Apr 30, 2016
Not so long ago, villagers of Zhongliao, a small village in the island province of China—Hainan—used to greet each other saying LaoTa (Did you have food?). Mired by severe poverty and the unavailability of food, villagers in Zhongliao faced an uncertain future and thousands of people migrated to the provincial capital and beyond in search of better opportunities.
“Our living condition was bad. And a person who could afford proper food would be considered prosperous and happy,” Gao Wen Cai, a 69-year-old resident said. Cut to 2016. Things have changed. Zhongliao has emerged as one of the most prosperous villages in China. The people are prosperous, happy and have everything they wanted the village to have. The transformation of the tiny village is in line with the larger transformation witnessed by the Hainan province in the past decades.
According to the Hainan’s provincial government, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the province in 2015 stood at $317 billion. In 1987, the GDP of the province stood at just $700 million. Particularly after 2010, this tiny tropical island in southern China has witnessed an accelerated growth following the decision of the central government to promote it as a tourism destination.
To do so, the provincial government took immediate initiatives to develop infrastructure, so as to cater to the needs of the tourists. As of today, Hainan has 82 five-star hotels and 23 international hotel management groups operating in the province. Zhao Hang, deputy director general of Tourism Development Commission-Hainan, told the Post that the island province is being promoted as a destination for marine tourism, cultural tourism, vacation destination and wildlife tourism.
“Hainan is known for sunshine and fresh air,” Hang said, adding that the quality of air, which has become a big issue in the Chinese capital Beijing and financial capital Shanghai among others, is one of the major factors drawing local Chinese tourists to Hainan. Identifying accessible transportation as one of the prerequisites for boosting its economy and attracting tourists, Hainan has established an impressive transportation network throughout the province. With bullet trains that travel at the speed of 195 kilometers per hour in place, it is now possible for a tourist to take a round trip of the entire province in just four to five hours. Now one of the prime attractions in Hainan, the bullet train connects all the major cities in the province.
For tourists, the view of farmlands, lakes and tropical forest makes the bullet train not just a means of transportation but an ideal way of enjoying the scenic beauty of the province. “The bullet train route has been designed to show landscape of Hainan,” Hang said. As of today, Hainan has 27,000 kilometres of roadway, 650 kilometres of train tracks, five ports and two international airports that can handle 16 million travellers per year. Two major events of global importance–BOAO Forum for South Asia and Lancang-Mekong Summit–are held on a regular basis in the city of Boao and Sanya respectively. These international events not just bring in delegates from a number of Asian countries, but also play a significant role in promoting tourism.
With its massive focus on tourism, Hainan received about 53.36 million tourists in 2015, an increment of over 10 percent year-on-year. Yet, even though Hainan is developing as a fascinating province with significant infrastructural development, the provincial government has also continued to promote agriculture, its other major sector. Hainan is a key supplier of vegetables and tropical fruits across China. The provincial government has spent close 100 million RMB for the promotion agriculture in Hainan. Moreover, from meagre 3,300 cooperatives in 2010, institutions facilitating farmers have grown to 13,189 in 2015 as well.
In 2005, Sanya Municipal Government established the Sanya Science and Technology Academy of Hainan National Breeding and Multiplication (STA) for assessing the province’s resource advantage. STA has set up a series of several organs including administration offices, scientific research and project management offices, tropical cucurbits and vegetables laboratories, plant protection research and tropical resources’ laboratories, tropical garden and flower research centres, tropical fruit laboratories, tropical garden and flower research centres, soil fertiliser and safety of agriculture products laboratories and a public experimental centre which have been playing a crucial role in the development of agriculture in the province.
“We have deployed 70 couples to look after the farm land. Every couple has to look after one patch. They earn 100,000 RMB annually,” Xie Yun Shong, general manager of Hefong, an agriculture company based in Hainan said. The 20-year-old company farms 100 hectors of land for the organic cultivation of agroproducts ranging from varieties of vegetables to grains and fruits. “With the provincial government prioritising agriculture and professional companies thronging to it, farmers now have a handsome income,” Shong said.
Zhou Yanhua, deputy director general of the Agriculture Department of the provincial government of Hainan adds, “To make sure that there is balance among urbanisation, infrastructure and cultivable land, we make sure that if a farmland is affected, it is relocated,” she said, adding that this also ensures that farmers are not displaced from their jobs while development of modern amenity continues taking place.
At a time when Nepal’s government has declared the year 2073 as Ghumphir Barsha (Travel Year), the expedited development of the Tourist Island as one of the most sought after locations in China within a few years can have some crucial pointers to turn to. Hainan’s massive growth within a short span of time illustrates if there is adequate infrastructure and political will, pegged with peace and stability in place, it doesn’t take long for a country to achieve greater economic prosperity. Given that Nepal remains heavily dependent on agriculture and tourism, Hainan’s fast-tracked development can serve as a great model to study and maybe even emulate. Strolling around Hainan it seems increasingly obvious that development and economic prosperity don’t necessarily have to be a drawn-out and laborious Herculean task. Published: 30-04-2016 08:47