They weren’t movers and shakers or big tycoons, but they shared the stage with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday to celebrate Shenzhen’s achievements over the past four decades.
Chen Zhilie, who set up a computer company with four other researchers in the southern city 27 years ago, spoke of his experience.
“What has come along with the Shenzhen special economic zone in the past 40 years is generations of entrepreneurs who dared to make their dreams come true through experimentation and exploration,” Chen told the audience.
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“As they created miracle after miracle, they together make up the innovative DNA of this city in pushing for reform and opening up,” he said.
Also invited to speak was Lu Jianxin, chief architectural engineer for southern China of a state-owned construction firm, who looked back on Shenzhen’s transformation from border village to modern metropolis.
“[Back in 1982] I was disappointed when I arrived in Shenzhen because all I saw were shabby work sheds and dusty building sites. For someone who studied architecture, I had hoped to step out of the railway station and see skyscrapers and high-rises,” Lu said.
“But looking back today, isn’t it true that I have had the privilege of taking part in [Shenzhen’s] great endeavour and the miracle of a generation,” he said, to applause from the audience.
Neither men are well-known in Shenzhen’s business world, but they were invited to speak at a ceremony that was carefully choreographed to drive home Beijing’s message, according to an observer.
“Chen Zhilie was apparently chosen to signal that Beijing wants to encourage [Shenzhen] to develop more hi-tech companies with intellectual property rights to their own technologies,” said Peng Peng, vice-president of the Guangdong System Reform Research Society, a government-backed think tank.
“Lu represents the professionals and his architecture background also provided recognition of Shenzhen’s rapid growth and impressive example of becoming a city of high-rises,” he added.
Peng also noted that Ren Zhengfei, founder of Shenzhen-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies and one of the country’s best known business leaders, was not on stage but in the audience.
“It’s quite telling that they have picked these people to speak – who are not well-known but represent innovation and professionals – rather than giving the opportunity to someone from a company like Huawei,” he said.
Also on stage with Xi were the leaders and former leaders responsible for Beijing’s policies on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, underscoring the central government’s support for the two cities.
Among them were Vice-Premier Han Zheng, who heads the Communist Party’s Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, and Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, two of her predecessors, Leung Chun-ying and Tung Chee-hwa, as well as Macau leader Ho Iat-seng and his predecessor Edmund Ho Hau-wah were seated in the back row.
Additional reporting by Guo Rui
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This article Personal stories on the Shenzhen ‘miracle’ drive home Beijing’s message first appeared on South China Morning Post