Tencent, the Chinese technology giant behind WeChat, has announced plans for a “Net City” on a two square kilometer portion of their campus in Shenzen.
The Tencent announcement notes that, “A “green corridor” for buses, bicycles and autonomous vehicles will be the backbone of the district, running down its length.” They’ve hired a US architecture firm to design it all.
The zone will “accommodate” 80,000 people, although it’s not clear if those are residents or Tencent employees who will actually live off-site.
The report is pretty light on details, and even notes that there have been a few other announcements like this in Japan and North America, from Google no less. Google’s Sidewalk Labs just announced they will not proceed with their “smart city” in a Toronto neighborhood. The culprit was an inability to overcome a combination of urban regulatory burden, NIMBYism, and data privacy concerns.
To me, the North American contrast is the most interesting aspect to the Tencent project. This could either be read as a Chinese tech giant simply running a few years behind an American tech giant, only to give up in a few years itself. Or it could prove the point that China is capable of major infrastructure projects that just aren’t possible in North America anymore.
Time will tell.