SHENZHEN, China, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- One of the gold-lamed singers in the lounge of the Shangri-La hotel of Shenzhen -- "The Miracle City" -- takes the center stage and begins to slowly weave into the Grammy hit by Norah Jones -- "I waited 'til I saw the sun, I don't know why I didn't come. I left you by the house of fun, I don't know why I didn't come."
Her soulful rendition ends another busy day in the lounge of the huge Shangri-La on Jianshe Road, one of the many Western hotels that have popped up to cater to the vast business traveling class which are coming to this city of 8 million, which was a fishing village of 30,000 until the beginning of the 1980s.
Several decades later, Shenzhen is a humming sprawl of skyscrapers, high-rise housing, weaving highways, a busy airport and bustling seaports, and an under construction subway -- all standing in testimony of booming business growth, as if someone added water and a city sprung up.
Of the 8 million residents, 2 million are transient workers, which is currently a phenomenon common to many economically expanding Chinese cities.
"Shenzhen is a younger city, with a history of only 20 years," says Liu Yingli the vice mayor of the city. "People ask how the city became such an economic powerhouse from a fishing village."
The city lays upon the South China Sea, in the economically humming Guangdong Province -- which is often cited in news reports as the "Factory of the World" -- with the provinces major cities of Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou, all being the beneficiaries of the creation of a Special Economic Zone by the central government in the late '70s as part of a what was then a long-awaited economic opening up.
Shenzhen finds itself a sudden twin city to adjacent of metropolis of Hong Kong, a famous center of finance, which rejoined the Peoples Republic of China in 1997 in a handover from the United Kingdom. Indeed, Hong Kong has been a large investor in Shenzhen growth, albeit Honk Kong-based businesses who saw a prime opportunity in the creation of the Special Economic Zone, which included Shenzhen.
Describing the city's quick but orderly growth Liu cites forward-looking planning, learning from the lessons of other growing Chinese cities; along with gaining from the advice of foreign experts on urban planning and studying Western urban growth.
Regarding both the constant education of city planners or the fact that Shenzhen is home to nearly a third of China's doctorate degree holders, Liu said Shenzhen is a city that is always in a "mode of study."
According to Liu, Shenzhen is fast becoming an international-grade city, boasting the fourth highest gross domestic product of any Chinese city, with a business environment that is characterized by high-tech, export and the shipping industries. The city's collective ports are second in container handling capacity after Hong Kong.
He added that Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport is one of the four largest airports in China and an air cargo hub for the South China region.
Currently, Liu reports, unemployment is less than 3 percent.
According to a recent report in the People's Daily, the government owned national newspaper, per capita earnings are expected to reach $20,000 by 2020, putting city workers more on par with Hong Kong and nearby Singapore. City GDP is estimated to hit $186.75 billion by 2020, city officials say.
However, Liu and other city officials are cautious of economically overheating, with officials saying they are on "full alert for the prospect overheating."
Among other possibly overheated sectors in Shenzhen, is the stock market -- one of China's two markets, the other being in Shanghai -- with the Shenzhen market currently holding about $143 billion in it's A-share market, (which denominated in Chinese renminbi and reserved for trading only by for domestic investors) which has been trading at around a multiple of 65 times earnings on average for those companies listed.
While both the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges have been notoriously volatile and described as casino-like by Western observers, they have become more governed and subject to rules in the last several years. But as all financial markets have exhibited since time immemorial, investing is risky business, rules or not. And both these market and their listed companies still have some progress to be made until they reach even the imperfect Western standard of regulations and corporate governance.
Shenzhen, like other Guangdong region cities, is gearing up for this winter's flu season, based on concerns of a possible return of the potentially fast-spreading severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARs), which halted a great deal of business in China and nearby Singapore last year after much international travel came to a halt.
City health officials believe that any evidence of SARS will be quickly acted upon, as many health protocols are in place this year to deal with the virus. A common site upon going through airport and other other points of immigration in China is a line for the quick biometric thermo scan, where arrivals pass through a video scan which checks for a fever from flu or other cause.
While expectations of Shenzhen officials approaching flu season are generally optimistic, one official added that "we are keeping on the alert -- there is no reason to be complacent."
Officials say that a record number of attendees are expected Oct. 12-17 at the 5th China Hi-Tech Fair in Shenzhen as an indication of fading concerns over SARS.
Shenzhen belies the oft Western perception of economic success which is built just on low-cost manufacturing sweat-shops, with the city instead boasting such high-tech manufacturers as the locally founded Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd, a maker of network switching equipment and routers, semiconductors, and software solutions for telecommunications.
Founded in 1988, Huawei has 22,000 employees worldwide, including around 1,000 in the "Silicon Valley" of India, Bangalore.
Fei Min, a senior vice president of the company, notes that Huawei has been helped by the home team advantage of selling to a domestic Chinese telecom market which has had "very quick growth in the last 10 years."
Fei adds, however, that the Chinese telecom market is also one of the most fiercely competitive in the world, with all the key multinationals having "brought all their best people" the China in order to compete.
One key advantage Fei conceded is the low cost of labor, which is a factor benefiting all Chinese companies for the time being - a factor, however, which is threatened by naturally increasing worker pay as more companies do business in China.
Huawei started small right after the establishment of the Special Economic Zone, first selling other company's equipment and quickly moving into manufacturing its own equipment and solutions.
Other high-tech names situated in or around Shenzhen include Alcatel, Philips, Epson, Oracles, Siemens and IBM, according to city promotional materials
It should be noted that while Guangdong and other eastern provinces have made a great leap in economic growth, a large swath of China's interior is home to populations living in rural poverty. At question for the economic planners in Beijing is how to both sustain the rapid growth and modernization taking place on the seaboard and how to spread this growth further inland to hundreds of millions of other Chinese.
For now, however, Shenzhen, which is also known as "the Garden City" for its large swaths of parks, greenswards and its plantings around highways, is going for broke with the hopes of becoming a Chinese city that is known around the world.