Shenzhen: Powerhouse Chinese City

Photo: Shenzhen Stock Exchange building © Outcast85 | Dreamstime.com

- December 3, 2015

Until 1980, Shenzhen was a quiet village populated by a few thousand farmers and fishermen; now this bustling metropolis of 11 million ranks among China’s richest cities. Shenzhen’s supercharged economy sprouted seemingly overnight when former premier Deng Xiaoping chose it as an incubator for economic reform and opening. Thirty-five years later, China’s youngest city is one of its most powerful, boasting soaring skyscrapers and billions of dollars in foreign investment.

Strategically positioned along the border between mainland China and Hong Kong, the city connects to Hong Kong by bus, rail and ferry (though American passport holders must purchase a visa in advance to visit Shenzhen). Shenzhen Bao’An International Airport serves more than 60 Chinese cities and a handful of international destinations, and a high-speed railway connects Shenzhen to Southern China’s other economic powerhouse, Guangzhou, in less than an hour.

Located 22 miles west of the city, Shenzhen’s airport connects to the Luohu Commercial District by metro and to the Futian Central Business District by taxi. Though fares are typically cheaper when flying into Shenzhen, travelers flying to Hong Kong can take public transit, ferry service or private van service to Shenzhen (approximately two hours, including border crossing).

Within the city, five metro lines offer convenient transit that bypasses Shenzhen’s infamous traffic jams. To avoid traffic, many business travelers prefer to base themselves within the gleaming new Futian District. The design-focused InterContinental Shenzhen provides an atmosphere that’s playful without being kitschy, with a Spanish theme that extends from the bellmen’s toreador-inspired uniforms to the imitation beach. The 463 high-tech guestrooms feature LCD televisions and Bose sound systems as well as chandeliers and wood paneling.

Also located in the CBD, the Futian Shangri-La offers convenient access to the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Centre as well as the Shenzhen Civic Centre. The hotel’s 478 tastefully appointed guestrooms feature Chinese touches such as wooden screens and metallic fabrics, as well as contemporary art and expansive views of the Shenzhen skyline. Start the day with a power breakfast in the hotel’s Café Zen, serving both Western fare and local favorites such as dim sum and congee.

For classic décor and outstanding dining, the 439-room Grand Hyatt Shenzhen occupies 38 floors above the luxury MixC shopping center. Rooms feature marble bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Luohu shopping district. The hotel’s 1881 restaurant is among the most popular in Shenzhen for its Sichuan and Northern Chinese cuisine. Impress local colleagues with a business lunch of wood-fired Peking duck and an extensive Chinese tea list; reservations are a must.

Built to house government dignitaries (the guest list includes Premier Li Keqiang), the Shenzhen Wuzhou Guest House provides a more traditional Chinese experience. The 334-room hotel features guestrooms in both Western style and Chinese décor, as well as an extensive Chinese art collection, fitness center and meeting facilities.

If you’ll be traveling back and forth or meeting associates from Hong Kong, the Shangri-La Hotel, Shenzhen’s location near the border makes it a convenient meeting place. Though the hotel is older, service and facilities prove first-rate, including at the 360° restaurant, offering sweeping views of the city, prime steaks and an extensive wine list on the top two floors.

Dafen Oil Painting Village

Dafen Oil Painting Village © Waihs | Dreamstime.com

As a melting pot for workers from all over China and the world, Shenzhen offers cuisine as diverse as its inhabitants. Take your business meeting outside the hotel for lunch at Shui Zu Yu Xiang, a Chang’an Plaza restaurant whose Beijing-style fish and tofu dishes are sure to please any Northern Chinese associates. For a more international menu, Yokohama restaurant inside the Nan Hai Hotel serves the freshest sashimi in town while offering views of the ferries to Hong Kong and Macau.

Midafternoon, negotiate an agreement in the sophisticated atmosphere at the Greenland Lounge, where Shenzhen’s elite sip afternoon tea beneath the glass-domed roof of the Futian District’s Pavilion Hotel. If you need a more formal atmosphere to host a meeting, the Futian Shangri-La in the heart of the CBD offers a variety of stylish boardrooms complete with wood paneling, video conferencing and simultaneous translation systems.

However, in Shenzhen, many business deals are done on the greens. As one of China’s earliest adopters of the sport, the city has become a golf mecca, boasting half a dozen top-rated courses and the largest golf course in the world. Mission Hills Golf Club boasts 12 18-hole courses, each designed by a different world champion, and is widely considered to be the top club in Southern China. In addition to the club’s five restaurants and clubhouse facilities, Mission Hills offers fully equipped conference rooms and an on-site event planning team.

Other excellent clubs include Shenzhen Golf Club, one of China’s two oldest courses and a popular club among locals for its easily accessible Futian location. Sand River Golf Club, a 27-hole course designed by South African legend Gary Player, is part of the Palm Springs International Club and boasts floodlights for playing after dark. Sprawling across 180 acres of Luhu Park, the Guangzhou Luhu Golf & Country Club features a par-72 course designed by architect Dave Thomas.

If you need to pick up a gift prior to a business meeting, the upscale MixC shopping center, connected to the Grand Hyatt Shenzhen, houses luxury brands ranging from Armani to Prada. Before leaving the city, get fitted for a tailor-made suit or dress at the Luohu Commercial City straddling the border with Hong Kong. It’s noisy and, at times, overwhelming, but a perfect example of the hustle and bustle that transformed Shenzhen into an economic superpower.

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