The Chinese government has brought an official end to the border surrounding the original Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which was established nearly four decades ago to demarcate it from the rest of the country’s economy.
On 15 January China’s State Council issued a directive “approving the rescinding of the Shenzhen special economic zone’s administrative border” as requested by the Guangdong province government, in order to foster the area’s integration with the broader municipality.
Established in 1978, the launch of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was one of the inaugural events of China’s reform and opening era, creating a 327 square kilometre duty-free area designed to attract foreign direct investment to the country’s manufacturing sector.
The State Council approved the establishment of a 84.6 kilometre iron barrier separating the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone from the rest of the municipality in June 1982, in order to prevent the smuggling of duty-free imports of raw materials, equipment, vehicles and other good.
The barrier served as a “second checkpoint” in addition to the border between Hong Kong and Guangdong province, requiring a special permit for entry purposes.
As the reform and opening era progressed and the economic gap between adjacent population shrank, however, the barrier rapidly diminished in importance.
By 2010 Beijing had expanded the special economic zone to encompass the whole of Shenzhen, including metro lines distributed across the city, while in late 2016 the border structures were completely demolished.
Peng Peng, vice-president of Guangdong’s South Nongovernmental Think Tank, said to the South China Morning Post that Beijing’s decision was “basically legal recognition of the border’s lost significance.”
Huo Jianguo (霍建国), former head of the Ministry of Finance China Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said to state media that the move “was a positive signal for comprehensive opening.”
According to Huo the abolition of the border will foster greater integration between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, and “enable Shenzhen and Guangdong province to enter a phase of integrated development.”