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Tech talents drive success of Shenzhen's innovation revolution

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Tech talents from across the world have been pouring into Shenzhen, the city in the frontline of China's reform and opening up, searching for a more fulfilling career and pushing forward the city's high-quality development with their innovations.

China.org.cnUpdated: November 19, 2020

In a cocoon-like stadium, armies of robots move about quickly shooting pellets at one another to drain rivals' "hit points." As many as 10,000 young engineers and robotic fans gather in the stadium of Shenzhen - China's paradise for hardware manufacturing - to showcase their talents and passion in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) during the annual RoboMaster competition.

Visitors watch 5G-supported Peking Opera robots during the China Hi-Tech Fair 2020 at the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Nov. 14, 2020. [Photo by Cui Can/China.org.cn]

Launched in 2015 by Shenzhen-based DJI, the world's largest drone maker, the robotics competition combines laboratory engineering with battlefield tactics. In 2019, it attracted more than 400 Chinese and overseas universities to participate. 

For Chinese high-tech innovative companies, RoboMaster is an opportunity to get more young people interested in robotics and aware of domestic brands. Chinese companies hope to spot engineering talents it can recruit during the competition, and more broadly, demonstrate China's technological prowess on the world stage. 

"By participating in the competition, we have the chance to put theoretical learning into practice, play with cool technology, and create something real. It is such an amazing experience to see our robots come to life and be able to compete with so many different teams," said Wang Faqi, the winner of 2019 RoboMaster competition and a student from China's Northeastern University.

So far, DJI has recruited about 20 young engineers from the RoboMaster competitions. Xie Tiandi, general PR manager with DJI said that what students learned through the competition helped expand their creative vision and develop solutions that could one day have real-world applications.

"Every young engineer would like to see the technology they've worked on have the potential to change the world one day," said Xie. "Working in DJI, young talents are not only promised with generous benefits but a platform for them to create world-changing products."

Today, China's cutting-edge technology companies are becoming the most sought-after employers among Chinese students, who want more than just a cushy life. And Shenzhen, as the front-line of reform and opening up, is home to some of the most successful tech companies, such as Huawei, Tencent and DJI, attracting many China's young talents to search for a more fulfilling career.

A recent survey by research and management consultancy Universum shows that Chinese telecom giant Huawei, Tencent, and Xiaomi rank the top three in the list of most attractive employers for students in engineering sector. 

Growing from a small fishing village into China's high-tech powerhouse, Shenzhen has undergone an earth-shaking transformation over the past four decades. To ensure further high-quality development, the city has been implementing a variety of preferential policies and subsidies to attract high-level talents and innovative teams from across the world to the city in the last few years.

Huaqiangbei, a sub-district, used to be a hub of manufacturers of electronic devices. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it thrived with retailers from around China flooding into local electronic markets. However, it has gradually declined since Shenzhen began cracking down on copycat phones in 2011. The biggest blow came with the rise of internet e-commerce, and Huaqiangbei therefore experienced a painful drop in consumer flows.

Seeking to revive its fortunes, Huaqiangbei has been crafting a startup culture that attracts local and international talents, thus shifting its focus into building a paradise for the "maker," or "chuangke" in Chinese, where geeks can use 3D printers, robotics and other advanced tools to create products.

In 2017, the local government and CPC committee of Shenzhen Futian District officially issued the "Huaqiangbei Innovation and Development Action Plan." The government plans to invest one billion yuan in special funds to carry out an improvement project involving aspects of industrial space, business development, and brand building.

Today, Huaqiangbei attracts global makers and high-tech industries with its complete electronic industry chain. With the support of the government, several maker spaces have been established, including the HAX hardware accelerator, the Huaqiangbei International Maker Center, and the SEG Maker. 

Makers in Huaqiangbei can complete the whole process from R&D to production in a short time: one can purchase all kinds of components and tools in the electronics market right downstairs; the different maker spaces have dedicated hardware labs, which can be used free of charge by the maker team; many international makers can communicate and brainstorm together, polishing their products and technology.

The innovation has pushed forward the rapid development of Shenzhen. In 2019, the city's GDP grew by 6.7% to 2.69 trillion yuan and it grew by 0.1% year-on-year to 1.26 trillion yuan in the first half of 2020. More than 500,000 new businesses were registered in 2019, bringing the total number of enterprises in the city to over 3.2 million. Some 280,000 talents were introduced to the city in that year.

Four decades of experience have shown that talent is of the utmost importance to Shenzhen. "Get here and you are a Shenzhener!" The famous motto gives people from other places encouragement and also demonstrates the city's inclusive culture for talents.

Fang Jing, a 28-year-old girl from Jiangxi province, who has been working in this city for three years, told China.org.cn that she never feels like an outsider in Shenzhen. 

"Not like 'Beijinger,' nor 'Shanghainese,' anyone can be a 'Shenzhener.' Everybody comes here to seek the fortune and on the other hand, help build up the city rapidly," she said.

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