China’s alleged plans to make Shenzhen better than HK not quite what they seem

The Chinese government has set up additional goals for making its pride city of Shenzhen a world-leading metropolis within the next five years.

In a document issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on August 9, the government outlined six general goals and three specific ones for making Shenzhen a pilot area of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The release of this document has been interpreted by some media outlets as China’s warning to Hong Kong, amid the ongoing protests in the city. The outlets suggest that the timing of the plan’s release is a signal from China that the central government is willing to siphon benefits away from Hong Kong and toward other municipalities within the Greater Bay Area, should the HKSAR continue to step out of line.

However, the announcement of the plan during the Hong Kong protest period may just be a coincidence.

The goal of making Shenzhen a “pilot area for socialism with Chinese characteristics” was first proposed in May 2017 by the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In 2018, the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the CPC outlined a plan for making Shenzhen a “pilot area” from 2018 to 2035. The document was submitted to the central government for approval.

In the second half of 2018, after the Chinese central government reviewed the original draft, the wording was changed to “exemplary zone of pilot area of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

In the original draft, it was stated that by 2020, “Shenzhen will basically be built into a modern, international and innovative city, and a high-quality, comprehensive and well-off society.”

In the latest version of the plan, released on Sunday, the central government outlines a roadmap for the city’s development over the next three decades.

By 2025, the government wants Shenzhen to become one of the world’s leading cities in terms of economic strength and quality of development. Its research and development output, industrial innovation capacity, quality of public services and ecological environment are expected to become first-class in the world, according to the document.

By 2035, it is hoped that Shenzhen will become a national model of high-quality development, and a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity with international influence.

By the mid-21st century, China wants Shenzhen to become one of the top metropolises in the world, as well as a global trendsetter with outstanding competitiveness, innovative capacity and influence.

“High quality development; pilot area of the city of rule of law; model of urban civilization; role model of livelihood and happiness; [and] pioneer of sustainable development” are the six general goals listed in the document.

Regarding Macau and Hong Kong, the plan is proposing to “continuously improve the level of openness of Shenzhen to Macau and Hong Kong, support Shenzhen in building a big data center in the Greater Bay Area, vigorously promote the humanistic spirit in Greater Bay, encourage Shenzhen to co-organize various forms of cultural and artistic activities with Hong Kong and Macau, constantly enhance the sense of identity and cohesiveness of Hong Kong and Macau compatriots, strengthen the cooperation of digital creative industries in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, and use Hong Kong and Macau’s exhibition sources and exhibition industry advantages to organize large-scale cultural exhibitions.”

All of the abovementioned goals are hoped to be achieved through the “enhanced CPC’s leadership,” according to the document.

On Weibo, both the People’s Daily and CCTV propagandized the general and vague plan as a threat to Hong Kong, despite the fact that Shenzhen only has one year left to achieve its original 2020 goal of becoming a first-class world city.

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