Shenzhen, June 2017
Once arrived in Shenzhen, my first goal was to see Haquiangbei electronics market for myself.
There it was, equal to its reputation. Floors upon floors of rows of little shops offered any quantity of component imaginable, each specialized sometimes down to a single item. The market takes up many blocks, each comprised of a few large 8-story buildings. In fact, a whole neighbourhood in the city centre.
HQB market first seems to measure up to its mystique. And yet. As easy as it may be for a newcomer to fall in awe, I hear the market used to be a lot bigger still. Even as an outsider, I could sense that the buzz probably wasn’t quite what it once was.
I took the opportunity to poke around the surrounding area. Peeping inside the headquarters of a couple of Alibaba suppliers I know of, was instructive : they were actually in the business of repackaging and selling products from other local manufacturers.
Further west, the city felt more familiar : first district, a distinct feel of Paris 13e’s 1970’s Chinatown, then, a bit further, around the Tencent tower, a more modern area that would not feel out of place among the best examples of French late 1990s style office parks.
Somewhat north of the centre, I finally chanced upon one of the “tech-creative” areas I was hoping to find : the industrial research parks populated with maker-type startups, scientific product companies and R&D departments. Around those, occupying garages and former neighbourhood shops, is an ecosystem of machine shops, equipment suppliers, even electronics design contractors, all giving the area an additional sense of purpose.
On the other hand, I didn’t see much of the network of factories that made this city. That all seems to have moved much further afield…