Any observer of modern China would need to understand the metamorphosis of Shenzhen—the People's Republic's first and most successful Special Economic Zone (SEZ) located immediately north of Hong Kong. Juan Du's The Shenzhen Experiment contests the conventional understanding of the city's development, which focuses on how decisions by key Chinese Communist Party leaders transformed a sleepy fishing village into a modern metropolis.

Du recasts the reform process as lived experiences by ordinary Shenzhen residents, thereby reevaluating the balance between “local negotiations and practices” and “national policies and central planning” (p. 8). In one vignette, Yang Hongxiang, a member of the People's Liberation Army Infrastructure Engineering Corps, was disheartened when he first arrived at the “dusty” border town (p. 161). Yet his career as a photographer flourished as he captured through his lens how Mao's former soldiers constructed China's first skyscrapers. In another episode, migrant writer Jiang Kairu, filled with wonder...

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