10 Reasons Shenzhen Is Better than Shanghai

By That's PRD, September 18, 2019

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Shanghai is a cool city, there’s no doubt about it. For one, they’ve got xiaolongbao, and we’ll admit that we could stop there and you’d be left with a pretty solid argument for why the Pearl of the Orient is great. And yeah, there’s also incredible architecture, solid nightlife, arts, culture and just about everything one needs in a city. But all that aside, Shanghai just isn’t Shenzhen and it never will be. China’s tech capital is a place entirely its own, and if you’ve spent some time there, we’re sure you’ve already fallen in love with the city as we have. Here, we’ve laid out 10 reasons why Shenzhen is better than Shanghai. No offense to the folks to our north, it’s just true. 

1. Easy Access to Hong Kong and Macao


Image via Pixabay

Now, you may be thinking “but Shanghai is so close to beautiful cities like Suzhou and Hangzhou,” and that’s true. But while Suzhou’s mystical waterways and enchanting gardens are undeniably miraculous, and Hangzhou’s West Lake is arguably one of China’s most iconic natural spaces, neither city rivals the southern special administrative regions when it comes to things to see and do. Between Hong Kong and Macao, you can satisfy every possible desire. Historic sites? Check. High stakes gambling? You bet. Natural splendor, swanky watering holes, world-class dining and cultural relics – they’ve got it all, and both are located just a short ride away from Shenzhen.

2. The Beach

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Jiaochangwei Beach. Image by Phoebe Kut/That’s

Sure, Shanghai also has beaches, but let’s be honest, they’re pretty dismal at best. Shenzhen, on the other hand, has some pretty respectable seaside hangouts for a major metropolis – with palm trees, views of Hong Kong and surfing to boot. Na’nao beach is the perfect setting to experience local Hakka culture, while Xichong National Park, still under the radar compared to other coastal destinations, offers surprisingly decent waves for watersport aficionados. There’s also Jinshawan, Dameisha and Xiaomeisha, to name just a few of Shenzhen’s ocean hot spots, offering a little something for everyone. 

3. Environmental Sustainability


Image via Shenzhen Metro/Weibo

While Shanghai residents grapple with new panic-inducing recycling laws, Shenzhen remains leaps and bounds ahead of other Chinese cities for its environmental policies. For one, most of the city’s taxi and bus fleet are made up entirely of electric vehicles. Earlier this year in January, South China Morning Post reported that indeed 99% of the 21,689 taxis operating in the city were electric. But it doesn’t stop there: Shenzhen was the first city in China to impose fines for failure to properly sort garbage, and in 2018, it was also the first to make recycling large waste compulsory. These are just a few of the environmental regulations that have earned Shenzhen the title of ‘most sustainable city in China,’ according to China Daily. With less vehicle emissions, the air quality is far better than in Shanghai. 

4. China’s Silicon Valley

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Image via @amp.varavarn/Instagram

Shenzhen is home to some of China’s biggest companies, particularly those in the technology sector. There’s DJI, arguably the leading drone manufacturer on the planet, with a mind-boggling new headquarters set to open this year; Huawei, the country’s telecommunications kingpin; Tencent, the parent company of ubiquitous brands like WeChat and QQ; and BYD, one of China’s most prominent auto manufacturers. BYD, or ‘Build Your Dreams,’ is coincidentally a great title for a Shenzhen-based company, as the former fishing village has fostered an environment for dreamers to propel themselves from rags to riches since the city opened up as a special economic zone just four decades ago. And today, the opportunity for success in the city is very much alive, with Shenzhen picked as China’s best city for business in 2018.

5. Cultural Melting Pot


Image via Unsplash

Shenzhen is the native home of few who live there, making it an inclusive and welcoming place for all its residents. Unlike the rest of Guangdong province, Shenzhen’s lingua franca is Mandarin, making it a great city to learn and practice the language, and the high migrant population means that authentic cuisine from around the country is abundant. Unlike the megacities of Beijing and Shanghai, where only true born residents call themselves a Beijinger or Shanghainese, there’s no shame in calling yourself Shenzhenren, whether you hail from a lakeside farm in Lijiang or a rural town on the edge of Lanzhou. You might call Shenzhen China’s most egalitarian city. 

6. Skyscrapers


Image via Unsplash

There’s no question that Shanghai has some of the most incredible man-made marvels in the world, and with the contrast of slick new skyscrapers and old former concession buildings, it’s hard to argue that Shenzhen can rival the city in this regard, but we’re going to do just that. For starters, Shenzhen boasts the highest number of completed skyscrapers on the Chinese mainland at 222 in total (Hong Kong has 355), while Shanghai has a total of 159. Additionally, Shenzhen held the record in 2016, 2017 and 2018 for the most skyscrapers completed in a city over the course of a year. The ever-expanding metropolis of modern Shenzhen has birthed countless architectural masterpieces, from the booming KK100 and Ping An Finance Center to the funky streets of OCT Loft and OCT Harbor. 

7. Young City


Image via Pixabay

Shenzhen is a young city in more ways than one. Not only is the city itself quite young compared to Shanghai, but the age demographic is also on the younger side. CSOFT International reported that, based on the 2015 Chinese census, 88.41% of Shenzhen residents are between 15 and 59 and one-fifth are aged 20 to 24, with just 1.22% of residents over 65 years old. And we’re willing to bet that you, dear reader, are under the age of 65 too. This isn’t to say that we don’t appreciate and value the elderly, but coupled with the influx of migrants, Shenzhen’s young population makes it one of the best cities in China for finding that special someone or just making a few friends. CNN Travel even named Shenzhen one of the five best cities for singles in Asia, although we’ll begrudgingly admit that Shanghai also made the list.  

8. Cost of Living

shenzhen-1848438_1280.jpgImage via Pixabay

While it’s true that some of Shenzhen’s housing prices are the highest on the Chinese mainland, China’s tech capital still ranks below the Pearl of the Orient when it comes to the overall cost of living – particularly for expats. Shanghai ranks as the sixth most expensive city in the world for foreigners to live. Admittedly, Shenzhen comes in at number 10, but nonetheless, a few extra kuai saved here and there can really add up at the end of the month!

9. Less Traffic

light-391221_1280.jpgImage via Pixabay

Shanghai was ranked the eighth most congested city in China for 2017, according to China Daily. While both Shanghai and Shenzhen are two of only six cities with more than 3 million registered cars, according to South China Morning Post, and both cities definitely rank among the most congested in China, Shenzhen’s excellent urban planning has allowed the city to avoid the worst of vehicle congestion.

10. Parks and Green Spaces

china-1540596_640.jpgImage via Pixabay

Having an abundance of greenery within the concrete jungles of giant cities isn’t just beneficial for local air quality, it also provides a much-needed respite from the otherwise chaotic and fast-paced daily activity synonymous with city living. A Harvard University study cited by the Washington Post reveals that those living in green areas tend to be more physically active, socially engaged and mentally healthy, ultimately contributing to lower mortality rates. A compilation of data by World Cities Culture Forum, which compares the percentage of public green spaces in different cities, including parks and gardens, shows that in 2017, just 16.2% of Shanghai’s land area was made up of green spaces, while in Shenzhen, 2016 government data shows that 40.9% of the city remained green despite its unprecedented growth.

So there you have it: Forbes can shove it, Yicai can eat dirt, and China’s National Bureau of Statistics, well, uh, money isn’t everything. We’ll take Shenzhen over Shanghai any damn day of the week and there’s nothing you can do to change our minds. 

[Cover image via @madame_trip/Instagram, Unsplash]

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