Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware

2016, Technology  -   39 Comments
Ratings: 8.63/10 from 568 users.

The center of the technology world may not lie in California's Silicon Valley, but in the bustling marketplace of Huaqiangbei, a subdistrict of Shenzhen in China. This is where curious consumers and industry insiders gather to feast their eyes and wallets on the latest software, hardware, gadgetry, and assorted electronic goods. It's also the setting for the new documentary from WIRED UK titled Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware.

At the very start the film sets the scene to this fascinating technology mecca. A city populated by 20 million people, Shenzhen is the setting where advancement is most likely to originate at speeds that can't be replicated in the States. The city's vibrant and inventive tech work force takes over when the innovations of Silicon Valley become stagnant. The revolution may have started in the States, but its evolution is occurring in China. Working in collaboration, Shenzhen laborers craft unique upgrades and modifications to everything from laptops to cell phones. Their efforts then immigrate and influence the adoption of new products in other regions of the world.

The infrastructure by which this is made possible is known as the 'Maker movement'. In developer conferences and Maker exhibition fairs, tech geeks are encouraged to share their ideas freely with colleagues in the hopes that more open collaborations will form grander innovations. The film highlights how these attitudes stand in sharp contrast to the Western world where communications are secretive, monopolies are the norm and proprietorship is sacred.

However, there are challenges faced by Shenzhen in maintaining their edge in the industry. While widely acknowledged as pioneers, Shenzhen's prominence has faltered as the remainder of China has proven successful in their attempts to catch up. Adding to the frustrations, the government has interceded and moved manufacturing bases outside of the city. Meanwhile, figures from the world of investment financing have moved into the equation, and threatened to stifle creativity by imposing a more closed and impenetrable mode of operations.

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware gives us an insider's perspective on a system of creative collaboration that ultimately informs all of our lives.

Directed by: Jim Demuth

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39 Comments / User Reviews

Leave a Reply to Ruprecht Cancel reply

  1. Jay

    Started out well but quickly turns into a puff piece for China, gushing about how awesome everything is and no trace of critical examination or a balanced view. I’m sorry to say this feels like PR for China trade. And the tacit acceptance of IP violation as an acceptable step towards innovation is troubling to say the least

  2. Roger Andout

    I'm old enough to remember when 'Made in Japan' was synonymous with 'inferior'. Similarly 'Made in China'. How times have changed, with maybe the exception of MIC products, guns etc. 'Big Corpo(rations)' is what's stifling Western development with excessive reliance on maintaining copyrighted ideas beyond their useful purpose. This video goes a long way to explain, to me at least, Pres. Trump's fear of Chinese expansion.

  3. Voluntarist

    Secrecy is the product of insecurity, fear that an idea may be stolen, as an inanimate object may be, as if that were the same. We all owe our ideas to ideas that came before us, our education. If everyone hid their thoughts, kept to themselves, how would be progress? In a lifetime we might adjust our ideas thousands of times based on the ideas, criticisms, comments, of others about our ideas. Einstein used this method all his life. He used others input to help him develop his theories.
    The more input the better. That's the strength of the 'net. It's worldwide and almost uncensored. It will lead to a political ideological paradigm shift.

  4. bjr

    i lived in japan over 20 years, i love japan. in terms of tech/manufacture Shenzhen needs japan and japan needs Shenzhen.

    a perfect example is the uneven light switches. at 1;05.38 of movie.

    a big company like Toshiba or Mitsubishi electric will buy the light switches from Shenzhen but the Japanese electrician would have hang them perfectly straight. it is what the purchasing company want its standards to be as no body wants an uneven light switch

    the point of this movie is anyone can buy the exact light switch from the exact same factory but the Japanese electrician/consumer will only buy the branded Japanese one,

    if you have a good brand or good product focus on innovation then u do not have to live in fear and employ devilish evil ways to guard your precious treasure because things change...they always do

  5. Gary

    This really taps into the whole "Intellectual property" portion of the current trade war going on... Regardless of which side fo the aisle you stand.. this is a REALLY good documentary,... its informative...insightful... alarming..and intriguing... to me its ALL the things I look for in a good Doc...

  6. lilaanandadas

    Today I back the market with food , and could see this wonder full message of Israel. Thank you and the food and knowledge stay as soon fulfill godlike to his company.

  7. China Mike

    I lived and worked five years in mainland China from 2001 to 2006. Shenzhen was an hour train ride away.
    They call it "Second Wife City", as many Hong Kong businessmen go there, and set up a mistress in an apartment, usually known to the wife back home (this is not uncommon anywhere in China).
    When I was there, they were just building the Walmart distribution center, as well as FedEx building a new airport. Starbucks were popping up everywhere, and KFC, McDonalds and Circle K were there too.
    I lived in Guangzhou (you would know it as Canton--the capital city of Guangdong Province and the heart of Cantonese culture). Hong Kong got its start from Guangzhou, as the Cantonese traders in the 1800s sent their 'first sons' and nephews to the newly formed Hong Kong (it had been a sleepy little fishing village, much like Shenzhen) to assist in hiring workers for the foreign traders. These young men would form the basis of the Hong Kong Triads.

  8. Thero Pilane

    we Chinese succeed because no white devils were here with their greed and obsessive possessive behaviour. no wonder Africans and Latinas cant progress, its because of white devils

    1. Lee

      Why are you being racist !!

    2. Baldylocks

      TRUE! And I'd be considered a white devil. What this doc proves is that it is white, male Americans that will finally phase out of power in a global sense. This proves that they money won't be able to buy more money. Lawyers are going to be replaced by AI that's developed in Shezhen! I love this story. I want to move there simply to be around this type of mindset.

  9. Nathan

    FYI, Shenzhen also has many huge parks, art galleries, a growing music scene, and a beach town with coral reefs. It even has a national park with spectacular views of green islands as well as the flourishing city. And when you want a break you can travel in a few minutes to Hong Kong or Guangzhou.

  10. Jose Erickson

    So cool. I love the spirit of innovation of China. big kudos to my Chinese friends.

  11. George

    Watching Chinese kids design the next generation of video games that American kids will play while they live in their parents basement. It seems like only yesterday that we were the leaders in innovation and technology.

  12. Ruprecht

    thanks to all the compromised secrets, patents and blueprints hacked by the chinese state they have floated to the top of tech heap using cheap labour

  13. Scrote

    TRUMP is on the way!!

  14. dhanesh

    Being small and unorganised is better than to become a multi-billion conglomerate. Innovation happens there so quick and organic, than these corporations sitting on piles of red tapes' and petty ego politics.

  15. suprscot aka scotspeed

    let's see... so far, out of 122 who have rated this, this feature is rated @ 9.25 stars. impressive.
    thus, i expected to read reviews lauding on how great, amazing, informative, etc. instead, i read (17) comments that were either flat or negative. naturally, my curiosity is piqued.
    now as i start to watch it not knowing what to expect, it feels like election night, 2016.
    was this comment helpful? that's what i thought.

  16. Rob

    Henry Ford himself have to fight someone who had patented "the car" idea. Lucky for us all, he won the legal battle.
    Patents are good, but sometimes restrain the advance pace of the world.
    Maybe the protected idea period should be shorter.

  17. xhuma

    it would be nice if america and china and the whole off europe were to go to war, so that us africans and latinas can develop and catch up

  18. Dr. Race

    Johny - Your comment about blacks is not true and unrealistic.
    Blacks fight in civil war that made the America you know. Without the blacks, your ass was governed by the Uk. And without blacks you would never be born, because white ppl are albino race... Long live China and Shenzhen ! Great documentary.. life is not fair anyways.

  19. Johny

    When there's no blacks to hold you back there's prosperity.

    If china had blacks it would never have worked out.

  20. bananajihad

    the problem with people who think china will have suffer the same fate as US is , china 's plan for world domination is not militarized , its ECONOMICAL , Di*kheads!

    1. RarryT

      China’s plan for world domination is economical? First, why dominate the world? What’s the point? Second, China’s annual military spending is second only to the U.S., coming in at over $150 billion USD. That’s not economical at all. haha

  21. Fred

    For as much "great" technology comes out of China, twice as much worthless crap floods the market. It was a much better state of affairs when Japan was the technology leader.

  22. John Loft.

    As another of 79.5 having returned to home town in England after 25 years in Asia and earlier travel world wide. I can't help but agree with you the outlook for the future appears more dire than at any other period in history. Try as I might cannot envisage it lasting more than another half century, much to my greatest sorrow.

  23. Robert Schafer

    rev "our trade deficit is more than 500 billion a year"

  24. Robert Schafer

    Living in silicon valley all my life I have seen some dramatic changes. It was once the valley of hearts delight covered with prune,apricot, cherry, and walnut orchards. Today not an acre of orchard can be found anywhere. It took my life time, 70 years for this transformation.
    Even today you find few building more than 4 stories tall. The valley is mostly a sprawl of 2 story apartments, R&D buildings and single family homes. Shenzhen was rice patties 30 years ago. Now it is a City that when you turn around on your heals you see nothing but high rise buildings. It takes in the valley 5 years to build a single building maneuvering through all the government hurdles. In that time the Chinese are building Cities.....and they are beautiful making our vaulted Silicon valley look like a cow town. It is not only the pace of their building that is vibrant their technology is as well. They now have the worlds fastest super computer not us. An R&D sector is symbiotic to a manufacturing one. It is out of the interplay between them springs much technological evolution. In the Valley here almost all of our manufacturing has been shipped overseas. Who do you think is benefiting most from this? Increasingly America is slipping into decline. Like Rome we are living inceasingly off the world. Our trade imbalance is more than 5 billion a year. We are printing money and living off debt to survive at over 1.5 trillion a year under Obama. The Roman were able to rapaciously rob, plunder, tax, and exploit their world for over 500 years. With our economic model that increasingly looks like theirs, how long do you think we will last?

    1. RarryT

      The biggest money to be made in technology has nothing to do with manufacturing. Just look at Apple. They don’t “make” anything, yet they are the. OST valuable company in the world. China has proven their factories can churn out the cheapest widgets, but products actually “thought up” and designed in China most always look like knockoffs built using IP that wasn’t actually theirs to use in the first place— legally anyway. This documentary is fascinating but despite talk of it I didn’t really see a strong link. Erween manufacturing and R&D. With 6 or 7 times the number of people in China vs. the U.S., there have to be some smart, creative entrepreneurs on the rise. But with the change toward creating (not cloning) slowly comes the loss of the competitive edge in manufacturing. Also, dry strange to accuse Silicon Valley of urban sprawl (with it’s two story buildings) while a China is paving over the Earth at rates never seen before, and blowing all their pollution into the air for all to ultimately suffer from. In short, things aren’t quite as black or as doom and gloom as you make them out to be.

  25. KsDevil

    The US went through the same process. A host of various individuals and small groups taking technology and innovating off that and creating a demand for supporting manufacturing.
    Then came the greed and the hording and control. Corporations became monoliths of product management that bought innovation rather than created it. Corporations became service companies and are slowly dying.
    China is just repeating the process and, it sounds like, they are heading for the same end.

  26. Stern

    Shenzhen, a shiny new city built on the backs of low paid, over worked, and underage migrant workers. It would have been nicer to see something more balanced instead of this propaganda.

    1. Voluntarist

      I'm sure if you were "in charge", Stern, you wouldn't have "exploited". All "ivory tower intellectuals" would do it better, except they don't do anything except bash capitalism, i.e., economic freedom, for producing a better world, on the net.

  27. charley

    Awesome, intimidating to me, not my preference..... My fear is the same as for much of the world, it's happening as a result of debt and will suffer in the next 'adjustment'..... So many people......

  28. Edward Oyugi

    This is stupid propaganda for neo-liberal apologists. China would not be where it is if it were not for centralised economic planning

    1. Voluntarist

      Centralized planning is tyranny. Tyranny is unsustainable because it is contrary to human nature and history proves this over and over since the beginning.

  29. Robert Schafer

    Wonderful portal into the new China and the possibility for a new economic paradigm. One that likely will not supplant what is in the West but one which will bring to the world , as well as the West, greater economic freedom and possibility. One that is now still nascent and burgeoning. one grouping, militating and competitively grasping for a play in the future. I hope its influence of open source and sharing is ever more embraced by the by China, the World and hopefully pushes increasingly away the main stream entrenched, elite, and established order in the West . All the best to Shenzhen.

  30. dj

    golly,the first two 'constructive' comments are exactly the sort my MIL & father-in-law would make...

  31. J Edwards The King of Kingdoms

    China's rise in population and economic growth is a once in a century phenomenon, just wait and see it all fall.

  32. Pam Allee

    What's wrong with rice paddies?

    1. Voluntarist

      They are flooded, producing inferior produce. Fukuoka showed dry paddies were superior.