Tony Xiong is among the latest arrivals to the glitzy office towers in the newest part of Shenzhen, built to showcase China's economic miracle. He won't be spending any personal time in the area though.

Most lunch breaks, he drives 20 to 30 minutes to more-established parts of Shenzhen to slurp beef noodles in family-owned restaurants before racing back to work.

"In Qianhai, it's either a 10-minute walk in the sun to the mall or the terrible cafeteria food," said the 30-year-old, a finance worker in a state-owned property firm. "I don't like being there."