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China Politics Technology

A Tech Entrepreneur's Guide To Visiting Shenzhen 49

Freetronics is Australia's answer to a lot of electronic tinkerers' needs, selling items like Arduino compatible boards, cables, and specialized tools. Founder Jonathan Oxer is a (serious) electronics hobbyist himself; he talked with Slashdot last year about making ArduSats, which were then launched to the International Space Station. Now, Oxer has written an excellent guide for hobbyists who might get the chance to travel to Shenzhen, where so many of the world's electronic bits and bobs are made. As travel writing goes, it's fascinating for the sheer novelty of the place. If you actually have the chance to go, some of the advice here might save you money and time. For those of you who have been to Shenzhen, what else should visitors know?
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A Tech Entrepreneur's Guide To Visiting Shenzhen

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  • by Dumass ( 602667 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:42PM (#46421969)
    The advice to get a limo ride is also terrible. If you share the car with someone and they get searched, you get searched. If the car in front of you gets searched it can take a very long time to cross.

    It's much easier to take a cab from HKG to the border and walk across if it's evening time. It's about $300HK/ $50 USD and you can take 1-4 people. The Shenzhen Bay crossing closes ~11:30PM, though, so if you're late you'll have to find another way.

    During the day, a ferry is a better bet because customs can be extremely clogged up at the walk through checkpoint. I've waited 2-3 hours to walk back across into Hong Kong. There are far fewer people at the ferry terminal checkpoints.
  • Mmm Sai (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Casper0082 ( 2274124 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @03:47PM (#46422031)
    Any place where they sell stuff, if you look like a tourist, one or more person will follow you for hours trying to get you to buy something. "Mmm Sai" is roughly "No thank you". Get used to saying that over and over. When I went to Shenzhen we had someone follow us from the bottom of the mall to the top floor. He heard us say we were hungry and quickly showed us where the american diner was. Being nice, we said we prefered local food. He then took us to another resturant. We spent 45 minutes eating and talking and when we walked out of the resturant, that guy was sitting outside waiting for us. I ended up buying stuff from his store just because of that dedication.
  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @04:11PM (#46422259)

    I was in Shenzhen yesterday, and a few other sites in Guangdong for the week before that. The continual gray haze gets to after a few days, beats you down, and holds you there. I have a residual cough. I took a chance to go on the company dime, but don't ever consider it a place for a holiday.

    -- typing from LAX twenty-four hours into my transit home

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @04:16PM (#46422295)

    We stayed at the GoodView Hotel in Tangxia. With a good corporate rate it was just $117 a night including buffet breakfast, and is a resort including indoor pools and spa, outdoor activities, weak drinks, and secured property you can walk around on safely. It's far enough away from industry that the air was usually decent at ground level, though there was still no sky. The first sun I saw in a week was in the hotel shuttle this morning just after we crossed the bridge into Hong Kong.

  • right next door (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @04:57PM (#46422773)
    Shenzen gets all the credit. For example Toshiba builds most laptops there but they have a secondary factory or assembly facility or storage facility or something in the nearby Chonquing, China. That's pronounced "Chong Ching China" in English. My customers think I'm kidding when I tell them their shipment is still in "Chong Ching China."
  • by prodigalmba ( 2844961 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @05:03PM (#46422849)
    Freetronics' guide is certainly a strong positive contribution to the hardware ecosystem. Now that said:

    I believe that for product developers who are enthusiastic about hardware, unless you're planning to do a deep dive into the China ecosystem, complete with building professional relationships, opening up a manufacturing services shop there etc., your best strategy for engaging with China's manufacturing prowess is 1) through the community-driven hardware-sourcing sites (e.g. Adafruit here is the US answer to Freetronics) + DigiKey for prototyping purposes, then 2) when you're ready for manufacturing (because you've verified your market!), engage with one of the hardware incubators that have arisen in recent years, whether stateside or in Shenzhen itself.

    As accessible as the supply chain in HuaQiangBei is (see TFA), there's a lot of opaqueness when it comes to quality. I challenge you to do a six-sigma caliber audit (think component variation, and the supplier traceability that comes with that) based on the HuaQiang Bei ecosystem that meets the requirements of your customer who in their home country is likely located behind the curtain of a strong regulatory body that needs satisfying. The simple truth of the matter is that these vendors consider revealing their supplier sources antithetical to their way of doing business, and will talk around such queries ad nauseam instead of telling you outright.

    Many of those aforementioned hardware incubators are there because they already have long standing relationships with credible factories, so they can reach through the morass of suppliers to those they have a demonstrated work history with.

    Some miscellaneous tips: If you're visiting because you have a flair for industrial tourism, then have fun and keep your head about you. If you're planning to be there long term, make sure to reference the experience of expats (say, posted online at least if you don't know such folks) who've lived there long term there to understand non-work aspects to life there which are also important. Build a strong support network of the expats around you there. One undermentioned point is that The Great Firewall will keep you in a communications bubble while you're there, so make sure to get out frequently to stay in touch with f+f and colleagues.

    Source: Over a year in Shenzhen.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @05:14PM (#46422955) Homepage
    I doubt I'll ever go there, but the two places where I've seen the most about Shenzen (without trying to) and all its wonders from a techie point of view are Dangerous Prototypes [] and Bunnie Huang []. I think it helps a bit that they are both (AFAIK) living over there right now.
  • Re:Shenzhen? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slew ( 2918 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @07:42PM (#46424369)

    Last I had heard, Akihabara was the Asia tech city that all geeks had to make a pilgrimage to.

    Only if you are into otaku []...

    If you actually want electronics, Shenzen is your place. However, if you are actually just into PC/computer gear, Guanghua in Taipei is probably a better bet.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.