China’s second tallest skyscraper, the Ping An Finance Centre, was completed in the center of Shenzhen in 2017. The 115-storey superstructure is a testament to the city’s remarkable, four-decade ascent since its origins as a fishing village. Hong Kong has nothing as tall. Walking around mainland China’s third wealthiest city, Shenzhen feels rather well-to-do. Residential blocks have replaced the labyrinthine urban villages formed when high-rise buildings were hurriedly built in what had been countryside. A vast metro system has supplanted the old fleet of mini buses, while cars, not motorbikes, dominate the city’s six lane boulevards. The seedy border town once renowned for knockoff designer wares and sweatshop factories has given way to homogeneity and affluence.
To the east of town, Luohu district marks ground zero of China’s “reform and opening up” period in the 1980s. It was here that Deng Xiaoping is said to have proclaimed “to be rich is glorious” in 1992. But the rest of Shenzhen has caught up with its early prototype. China’s first tower blocks are now weathered and worn, while around the railway station vestiges of Shenzhen’s sleazy past linger on.