City-to-City Economics: Shenzhen Understands Importance of Better Relationships with Canada

By Michael Darch

Shenzhen is a modern Chinese success story. Economic development professionals marvel at Shenzhen’s transformation from a small border town to a large international city in less than four decades. The numbers are impressive: a population of 11 million; 12 percent growth in GDP; ranked as the most competitive city in China, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. For the Consider Canada City Alliance (CCCA), most important is Shenzhen’s belief in city to city relationships as a major driver to economic growth.

Last June in a visit to our Ottawa headquarters by officials from the Shenzhen Municipal Government and the local Sub Council of the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), we understood that Canada was a target for improved relationships. The CCCA and the Shenzhen CCPIT Sub Council immediately rose to the challenge and negotiated an economic cooperation agreement.

Our member cities are active in Shenzhen. Huawei has major contracts with several Canadian telecommunications carriers and operations in several member cities, including its Canadian headquarters in Toronto and its Canadian R&D Centre in Ottawa. Quebec City universities and companies have established several partnerships with the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology as has Ottawa-based QNX, a subsidiary of BlackBerry. The Halifax Port Authority has a partnership with its equivalent in Shenzhen. This is all a strong base for a major expansion of economic activity.

Shenzhen is building its future on four economic pillars: high technology; finance; logistics, and creative industries.  Our member cities each have strength in one or more of these sectors. Shenzhen has developed projects to move ahead in the Strategic Emerging Industries identified in China’s 12th Five year Plan, specifically in biology, internet, new energy, new materials, cultural creative industries and next generation information technology. Again, our members have strength in each of these strategic sectors!

Bruce Graham (L), Chair of Consider Canada City Alliance and CEO of Calgary Economic Development exchanging gift with Biao Chen, Deputy Mayor of Shenzhen (R).

Bruce Graham (L), Chair of Consider Canada City Alliance and CEO of Calgary Economic Development exchanging gift with Biao Chen, Deputy Mayor of Shenzhen (R).

Shenzhen CCPIT did an excellent job of putting together a program for us. Our first meeting was with Deputy Mayor Biao Chen.  We discussed Shenzhen’s growth, the need to build sustainable economies based on international partnerships  and our mutual commitment to city to city relationships. The importance of our relationship was illustrated by the Deputy Mayor witnessing the signing of our cooperation agreement with Shenzhen CCPIT, assisting in the launch of CCCA’s Chinese language website and opening the Consider Canada City Alliance - Shenzhen  Investment Projects Seminar.

The value of our project lists was clearly shown during the seminar. Shenzhen CCPIT helped recruit companies by taking out a full page ad in the SZNews. We were hopeful for 50 attendees, but attracted 75. All members had a full slate of one on one meetings and two cities had to set up two tables to handle the number of requests for meetings. Our expectations were greatly exceeded.

Over lunch, we had an open discussion with Xuewen He, Director General of the CCPIT Shenzhen Sub Council and his Deputy Yongxin Tao. Together, we were pleased with the results of our first event, but we wanted to maintain the momentum. A commitment was made to develop an ongoing web based system for the exchange of investment information and for Shenzhen CCPIT to lead a mission of investors to Canada.

Group visit at Tencent, Shenzhen

Group visit at Tencent, Shenzhen

Our day in Shenzhen ended with a visit to the Shenzhen success story Tencent. It is a very successful private sector company in the Internet space. It has social media, gaming and mobile products. An impressive part of their tour was world maps showing the number of people online in realtime using their individual products. The intensity is strongest in China, but we couldn’t help note that they have users worldwide.

After success in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, on to Beijing!

(Michael Darch is the founding President of Consider Canada City Alliance Inc.)