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Shenzhen Focuses on Efficiency over GDP

Clearer skies, cleaner water and more efforts to save resources instead of a higher GDP growth rate will top the Shenzhen government's agenda this year.

This is the message that has been sent out by top officials in Shenzhen.

For decades, Shenzhen, China's first economic zone, has performed one economic miracle after another. The well-known "Shenzhen speed" has inspired many Chinese cities to speed up along their own development path.

Grown out of a fishing village 25 years ago to become one of the richest cities in China, the southern economic engine's GDP in 2004 totalled 342.2 billion yuan (US$41 billion), a year-on-year growth rate of 17.3 percent, which is more than twice the national average.

But this high speed has been achieved at a high cost, the officials said.

Statistics indicate that by 2010, 90 percent of the land in the city will be used up, leaving only 200 square kilometers. As well as a shortage of land and water, energy consumption will triple.

The young city is hampered by its booming population of more than 10 million, resulting in many social problems including traffic jams and pollution.

In a major departure from their previous idea of development, the city's planners are now setting their sights on greater efficiency.

At a conference last week, Shenzhen Mayor Li Hongzhong vowed to cut the economic growth rate by 4.3 percent.

The mayor promised to bring down the city's water and energy consumption by 4 percent and improve the city's air and water quality this year.

The government's decision has made a big stir among the local people.

Guo Wanda, with the China (Shenzhen) Development Institute, said the leading special economic zone would continue to serve as an experimental platform for reforms in China.

The city's shift in development mode will become an example for other fast-growing cities including Suzhou, Dongguan and Hangzhou, which in five or 10 years' time will be facing the same sort of problems as Shenzhen today, the scholar said.

However, to enterprises which have a high energy demand, it will have an negative impact, he said.

By contrast, high-tech companies with their own intellectual property rights will have a more amiable business environment, he said.

(China Daily January 20, 2005)

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