Karl Marx probably didn't have images of modern communist China in mind when he wrote these poetic lines to describe a fledgling capitalist world: 'All new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air.' But his words echo in my mind as the plane carrying me from Shenzhen lands in my hometown, Kunming . I left the sleepy mountain city in the western province of Yunnan years before. Memories of cobbled streets and the lazy channels of the Panlong River keep flashing back as we land. But the city that unfolds before me bears little resemblance to the old Kunming. Gone are the wooden houses and narrow alleys. Everywhere I turn there are steel-and-glass skyscrapers and modern boulevards. I have become a stranger in my hometown - yet, at the same time, the city is eerily familiar. Familiar because it is so much like Shenzhen, with the same modern high-rises and busy highways, ubiquitous chain stores and restaurants. A foreign friend once joked that if you blindfolded him and randomly took him to any mainland city, he would think he was still in Shenzhen. It somehow saddens me. Kunming may lack the rich history lineage of Xian or the grandeur of Beijing and Shanghai, but it used to be a city with its own characteristics. Now in the face of China's breakneck economic development, waves of demolition and construction have swept across the country. Over the ancient cityscapes, skyscrapers are springing up. Shenzhen, the star performer in this great leap forward to modernity, has become the paradigm for the rest to copy. The result is that we have more and more cities that look exactly the same. Over the past 10 years, China has added 475 cities to its map. While the number of architects in China is only one-10th of the United States, the number of new buildings they have 'designed' in the last decade is five times that of their American counterparts. Needless to say, much of this is the result of hare-brained mass production and copycat mentalities. Many cities, just like Kunming, are happily tearing down their 1,000-year-old walls and streets just to become another Shenzhen. Mind you, I have nothing against Shenzhen. Despite its faults, it has made monumental achievements in 25 years and is improving all the time. It was voted a model city by net surfers on the mainland last year. But do we really need so many copies of it? Even the mainland media has started asking this question. It brings my thoughts to another great Marxist scholar, American professor Marshall Berman. He once used the term 'innovative self-destruction'.