Shekou, a symbol of reform and opening-up

By Zhang Hongpei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/16 10:02:15

Company logo of Sanyo Electric (Shekou) Ltd, the first Japanese firm based in Shekou, Shenzhen founded in 1983, still shows on the surface of office buildings which used to be Sanyo's factory on February 7. Photo: Zhang Hongpei/GT


 
The Shekou Industrial Zone in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province, has transformed from a desolate fishing village on the South China Sea in the 1970s to a developed area, continuously attracting people from both home and abroad to pursue their dreams over the past four decades.

In 1979, China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings Co (CMSK), a subsidiary of State-owned China Merchants Group (CMG), commenced the development and construction of the Shekou Industrial Zone – the first internationally accessible economic development zone in China.

Being the cradle of the country’s industrial boom and a test tube for changes – which followed the decision of the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in 1978 to liberate the mind and take the road of seeking truth from facts – Shekou started to embrace a new era.

On a recent trip to Shenzhen, I visited China’s first museum on the theme of reform and opening-up established by CMSK last year, in which many historical documents, photos, objects and letters are displayed, bringing visitors back to the memorable years in Shekou, especially the early stages of China’s reform and opening-up.

An old picture displayed in Shenzhen's first museum on reform and opening-up shows on February 4 that female workers of Sanyo were riding bicycles. Photo: Zhang Hongpei/GT


 

For the generation in China born around the year 1990 like me, the early historical background of China’s reform and opening-up is really something new and fresh, which needs to be digested, cherished and passed on generation by generation. Only by learning and understanding that period of history can the policy’s significance and influence be fully integrated with our modern life.

I am quite stunned by the courage, wisdom and determination of forerunners at that time. A statue of Yuan Geng, former deputy chairman of CMG and founder of the Shekou Industrial Zone, is now standing on the Sea World Plaza in Shekou. 

The statue faces the sea while behind him there is a modern Shekou, fully equipped with all kinds of modern facilities including Sea World, an entertainment hub, along with the first five-star hotel in Shenzhen, new commercial buildings and business areas. The innovation and pioneering spirit of Yuan, who passed away in 2016, is still leading the Shekou area and the whole of Shenzhen to move ahead.

In an indication of the flourishing business opportunities in Shekou, various Fortune 500 Chinese companies have moved from the industrial zone into the international arena, including property developer China Vanke, financial services group Ping An Insurance, and telecom giant Huawei Technologies.

Amid the rising trend of domestic enterprises, however, it should not be forgotten that the super-rapid development of Shekou, especially during the early period of opening-up, benefited from the support of foreign capital.

Shekou’s Nanhai Hotel, the first five-star hotel in Shenzhen, was jointly backed in 1983 by CMG, Miramar Group based in Hong Kong, HSBC and the Shenzhen branch of Bank of China, each with an equity ratio of 25 percent. Now, 25 years later, it is wholly owned by CMG, with the other shareholders having exited without any conditions. 

Chia Tai Conti, the first solely foreign-funded company in the Chinese mainland, is also now located in Shekou. The company was established by Thailand’s Chia Tai Group and US Continental Grain Co with a 50-50 equity ratio in 1981, when the domestic feed sector was undeveloped, with little industrialization or modernization.

Faced with investment uncertainties in Shekou at that time, these foreign companies took the first firm step, bringing funding, technology, advanced equipment and management concepts to the country, which helped lay solid foundations for the industrialization and modernization process.

Sanyo Electric (Shekou) Ltd was founded in 1983, becoming the first Japanese firm in Shenzhen focused on the manufacturing of electronic audio and video equipment. I visited the current site of the company building, which has maintained the same structure but has been transformed into office buildings. To my surprise, the logo “Sanyo” is still on the surface of the building, seemingly to show to visitors that it, or foreign capital, has come and contributed here.

In March 2015, Shekou was incorporated into the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone, Qianhai & Shekou Area of Shenzhen. Capitalizing on its advantages in market-orientation and internationalization, Qianhai & Shekou Area is set to utilize its prime location to further integrate the resources of Shenzhen and Hong Kong and gather other high-end resources from abroad, with high priorities placed on the development of financial services, modern logistics, information services, technology services, port and shipping services and other strategic emerging services.

Witnessing many significant “firsts” in reform – including a social insurance company founded by an enterprise for the first time, the creation of a shareholding system, the country’s first internal account settlement center, the first commercial bank in the country, and the commercialization of housing for the first time – Shekou and its template have been deeply embedded in the development history of the past four decades.

Shekou has evolved into more than an area; it is a symbol with historic depth. Its slogan “time is money, efficiency is life,” still shines on the side of a traffic island in Shekou, reminding people to seize the moment and move ahead.


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