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China celebrates 40 years of economic reforms

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In Beijing, on December 17, visitors photograph themselves in front of the portrait of Deng Xiaoping, initiator of the opening of the economy of the country, in 1978. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

The demonstrator is not unhappy with the effect produced. In the middle of the showroom of DJI, the world leader in drones, headquartered in Shenzhen, she pilots the Mavic Air, the youngest in the range, with a simple wave of the hand. Without remote control. Impressed, visitors applaud. Distinctive sign: the badge of the Chinese Communist Party, which most of them proudly wear in their buttonholes.

At the same time, about fifteen kilometers away, right in the city center, the effervescence prevails in the huge building that houses the Huaqiang Electronic World. Not on the ground floor, where hundreds of merchants, behind their often tiny booths, sell, like every day of the year, all electronic components imaginable, but on the eighth and last floor of this soulless building. Twenty start-ups have only a few minutes to attract the hundred or so Asian investors who have come to find the rare pearl.

An American says he is creating a device that will improve the lives of millions of asthmatics, an Israeli demonstrates that he has a technique to make cities “smart” at a cost unbeatable, a representative of a Nigerian start-up is convinced that they can make a fortune by investing in a computer tool that could revolutionize education in Africa. For the occasion, the American Sean O'Sullivan, creator of the investment fund HAX, which opened this start-up accelerator in 2012, made the trip. Next door, on the terrace of the building, two young Chinese monitor a driverless vehicle with electronics slaloming between obstacles.

Richer than Canton

Tuesday, December 18, President Xi Jinping celebrated with great fanfare the 40e anniversary of the opening of China to the rest of the world. A decision taken at the end of 1978 by Deng Xiaoping to turn the page of Maoism and which, in his eyes, was to be accompanied by the rise of a city located in the south of the country: Shenzhen, opposite Hong Kong. Forty years later, the success is such that it worries the President of the United States. The numbers are enough to make you dizzy. What, according to the legend, was only a fishing village, officially counts 12 million inhabitants. In fact, probably almost double if we rely on the most reliable data: those of mobile operators. About as much as Beijing or Shanghai. The city which, in 1985, was the pride of the country by inaugurating the first Chinese skyscraper, has more than 1,100 today, including, since 2017, the tower of insurer Ping An (599 meters), fourth round the highest in the world. From above, whatever the direction, buildings as far as the eye can see.

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