SHENZHEN -- On a weekday morning in late June, children stand outside the entrance to their elementary school in Shenzhen, Hong Kong's mainland neighbor. A line of gates equipped with facial recognition technology keeps out intruders and notifies parents via smartphone that their kids have arrived.
The facial recognition system was developed by Shenzhen-based internet giant Tencent Holdings and is just one example of the company's push to incorporate artificial intelligence into education.
A number of prominent schools in the city have introduced the system since last summer. Other high-tech tools measure students' ability to communicate in foreign languages and their skill at writing Chinese characters.
Shenzhen is home to numerous factories that churn out smartphones and other telecommunications equipment, helping China cement its reputation as workshop of the world.
After manufacturers began moving their operations inland in about 2010 in search of cheaper labor, Shenzhen had to learn to innovate.
Shenzhen often serves as a test bed for new high-tech services, including fully automated convenience stores and self-driving buses.
Shenzhen, which was a small fishing village until the 1970s, was designated as China's first special economic zone in 1980. The city has since attracted talent from across the country, serving as a laboratory for the Chinese government's "reform and opening up" policy.
Shenzhen residents are relatively young and open to new technology, according to an official at Eleven Score, a convenience store that has no clerks.
In addition to private-sector tech leaders such as Tencent and telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies, Shenzhen has a vibrant startup scene. China's ability to innovate, which the U.S. is increasingly wary of, has not just stemmed from Beijing's policy support but from the creative energy of budding tech companies in Shenzhen and elsewhere.
Nikkei staff photographers Masayuki Terazawa and Kei Higuchi contributed to this report.