For new mayor of China’s hi-tech hub, soaring property prices may be first item on agenda

William Zheng
·4-min read

Former vice-governor of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong Qin Weizhong has been named as mayor of Shenzhen, China’s hi-tech hub.

Qin, a former energy industry worker, was likely to focus on curbing the city’s soaring property prices and land shortages, analysts said.

The 49-year-old was appointed to the role in an acting capacity by the standing committee of the Shenzhen People’s Congress on Sunday, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported. He is expected to be confirmed in the job when the full legislature meets next month, which would make him the city’s youngest ever mayor.

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Other reshuffles announced by the committee included the city’s top judge, prosecutor and head of the supervision department.

Before his appointment, Qin, who holds a PhD in chemical engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, was responsible for housing, the environment and big data management in Guangdong province. He was a deputy general manager at the China National Petroleum Company before he was appointed vice-governor in 2019.

Qin Weizhong is likely to be confirmed in his post next month. Photo: Handout
Qin Weizhong is likely to be confirmed in his post next month. Photo: Handout

Qin’s new boss, Shenzhen Communist Party chief, Wang Weizhong, is another alumni of Tsinghua, which is also the alma mater of President Xi Jinping.

Academic records show that Qin’s adviser for his master’s thesis was Chen Xi, now head of the Central Organisation Department of the Chinese Communist Party, the body that controls staffing positions.

A Shenzhen government source said Qin’s predecessor Chen Rugui, who will soon turn 60, the official retirement age, was expected to become a vice-chairman of the provincial legislature, the Guangdong People’s Congress – in line with the tradition for officials.

In 2019 Beijing unveiled a blueprint to turn Shenzhen into a “pilot demonstration area for socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which would see it becoming a world leader in technology and innovation, public services and the environment by 2025.

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But the city, which is home to some of China’s biggest tech firms – including telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, drone maker DJI and the internet conglomerate Tencent – is facing a triple whammy from trade tariffs and sanctions from the US, the economic impact of Covid-19 and ever-rising property prices that are quickly eroding its competitiveness.

Wu Junfei, deputy director of the Tianda Institute, a Hong Kong-based think tank, said Qin’s immediate priority was likely to be taming the city’s soaring house prices, which have seriously harmed its ability to attract global talent.

Property prices in China’s megacities, including Shenzhen, have surged significantly since last year due to rising demand and market speculation, prompting the central government to step up its efforts to drive speculators out of the sector.

“Xi has said on different occasions that ‘houses are for people to live, not for speculation’. But Shenzhen has not been able to curb speculation in the property market,” Wu said.

“If the trend continues, the city will quickly hollow out. So the new people are being brought in to step on the brakes.”

Shenzhen is home to some of China’s leading tech companies, including Tencent. Photo: Xinhua
Shenzhen is home to some of China’s leading tech companies, including Tencent. Photo: Xinhua

Wu also said the latest reshuffle in Shenzhen was meant to strengthen the city’s leadership in face of intensifying competition with neighbouring cities, including Hong Kong.

Shenzhen University professor Song Xiaozhuang said Beijing wanted to stop officials and property speculators working in cahoots, and to bring in new blood to tackle the “hegemony of developers”.

Song said Shenzhen’s land shortages would need to be tackled in conjunction with the provincial and central government by expanding the city’s administrative limits.

“There has been much talk about whether Shenzhen should further expand its boundaries in the east but this will need coordination from the Guangdong provincial government,” he said.

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Song also said land on the border with Hong Kong, for instance the Sandy Ridge Cemetery, could be jointly developed but this would need help from Beijing.

“But overall, Shenzhen stands a good chance to resolve its land shortage problem as the political will is clearly there,” he added.

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