Doing Business in China: The Fastest Way Into Shenzhen

When businesses are interested in doing business in China, it’s not unusual for the city of Shenzhen to be at the top of the list for a visit. Shenzhen is a major Chinese city located across the greenbelt to the north of Hong Kong. This bustling city is pressed against the border with high rises edging up to the thin river that separates the two countries (technically one country, two systems). It is separated by a hard border with immigration to exit Hong Kong and separate controls to enter China. For many business professionals, the two cities might well be separated by thousands of miles.

But don’t let that deter you. In fact, when doing business in China, the fastest way into Shenzhen (or any city really), is simply knowing what’s what and how to make it all happen. Once you’re in the know, it’s an easy adventure to get into Shenzhen. Don’t delay your immersion any longer.

Getting Into Shenzhen from Hong Kong

There are a variety of different ways to get from Hong Kong into Shenzhen. These include a cross-border car service, taxi, train, or by foot. Let’s take a look.

Cross-Border Car Service. Business professionals going from Hong Kong to Shenzhen usually rely on cross-border car service. These Hong Kong-registered minivans are well appointed and employ professional drivers. There are two primary crossing points for cars. Shenzhen Bay serves the Western side of the city and is a perfect entry point if heading into Foshan, Shenzhen Airport, or Shekou. Those headed into the central business district will want a car livensed to cross at Futian. Cross border cars can enter one port or the other (but never both). When engaging a car and driver, do check where your proposed driver is licensed to cross, as getting from the western bridge crossing to downtown can add 45 minutes to an hour to your trip.

Train. My preferred border crossing from Hong Kong to Shenzhen is Lok Ma Chau on the Hong Kong side. Here’s the Hong Kong MTR travel planning site for trains to this station. This feeds into Futian on the Shenzhen side, which is the start of the commercial district. The Shenzhen MTR from this station leads directly north through the business district to Shenzhen North Train Station. From here, you can book a MagLev train to Shanghai or Beijing and travel overnight in the comfort of a business class-sized sleeper bed.

Taxi. The fastest way to get to Lok Ma Chau is via taxi. The border crossing is in a restricted area. Passenger cars aren’t allowed to enter without special residency permits. Otherwise, you access this station via MTR. The last station before the border control area is Sheung Shui.

By Foot. For three years, I worked in Shenzhen and lived in Hong Kong, crossing the broder Monday morning and returning after the work week ended. For the first month I “treated myself” to the luxury of a cross-border driver. But after three years of regular commutes, I became somewhat of a pro at border crossing, and if regular crossings are in your future, I recommend eventually ditching the car and walking into Shenzhen.

There are two major pedestrian crossings into Shenzhen. The largest by volume is Lowu, where some 85 million people pass each year. This feeds into the sister city of Luohu on the Shenzhen side – home of the famed Luohu Commercial City (a shopper’s paradise). Many expats visit Luohu to take advantage of the deals at this mall and never venture farther. That’s a shame as it’s one of the least attractive areas in Shenzhen—there’s so much more to this amazing and vibrant city.

What to Expect at the Border

However you decide to cross from Hong Kong into Shenzhen, both border crossings are protected by immigration officials on either side. First, you exit one country and walk across an enclosed bridge. You can’t help but think of an Eastern Bloc movie of prisoner exchanges when you walk over “No Man’s Land” from one country to another.

Be sure to have your visa ready for China before heading across. For most nationalities, a Shenzhen Special Economic Zone “Visa On Arrival” is available at certain border crossings. Note that Shenzhen Bay and LuoHu have offices, but this is not available at the Lok Ma Chau-Futian crossing. This visa allows you to visit for five days, but you cannot venture deeper into China. Don’t worry about crossing some invisible line—wherever public transport goes, you can venture freely. Your visa won’t allow you to book long-distance train or bus fares, and airports won’t allow you to book flights on this limited visa.

Once you’ve made it across the border into Shenzhen, check out this bustling home to 12.5 million people. You can enjoy the night life in Coco Park, browse through Dafen Artist’s Village, or check out the modernist architecture in Futian. You can take in all the monuments at Wonderful China or Windows on the World. Make time to hit the beach at Damesha and consider enjoying dinner aboard a cruise ship at Shekou. And on your way home, make sure to make time to stop at Luohu to grab a perfect gift for families and friends.

As an aside, if you need help, my team and I are happy to help sort out the intricacies of cross-border crossing, especially if you’re traveling with a group. We can also arrange dinner outings, help plan and manage special events, make introductions, or act as your special envoys as needed as you explore doing business in China. Whatever you need, if we can’t provide the service you need, we know who can!

Does Happiness Matter?

Disney bills itself as the “Happiest Place on Earth”, but according to a recent report from the United Nations, that is instead Finland. The World Happiness Report was launched in March and ranked countries by a range of factors meant to measure happiness. These include: income (GDP per capita), healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust (absence of corruption) and generosity.

Interestingly the USA was ranked #18, ” “in part because of the ongoing epidemics of obesity, substance abuse and untreated depression,” according to World Happiness Report co-editor and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs. (Source: CNBC)

In workplaces, companies offer outreach and care programs meant to instill a better sense of self and to imbue happiness. Yet not every culture places the same importance on the issue.

Does happiness matter? How does it impact your business? If it does matter, what are the cultural differences business leaders in Asia Pacific need to account for?

On Friday, 8 June 2018 is a panel featuring two prominent happiness experts. Ms Shveitta Sethi Sharma is Chief Happiness Officer at School of Happiness (and coordinator of this year’s TEDx Wanchai).  Ms Sari Arho Havrén, PhD, is Consul Innovation at Business Finland here in Hong Kong.

Come learn what your business is missing – and how to be happier. You should leave with a smile on your face!

Friday, 8 June from 07:45-09:00 –
For reservations and information, please email
Santo at AsiaCircle dot ORG

Silicon Delta: The Maker’s Market in Shenzhen

Once derided for copycat innovation, Shenzhen and Guangdong Province are today global centres of innovation due to a world-best supply chain for technology.

David Li of Shenzhen’s Open Innovation Lab argues that the copycats have since morphed into a powerful ecosystem of collaborative, fast-learning suppliers and factories. “Anybody can come to Shenzhen with an idea and get it prototyped, tested, made and put on the market at a decent price,” he says. “Silicon Valley is obsessed with rich-world problems, he thinks, but China’s open innovators work on affordable solutions for the masses on everything from health care to pollution to banking.” (Source: The Economist)

Affordable solutions that involve “making” hardware are the core expertise of BRINC and its portfolio companies. Bay McLaughlin is a global speaker, contributor at Forbes, and business leader focused on makers and their connected devices.

In a Chinese New Year special event, members learned about what’s cooking in tomorrow’s technology from a leader of Shenzhen start-ups.

Bay McLaughlin is Co-Founder and COO of BRINC, a start-up accelerator based in Hong Kong with operations throughout Guangdong province and globally.

He has created a brand for being hyper founder focused and designing businesses from San Francisco to Hong Kong and beyond. He speaks ‘corporate’ having been at Apple for six years where he created a division that generated $250M USD in revenues, but Bay breathes start-ups after 12 years founding or supporting new companies and holding 30+ equity positions.

Bay seamlessly moves between his roles on boards of companies to public speaker to looking for the next great start-up idea. With holdings in companies from drones and health technologies to enterprise SaaS and education tech companies, Bay brings a one of a kind perspective to every engagement.

Biting-Edge Blockchain: Our March Breakfast

Blockchain is a transaction ledger distributed over tens of thousands of computers. Near impossible to hack. It will fundamentally alter your business.

Blockchain allows businesses to digitize their work flows, and benefit  from near-impossible-to-hack distributed ledger technology. It’s also a disintermediation rocket currently targeting the finance industry.

Will your business benefit or be targeted next? Learn more from a FinTech pioneer and blockchain authority, Karen Contet Farzam.

An equity derivative and equity exotic trader from France, Karen moved to Hong Kong in 2010 and set her sights on the digital world.

She is a founding board member of FinTech Association, and an in-demand speaker globally on financial technology.

Karen leads which connects passionate entrepreneurs with like-minded engineers, marketing gurus and business experts so they can swap ideas and build a successful startup.

Read Karen’s year-end technology overview on LinkedIn Pulse. Follow Karen on Twitter.

And please, come learn from an expert on the ramifications—and the opportunities—for blockchain in business.

See all upcoming events at Asia Insight Circle.

Mega-Merger: 30 Brands, 130 Countries, 1m+ Rooms – The US$13 billion acquisition of Starwood

In September 2016, Marriott International completed the US$13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts worldwide, creating the world’s largest hotel company.

In his role as President & Managing Director or Asia Pacific, Craig Smith is overseeing the integration of the businesses throughout the region. (Read his profile in the Careers Post of The South China Morning Post from 2015.) He is the featured speaker at our next event on Friday, 30 August 2017. Please join us for an insider’s view of this mega-merger.

Craig Smith is President and Managing Director of Asia Pacific for Marriott International.  He is responsible for the strategic leadership of all operational and development functions spanning 24 countries and 21 brands.  He oversees more than 570 hotels and 130-thousand employees.

CNBC 23 September 2016
Marriott completes Starwood acquisition
Marriott completes Starwood acquisition  Friday, 23 Sep 2016 | 6:48 AM ET | 00:38
Several of the best-known names in travel are now united in one hotel company.
Marriott International closed Friday morning on its $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, bringing together its Marriott, Courtyard and Ritz Carlton brands with Starwood’s Sheraton, Westin, W and St. Regis properties.
In total, 30 hotel brands now fall under the Marriott umbrella to create the largest hotel chain in the world with more than 5,800 properties and 1.1 million rooms in more than 110 countries. That’s more than 1 out of every 15 hotel rooms around the globe.


Mainland M&A: An Insider’s Perspective

Chinese outbound investment reached new records in 2016. According to Baker McKenzie, “Combined Chinese direct investment in the advanced economies of North America and Europe more than doubled in 2016 to a new record of USD 94.2 billion as China continued its transition to a new growth model, in line with its rapidly maturing economy.” (Source:

In April, our keynote speaker Mr Tan Yang led and successfully completed one of the largest Chinese outbound pharmaceutical acquisitions in the UK with a deal size of US$1.2billion. In our closed-door meeting, he will discuss the intricacies and challenges of completing a deal of this caliber.

Tan Yang is Managing Director of Creat Capital Company Limited, a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Creat Group The firm focuses on outbound investment in the life science sector.

Previously, he was responsible for the China business of Jacob Rothschild Creat Partners, a US$750million private equity fund co-founded with Lord Jacob Rothschild focusing on outbound investment across a wide range of industries in Europe and U.S.

ChineseFDI—Baker McKenzie Infographic

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