Shekou: The New Monaco?

‘I’ve seen the future and it will be, I’ve seen the future and it will be…’ Prince

In China ‘boomtown’ is most definitely a byword for Shenzhen. Whenever I return my time is habitually spent re-visiting places of interest. Trying to fit everything in is sometimes a logistical non-starter and usually something is omitted (this time it was The Loft). Something I didn’t miss is the new Futian Station, unusual in that there is no physical structure above ground (that I could gather anyway) and strangely how few people are currently utilising it. The other noticeable thing was that my former home in Shekou is rapidly becoming more than just a sleepy expat enclave. More than just bars, knock-off goods and prostitutes.

In recent years the Minghua ship has reopened spearheading the new Sea World complex. Across the way, the new V&A Museum is taking shape right next door to the Hilton Hotel and a contemporary landscaped park nestles close to that complete with bubble blowing infant girls. It’s incredibly idyllic and shows exciting times ahead for the beautiful city, but it’s also worrying. The V&A is an amazing coup for Shenzhen; Hong Kong is normally the preferred choice for such esteemed institutions. This means that Shenzhen’s international stature is growing almost as fast as its skyscrapers and with that real estate is set to soar (if it hasn’t already).

Don’t get me wrong the modernity as spoken on my last Shenzhen piece (Swiftly Surging Skyward) is fantastic but brings with it a familiar vision of the future. For one what becomes of tawdry Changle Road? Already I can see these businesses being shunted out, or the boat people currently anchored within a stones throw of the new park. These are historically part of Shenzhen, the fishermen that made the village into a bustling port. I hope these people are not forgotten and are accepted into the Shenzhen rapidly unfurling before us.

My worry is that with each Aston Martin, Bentley and the shiny haired luvvies who now perch taking selfies at the new wine bars will kill Shekou as we know it. Ok it would be foolhardy to expect things to stay as they are, nothing does. Indeed the city as it is now wouldn’t exist if that were the case, however as an example of the speed of change, I came here in 2012 and already the place is barely recognisable! It is amazing the effect a few buildings have on a vista. The vacant space opposite Taizi Road’s 7 Days Inn is now another slab of architecture (not necessarily a bad thing, it could have been worse) and judging by the deep foundations currently smothering the metro station on the north side of the same road there is much more to come.

Like so many places before it, the liveable Shekou is becoming Chelsea on Sea, or the new Monaco; an elitist enclave or private members’ club. Already some westerners treat their ayi’s (maids) with contempt. There’s nothing especially wrong with the wealthy or being affluent, many are perfectly good fun, it all depends on how they view others that will determine the future vibe of this part of Shenzhen.

Along the coast it doesn’t take too long to see the grand designs that will carry Shekou through the 2020’s and beyond taking shape. A futuristic port terminal and marina, while another twisting edifice in the distance houses an exhibition of the area from what I could see; security took a polite disinterest in my visit but my guess is it’s either new offices or luxury apartments, though it could just as easily be another shopping mall. Either way I can’t see the point in housing anything if one can’t look at it. The new port building is however a necessity and its triangular roof pointing toward the hazy sun looks particularly arresting. Can’t wait to see the finished result, I just hope the long term residents of Shekou and Shenzhen are considered part of it.

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