When former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, traveling to China in 2001, stopped in the southern city of Shenzhen, what he saw amazed him. The city is a pinup for China’s remarkable economic success. The Chinese government granted Shenzhen special economic privileges in the early 1980s, permitting it to trade freely with the rest of the world. The results were explosive. Hong Kong investors poured billions of dollars into the city, relocating their factories across the border to take advantage of the cheaper labor costs. From a sleepy fishing village, Shenzhen grew into a mighty metropolis of more than eight million people, attracting migrants from all over the country. Khaddam reportedly praised the wisdom of former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping,1 who was largely responsible for the economic reforms that had benefited Shenzhen. It is not hard to imagine the Syrian Vice President hoping to repeat the same miracle in Syria.
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