China's open door policy back in the 1980s has enabled it to be a major player in international trade. One city that has seized that opportunity and is now reaping the benefits is Shenzhen, now known as the country's first Special Economic Zone.
Various industry players shared their experience of working, doing business and living in the city to give their insight on the open door policy's influence.
How did it start?
Zhou Luming, President of Shenzhen Cri Innovation Center attributed Shenzhen's core success to the city's changing of institutional elements that impede innovation. This has in turn greatly boosted innovation – the kick-start of the city's rapid growth.
"Shenzhen's innovation is from the demand side. Its concept is quick production plus electronics supporting the market well with supply chains," Zhou said.
This makes sense.
According to Professor Du Juan, who's with the Department of Architecture at Hong Kong University, human psychology had a role to play in Shenzhen's growth – something that has been under discussed.
"Shenzhen in the 1980s and China offered a complete liberation of mind, and people were told to do whatever they want to make money, do whatever to create the life for themselves. So that's the tremendous change… from everywhere else in China," Du said.
How has this helped business?
According to Zhou, a measure of a city's success is the fact that US Silicon Valley companies have set up incubators in the city since global innovation requires China's participation.
"Combining domestic demand and manufacturing sectors, with the advanced countries' laboratories, Shenzhen has created many new industries," Zhou quipped.
One example seen here is the establishment of Royole Corporation, which creates and manufactures next-generation human-machine interface technologies such as advanced flexible displays, flexible sensors and smart devices.
Bill Liu, Chairman and CEO of Royole Corporation, said Shenzhen is a place where creative ideas can be turned quickly into products, as evidenced by what his company has achieved.
However, it's not all just work and no play. Pam-E, a pianist/singer at The Langham cited Shenzhen's quality of living as an attraction, with its modern music styles and evolving tastes.
How sustainable is this?
Zhou believes China will have a new role in the next round of global innovation, and that Shenzhen has a unique value in China's market.
"China will have a new role as a creator, rather than simply following or imitating others," Zhou said.
Meanwhile, Du opines, the challenge therein lies with how Shenzhen, having achieved success, can still have the courage to continue to re-invent, to break the rules and to not be afraid to challenge existing standards.
Keep in mind that Shenzhen has transitioned from a rural border town with a population of 300,000 to a mega metropolis of some 20 million people in three to four decades. This, according to Du, is unprecedented in history both in human population and economy.
It will be interesting to see how Shenzhen continues to expand and keep up with the times, especially when technology is making the world a more connected place than ever.