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Deadly landslide site in Shenzhen is the birthplace of China's capitalist 'miracle'

Sydney Morning Herald - December 22, 2015

Rick Gladstone The first bodies are being pulled from the tonnes of mud and building waste that has devastated this booming business hub. And with more than 80 people still missing in Shenzhen, analysts and historians are seeing this disaster as another terrible milestone in China's short and frenetic burst of industrialisation.

When China was opened to capitalism and foreign investment in 1979 by Deng Xiaoping, then the Communist Party leader, he chose to start with Shenzhen, a poor village in the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong.

Since then Shenzhen, which roughly translated means "deep drainage," has transformed from a fishing community of 30,000 to a sprawling industrial and financial megacity, with a population that by some estimates exceeds 12 million.

Described by Chinese officials as a miracle, Shenzhen has some of China's biggest skyscrapers and shopping malls, with a new subway and other construction proceeding so quickly that there is no room to put all the excavation waste a suspected cause in the deadly landslide there on Sunday.

The vast majority of all consumer appliances sold worldwide are assembled in Shenzhen and the surrounding area in southern China's Guangdong province. The area also has developed an international reputation as a magnet for technology entrepreneurs, and has been designated as one of the world's startup hubs of the future by Inc. Magazine.

But Shenzhen's explosive growth, fuelled by Deng's prophetic designation of it as China's first so-called Special Economic Zone, which gives preferential treatment to foreign investment, also symbolises many of China's most acute problems overcrowding, corruption, pollution and the stark absence of accountability.

In recent years, Shenzhen became known for poor working conditions and labor practices at its vast complex of electronics factories. The problem was punctuated by a spate of suicides and accidents at facilities owned by Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that employs hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers and is known for assembling Apple products like iPhones and iPads.

The dark themes of Shenzhen's breakneck development were hinted at in a groundbreaking Chinese film released a few years ago, A Touch of Sin, a series of vignettes including a suicide at a workplace that resembled a Shenzhen assembly plant. The film was so sensitive that the Chinese authorities limited its distribution, but it still won a Cannes award for best screenplay. (New York Times, Reuters)

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/deadly-landslide-site-in-shenzhen-is-the-birthplace-of-chinas-capitalist-miracle-20151222-glt0fc.html.

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