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Litchee Lab is one of hundreds of “makerspaces” in Shenzhen

The DIY movement grows in Shenzhen, China’s manufacturing capital

How one woman is helping to train the next generation of makers

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

In the electronics manufacturing capital of the world, Lit Liao is trying to teach people to look beyond mass-produced goods.

Liao is part of the maker movement -- which celebrates building things yourself.

“I figured that I can learn almost anything from the internet, from the community,” says Liao. “After I was touched by maker culture, I wanted to bring it to mainland China.”

Lit Liao runs Litchee Lab, a makerspace in Shenzhen

Maker culture encourages people to learn how things work, to take things apart and tinker with them. It’s something that’s been lost in an age when gadgets are sealed tight, unable even to be repaired by users.

Liao runs Litchee Lab, one of hundreds of “makerspaces” in Shenzhen. They’re like co-working spaces, but instead of only having desks, they feature plenty of equipment and tools for DIY work.

Litchee also runs training courses, both for students and for teachers -- so Liao can help them pass maker culture down to their own students.

She says there’s something special about Shenzhen, which has grown rapidly from a sleepy fishing village to a massive city in just a few decades.

Liao says the rapid influx of people from all over China and the rest of the world has given the city a different attitude to the rest of the country, a difference she can see in the city’s youth.

“They believe ‘I can do something,’” says Liao.

Litchee Lab runs DIY training courses for students and teachers

One of her students agreed, saying neighboring Guangzhou focused more on technical skills. “In Shenzhen, it’s more about ideas.”

And despite the focus on technical skills, Liao says that inspiration and creativity are at the heart of the maker movement.

“You’re meant to be an engineer, but what, you cannot create art? That’s not true.”

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.