, and where the best foot massages are to be […]

Urban Village, Shenzhen Style

The rapid urbanization of Shenzhen since 1980 has generated a contemporary landscape dotted with a series of urban villages, enclaves of buzzing urbanity and street life situated on land owned by Shenzhen’s original rural residents. These areas house much of Shenzhen’s floating population of workers from across China. The local farmers or fishers who are […]