Hainan is an island situated off the coast of Guangdong Province and major tourist destination for Chinese people. With picture perfect beaches and a year round warm climate (see: average temperatures between 73-75 degrees), Hainan has been called the Hawaii of China because of its high end resorts and naval base. It is the second largest island that China has, with Taiwan being the largest, and has a population over 8 million people.
Han Chinese people make up the ethnic majority in Hainan and have been coined Hainanese. Other ethnic groups that inhabit the island include Li, Miao and Zhuang people. Many of the initial settlers in Hainan were fisherman that came from Guangdong and Fujian Province. Throughout ancient Chinese history, emperors would often exile corrupt officials, outspoken poets, and other criminals to Hainan as a form of punishment. (Geez, sending people to tropical island for punishment!? Did they really think that through?)
Fishing, agriculture, fish breeding, tourism, handicrafts and rice cultivation are leading industries in Hainan. As of 2009, agriculture, forestry, and fishery accounted for 53% of Hainan’s employment. Tourism is expected to become the main industry that drives Hainan’s economic growth in the future. Many hotels and high end resort chains have begun construction of hotels in Hainan as they speculate on the growth taking place on the island.
Businesses are attracted to Hainan not only because of its ideal climate but because of the auspicious business climate. Deng Xiaoping designated Hainan a Special Economic Zone in 1988; this is the same year it became an independent province. Hainan’s status of SEZ gives it the flexibility to use more favorable economic policies to entice visitors from around the world, including duty free shopping and allowing visitors to arrive without a visa.
China has big expectations for making Hainan an international travel destination that rivals Hawaii and hopes to entice Japanese travelers, who regularly visit Hawaii, to convert to vacation travel to Hainan. The Chinese government and private enterprise plan on building infrastructure, training locals for tourism related jobs, building additional high end resorts, an underwater sea world, and an artificial ski resort. In addition, the Miss World competition has been regularly held on Hainan five times since 2003.
Major hotel chains are purchasing land in Hainan at a rapid pace and the farmers that own these parcels are happily divesting themselves of family held plots. According to a China Daily article, the average price per mu (667 square meters) is 70,000 to 80,000 yuan. Hainan farmers have never seen this type of money in their lifetimes and feel fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
Haikou is the capital city of Hainan with more than 2 million inhabitants according to the 2010 census results. A port city, Haikou, also known as Coconut City, sees half of the island’s trade coming through its port; Haikou literally translates to “mouth of the sea” in Mandarin. A new high speed train connects Haikou to Sanya, which takes about a 2 hour train ride.
The Chinese government claims that Hainan has ownership over the Spratley, Zhongsha and Paracel Islands, all of which are being hotly contested for as part of the South China Sea dispute. The Chinese government has designated Sansha City in Hainan to oversee the disputed land claims and monitor the navigable waters of the South China Sea.