April 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Hainan's founding as a province and special economic zone of China. The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), one of the most prominent gatherings in the Asia-Pacific region, will be hosted in the same month in Boao, a small township in Hainan.
During the past 30 years, Hainan Province – a tropical island that is roughly the size of Switzerland – has developed from the youngest economic zone of the country into one of the most vibrant economies. The progress will be discussed on the second day of the forum, titled "New Era of Cooperation: Inclusive Development of the Island Economy."
Local government is taking a step further. They are trying to "borrow" strength from the advanced Greater Bay Area to really satisfy its higher strategic positioning – a bridge that links China with Asia and, more importantly, the world – proposed during last year's forum.
'Radiation Power' from the Greater Bay Area
According to the Hainan provincial government work report this year, Hainan will take an active role in collaborating with the fellow Pan-Pearl River Delta cities as well as the Greater Bay Area to deepen cooperation with Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
In terms of geography, Hainan is located at the southern end of the Pan-Pearl River Delta and is close to the Greater Bay Area, a key part of the former.
Through the Belt and Road Initiative, the island can deepen regional cooperation with fellow Pan-Pearl River Delta cities while also pushing for the advancement of the Qiongzhou Strait Economic Belt, which connects Hainan and Guangdong, to become a major route passing the middle and east part of the South China Sea.
In addition, utilizing the "radiation power" of the Greater Bay Area is another opportunity Hainan should usher in.
Ken Chu, national committee member of 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told Hainan Daily that Hainan should link itself with the Greater Bay Area while the country is vigorously promoting the integrated business hub.
"A lot of Hainan's major industries require talents," said Ken Chu, who has been heavily involved in Hainan politics and development. "Hainan should borrow strength from the Greater Bay Area, especially in terms of policy, to attract more talents from home and abroad."
Ken Chu stressed that only by effectively interacting with the Greater Bay Area cities could the island make greater process in developing an "open economy."
"One Strategic Point, Two Areas, Three Places"
As a province with a vast rural area and weak economic foundation, Hainan – the youngest province of China – experienced many downfalls since its establishment. In 1995, its economic growth rate dropped to the lowest in the country after the real estate bubble and credit risks that followed right after.
Hainan shifted from being an agriculture-heavy region to a booming travelling hot spot. In 2016, the total revenue of the island's tourism reached over 67 billion yuan, or 10.6 US dollars, almost five times than that of 10 years ago.
According to Hainan's 13th Five-Year Plan, it is estimated that by 2020, the region's tourism revenue will reach a total of 100 billion yuan, or roughly 16 billion US dollars.
Yet the island's industrial sector is still not fully developed, with relatively low growth rate compared to other sectors. In 2015, Hainan government proposed a "One Strategic Point, Two Regions, Three Areas" strategy for the area, utilizing not only its rich ecological and tourism resources, but its important position in both the Belt and Road and the South China Sea Strategy to strengthen the area's economic cooperation with other places.
The efforts came not only from the local government, but from a national level as well.
A look back at Hainan's 30-year history
The resolution on establishing the Hainan Province and Hainan Special Economic Zone (SEZ) was passed during the first session of the 7th National People's Congress (NPC).
On April 26, 1988, Hainan Provincial Committee and its government were officially listed. Since then, the country has vowed to vitalize the region with a series of policies.