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Shenzhen
Avg.Score:
 
3.8
Dining:
 
3.6
Entertainment:
 
3.6
Hotels:
 
4.0
Scenery:
 
3.6
Shopping:
 
4.0
Transportation:
 
3.6

One of China's newest metropolises—and its fastest growing—Shenzhen (Shēnzhèn, 深圳), offers travelers great insight into contemporary China, though it lacks much in the way of historical and cultural artifacts. Indeed, it's a very now place, brimming with migrants from provincial China hoping to pull themselves up a few rungs on the financial ladder and flush with business-driven expats and foreign investment.

The steady influx of cash has combined with Chinese industrial might to make a major economic powerhouse out of a city that barely existed twenty-five years ago. It can be an uncanny place, where history—largely absent in any tangible or authentic way—is garishly represented by replicas of such world-famous sights as the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and the Great Wall at the Window of the World theme park—an assortment that reflects China's new global orientation.

The city's dynamic energy is undeniable, but only time will tell if this giant city of factories and finance will mature into a cultured, world-class metropolis. In the meantime, it's worth a visit, and Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou are all nearby once you've had your fill of Shenzhen. Be aware that you will need to show your passport upon entry into the SEZ and, if continuing on to Hong Kong or Macau, you'll have to do so again in order to obtain the proper visas for the Special Administrative Regions (SAR). Regulations change often, so be sure you're up to date on the latest China visa requirements. To enter the PRC from either SAR, you need to obtain a visa for China in advance.

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History

As a symbol, Shenzhen represents China's late twentieth-century economic boom like nothing else. Unencumbered by a long and messy history like Shanghai or Beijing, Shenzhen, only a humble fishing village until 1979 when Deng Xiaoping decreed it China's first Special Economic Zone, has, in just a quarter-century, grown into a thicket of shiny skyscrapers surrounded by humming industrial parks servicing the second-busiest port in China. (Shanghai is number one in China—and the world.)

The glitzy city center is surrounded by crowded, hastily built neighbohoods that have sprung up too quickly for careful city planning and with little to no thought of permanence, aesthetic value or environmental sustainability—revealing an element of rather grimy chaos behind the scenes of an otherwise carefully managed economic success story. Immigrants from China's poorer provinces continue to pour into the SEZ and its environs. Ironically, many can't get the necessary documents to live in Shenzhen proper and end up floating outside the policed boundaries of the SEZ, finding work in loosely regulated factories, shipping facilities and the service sector. Highlighting Shenzhen's uniqueness and importance to China at large, it is the only city in Guangdong Province where Mandarin predominates rather than the local Cantonese language, thanks to its migrant population. 

Despite its newness, Shenzhen's history is deeper and more complicated than the popular near-myth in which Deng Xiaoping magisterially proclaims Shenzhen to be the place where China, having united politically under Mao Zedong, would begin its fantastic ascent from the economic hole in which it found itself following the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution. The Pearl River Delta site was chosen because of Hong Kong's long success as a bastion of capitalism within spitting distance of the world's largest avowed Communist state. And Shenzhen, which abuts Hong Kong's New Territories, has indeed been able to exploit its proximity to Hong Kong and the former colonial-era treaty port of Guangzhou (Canton) to draw major investment and do major business. This experiment has been a huge economic success, at least in the near term, but as with much of China's recent growth, new concerns have arisen about the social and environmental costs of that success. For those who wish to know today's "real China," Shenzhen is an important place to see. Plus, brand-name and fakes shopping alike are excellent.

 

Climate

Spring is cool and pleasant with average temperatures running between about 17 ºC and 23 º C (63 º F-73 º F). Summer is hot and very humid, with average high temperatures from June through September running to 30 º C (91 º F ) and humidity that hovers around 90%. Typhoon season lasts from May to September and frequent downpours are common. Fall brings mild weather with averages between the low to mid 20s º C (70s º F) and clear skies. Winter is dry and can get chilly, averaging 17 º C (62 º F) with temperatures occasionally dipping into the mid-teens Centigrade (mid-50s º F). The best time to visit Shenzhen is in the spring and fall, when the weather is pleasant and the rain less frequent.

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