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The lessons are already evident. The zone's low tax rates were designed to lure U.S. and Japanese firms as well as Hong Kong and Overseas Chinese investors, but about 90% of the capital has come from businessmen in Hong Kong and Macao. A further disappointment is that instead of channeling the funds into new industries, foreign businessmen have spent most of their money constructing apartment and office buildings, resort hotels and recreation parks.
It has gradually dawned on Chinese officials that their Hong Kong cousins, preparing for the day in 1997 when Britain returns the colony to China, viewed Shenzhen as a sort of adjunct retirement home and playland. Many have bought apartments for their mainland relatives, who then obtain permission from Chinese authorities to move there. Some 270,000 people from Hong Kong stream in every week to visit and sight-see. Two of the most popular stops: Sea World and Honey Lake amusement park, which features a monorail, Ferris wheel and double-loop roller coaster. In 1984, tourism and retail sales accounted for one-third of the zone's $666 million revenues. Even the industry that has sprung up is unimpressive. Instead of attracting the high-tech companies that Peking hoped for, Shenzhen produces mostly clothes, plastics and assembly-line electronic wares. Observes a Hong Kong official: "What [Hong Kong businessmen] have created is more like a Disneyland than a seedbed for the technological development of China."
The economic freedoms allowed in Shenzhen have turned it into a go-go city where money is paramount. The police arrested more than 500 beggars last year, some of them adults who organized and dispatched children to panhandle at the city's railway station. The town's most popular pastime seems to be currency juggling, with the Hong Kong dollar selling up to double the official rate.
Some Hong Kong authorities believe Chinese officials intentionally built up Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong's New Territories, to serve as a symbol of how freely things would be run in the colony after 1997 and thus reassure skittish investors there. To that extent, Shenzhen instills confidence. But Shenzhen also provides fresh ammunition for Deng's critics. They charge that Shenzhen is a brain drain on the rest of the country and aptly illustrates the "cultural pollution" they claim is emitted by the new reforms. To keep eager Chinese nonresidents out of the zone, the government has built a barbed-wire fence, complete with a patrol road and arc lamps, along Shenzhen's 53-mile border with Guangdong province.