SHENZHEN -- This city of high-concept glass office towers and fancy apartment blocks didn't exist 25 years ago. Turn back time and the city of Shenzhen was a quiet village of a few thousand inhabitants, mostly fishermen and their families, nestled at the neck of the peninsula that extends southward to Hong Kong. Video: See China's boomtown
Then Deng Xiaoping designated this city as China's capitalist laboratory. Highways unfurled all around it and new buildings started to sprout. Today Shenzhen is China's fastest-growing city. So rapid has been its growth that virtually none of its 9 million official residents (or its estimated 8 million illegal and unregistered ones) were born here. Video: What Deng did
"Now you build a highway, and within minutes there are new buildings and office buildings going up alongside it," says Shawn Gray, head of operations for Wal-Mart China. Gray is scrambling to find new sites for stores to serve the region's burgeoning population.
This wild growth is typical of southern China, a vast landscape now mushrooming with new airports, sports stadiums, office towers, apartment buildings, factories and entertainment facilities of all kinds. The amazing details depend on which analyst you ask. But here are a few that offer just a hint of this building boom's historic scale.