China's reform started in rural areas, but its reform and opening up began in Shenzhen, southern Guangdong Province.
Adjacent to Hong Kong, Shenzhen was a small fishing village prior to 1978, but underwent dramatic changes thanks to the reform and opening-up policy.
After the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China 40 years ago, reform pioneers, including then Party chief of Guangdong Province Xi Zhongxun, proposed setting up a processing trade area in Shenzhen. The proposal was approved by the Central Government and in 1979, Shenzhen City was established. The following year, it was approved as a special economic zone. Since then Shenzhen's economy has taken off and become a microcosm of China's reform and opening up.
Today, Shenzhen has taken the lead in the economy, science and technology, and commerce and trade in China. It has the third largest container port in the world and the largest land border port in Asia. A number of Global 500 companies have set up headquarters in Shenzhen, including tech giants Huawei and Tencent, and real estate companies like Evergrande Group and China Vanke.
As China deepens its reform and opening up, Shenzhen's experiences may provide useful guidance for other areas.
It is worth learning from Shenzhen's courage in pursuing reform, which was not all smooth sailing. There were doubts and questions at the beginning, and the city wavered in its attempts at reform. Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping who devised the reform and opening-up policy inspected Shenzhen twice, in 1984 and 1992, respectively and challenged it to be more daring in experimenting with the policy. Shenzhen implemented the policy through bold trials since there was no precedence to draw from. It had to cross the river by feeling for stones.
The key to Shenzhen's success is promoting the socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics: China's contribution to human economic and social development that has provided valuable experiences for other countries with different political systems and cultures. As the first practitioner and consistent endorser of the economic system, Shenzhen offers valuable lessons for other areas in China to pursue the economic model.
The export-oriented economy boosted Shenzhen's growth and increased China's involvement with the global economy. Shenzhen drove its own development and improved its international competitiveness by absorbing foreign investment and providing a fair and convenient environment for foreign investors.
As reform and opening up wade through uncharted waters, the key to maintaining steady and healthy growth is to continue expanding reform and opening up. Shenzhen's success is still very relevant in this regard.