The sleepy little fishing village of the 1970s is long gone. Shekou is now one of Shenzhen’s newer, hip, areas. The pace of development remains high. New buildings are under construction. From just my room’s single window I can see five cranes. From below I can hear the sounds of diggers scraping away the topsoil as the site of a new design museum is being prepared.
The design museum is being built on what was once a field. A local pointed out to me remorsefully that thirty years ago it had all been fields. Now it is glass towers full of offices and swanky looking blocks of flats. The restaurant complex has enough choice to keep one going for a week or so without having to visit the same place twice. The area has been designed well, not just with the shops and restaurants. There has been thought for people too. The shore has been developed into a pleasant place to stroll, with paths and trees and benches and formal lawns. The gardens are well tended. There is green everywhere. There are statues and bits of sculpture. This isn’t a faceless suburb. It is a place with appeal, even if it is a modern and bland appeal. It is a far cry from the concrete blocks, drabness and grim grey right-angled buildings too often seen in cities.
But as development is on-going, so elements of what must be the old Shekou still peep through. Behind the swanky new Hilton is the shell of a former hotel. It was clearly posh for its day. Now the swimming pools stand empty and the curved glass floor to ceiling windows are mostly gone. The rooms all stand open to the elements. The flower boxes have not a single flower. The roof is littered with rubbish and the grounds are tired and shabby, visited only by hard-hatted builders and a few scurrying passers-by. Even if the demolition gangs have yet to move in properly, its fate is sealed: it stands behind the new marina and it looks like there are plans for expansion.
That new marina is packed with expensive looking boats. But if you stand on the seaside promenade, it isn’t the yachts that you can see most clearly bobbing up and down with the tide. The old fishing village still has a few denizens left, and their boats are the ones tied up closest to the shore. Their future may be as bleak as the old hotel’s. Though the fishing boats still ply their trade now and though they maintain still an air of business, one cannot help but wonder if the sunken remains of one of their number is a harbinger of things to come.