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Hainan’s Half Century

A half century ago, the People’s Liberation Army launched a campaign to liberate Hainan Island from Kuomintang control, and emerged victorious. However, for the next 30-odd years, the region was an economically backward place because of its remoteness from the mainland. However, the situation there has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, as Hainan has been completely opened to foreign investment as a special economic zone, and, in particular, since it became a province administratively in 1989.

In 1999, Hainan’s GDP reached 47.167 billion yuan, about 39.8 billion yuan more than in 1989. The number of people living in poverty dropped sharply to 200,000 from 2 million in 1989. Over 1,000 foreign investors from 30 countries have invested in the province, and as a result, Hainan has actually used foreign investment totaling US$8.65 billion.

Hainan is also progressing fast in institutional reform, being far ahead of the inland provinces in this respect. It took lead in reforming the taxation and road management systems, and is among the leading provinces in establishing a modern social security system to replace the old practice in which work units took care of employees and their family members from cradle to grave. Because of these steps, the new province has become a magnet for talented people from every part of the country.

It used to be a conclusion made by some foreign experts that the regions north of 15 degree north latitude on the globe were not suitable for growing rubber trees. However, Hainan now has 5.5 366,667 hectares of rubber trees, which have produced more than 3 million tons of rubber over the past 50 years. Owing to Hainan’s growing rubber industry, China is among the five largest rubber producers in the world. The fine species of rubber trees growing in Hainan attract the interest of experts in this field from all over the world. The annual seminar of the International Rubber Organization was held in Hainan last autumn.

Hainan is well known for developing tropical agriculture, which brings in great profits for the province. Statistics gathered last year show that the area devoted to growing winter vegetables reached 94,667 hectares, with annual output totaling 1.93 million tons, worth some six billion yuan. What is interesting is that Taiwan investors who had nothing to do with agriculture previously are enthusiastically engaged in agriculture in Hainan now, convinced that there is a great future for investment there.

As an island province, Hainan is rich in ocean resources, and its fishing and fine processing of aquatic products are well developed. In 1999, the province’s total output of aquatic products came to 700,000 tons, bringing in 5.5 billion yuan. Now the high-grade sea food produced in Hainan has reached the dinner tables of many families abroad.

According to Hainan’s development strategy, tropical agriculture and tourism shall be the province’s two pillar industries. Rapidly developing from almost nothing, the tourism sector has been booming in recent years. Last year, the province received nearly 10 million visitors, including 450,000 foreigners, who were charmed by Hainan’s blue sky, tropical forests, spacious beaches and delicious sea food. Now, the annual turnover from the tourism sector accounts for 15.4 percent of the province’s total GDP.

(China Daily)

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