One of China's newest metropolises—and its fastest growing—Shenzhen (Shēnzhèn, 深圳), offers travelers great insight into contemporary China, though it lacks much in the way of historical and cultural artifacts. Indeed, it's a very now place, brimming with migrants from provincial China hoping to pull themselves up a few rungs on the financial ladder and flush with business-driven expats and foreign investment.
The steady influx of cash has combined with Chinese industrial might to make a major economic powerhouse out of a city that barely existed twenty-five years ago. It can be an uncanny place, where history—largely absent in any tangible or authentic way—is garishly represented by replicas of such world-famous sights as the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and the Great Wall at the Window of the World theme park—an assortment that reflects China's new global orientation.
The city's dynamic energy is undeniable, but only time will tell if this giant city of factories and finance will mature into a cultured, world-class metropolis. In the meantime, it's worth a visit, and Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou are all nearby once you've had your fill of Shenzhen. Be aware that you will need to show your passport upon entry into the SEZ and, if continuing on to Hong Kong or Macau, you'll have to do so again in order to obtain the proper visas for the Special Administrative Regions (SAR). Regulations change often, so be sure you're up to date on the latest China visa requirements. To enter the PRC from either SAR, you need to obtain a visa for China in advance.
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