Incredibly, in 1979 SHENZHEN was a simple rural hamlet and train station called Bao'an, the first office foundations yet to be dug in its alluvial plains on the Hong Kong border. Within six years, delegations from all over China were pouring in to learn how to remodel their own businesses, cities and provinces on Shenzhen's incentives-based economy. By 1990 the city had four harbours and its manufacturing industries alone were turning over US$2 billion a year, necessitating the construction of a nuclear power station to deal with local energy needs; today the city has more than a dozen buildings over 200 metres tall and produces almost all the world's Ipods and Apple computers.
Shenzhen may not have been the cause of capitalism in the People's Republic, but it has been a glorious piece of propaganda for those who promoted its virtues. It's no coincidence that, on his landmark 1992 "Southern Tour", Deng Xiaoping chose Shenzhen as the place to make his memorable statement: "Poverty is not Socialism: to get rich is glorious", voicing the Party's shift from Communist dogma to a pragmatic, results-driven approach to economics – and opening the gate for the start of China's financial boom.
Having said all this, with similar skylines rearing up all over China, Shenzhen is no longer quite as amazing as it once was; the border area around the station in particular is a bit grubby, not to mention overrun with pushy hotel touts, beggars and pickpockets. The city is a useful transport hub, however – onward flights to the rest of the country are significantly cheaper from here than from Hong Kong's International airport, which is just an hour away by ferry – and is popular with Hong Kongers, many of whom make the short journey north to take advantage of their neighbours' cheap shopping, restaurants and spa treatments.