Hainan takes the green path for sustainable economic development

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Hainan province will come out with more green, innovative measures to attract investors and make the province a leading global trade hub, according to officials.

"We are done with sacrificing the environment for economic growth, for now and for good, as it is by no means a way to real prosperity," said Wang Guangmin, curator of the planning exhibition hall of Lingshui Li autonomous county in Hainan province, during the anniversary of the launch of the Hainan free trade zone.

President Xi Jinping said on April 13, 2018 that Hainan island would be developed as the nation's 12th FTZ. Since then, the province has been looking to play a bigger part in the opening-up and reform process by charting development plans loaded with green, innovative efforts.

Located at the southeast part of Hainan island, Lingshui utilized the beneficial policies pertaining to the Hainan FTZ to transform the county into a popular destination with vast tourism resources for domestic and international tourists.

"The pilot free trade zone plan has been a big boost to our Beautiful Villages project, and is making the village an attractive tourist destination," Wang said.

Beautiful Villages is a project initiated by the Hainan provincial government in 2016 to improve the infrastructure of villages on Hainan island without damaging the environment, and transform them into tourist spots with distinct characteristics.

Local government officials said a sum of 250 million yuan ($37.31 million) has so far been spent to undertake beautification projects in Lingshui. Under the project, 20 villages have been earmarked for transformation and nine have already attained the project standard.

Such efforts have also started to bring in revenue for the county. According to data from Lingshui Tourism Association, 5.3 million tourists visited the county in 2018, a year-on-year growth of 20.9 percent. The increasing visitor flows helped generate record revenues of 3.59 billion yuan, up 20.1 percent from the same period a year earlier.

"The infrastructure upgrade has been gaining momentum since the launch of the free trade zone, and is as such crucial for local development. The free trade zone has already become a name card for the island, helping attract more tourists from home and abroad," Wang said.

The success achieved by the autonomous county is now regarded as a shining example within the island and is being emulated by other smaller villages like Shamei village in Qionghai city and Boao township, which recently hosted a leading global economic forum.

"Our per capita annual income on average rose to 16,000 yuan last year, from 14,500 yuan in 2017," said Wang Qiuyu, an official in charge of publicity affairs for Shamei village.

Shamei village managed to achieve the required standards and greeted tourists from October. In just three months, the village managed to attract 820,000 tourists and earn 2 million yuan from the tourism sector, said Wang.

Apart from the tourism and service sectors, which are seen as Hainan's traditional strengths and the backbone for the pilot free trade zone, efforts are also being stepped up to take the high-tech highway to sustainable growth.

Fullsing Town Internet Innovation Park, an industrial park for high-tech enterprises and an incubator for innovative startups based in Haikou, started another investment promotion event on Saturday targeting domestic and foreign investors.

"The focus of our efforts was to increase corporate occupancy at the International Offshore Innovation Building, a newly established plaza," said Ma Liang, deputy general manager of the park.

"More than 50 investors, including industry leaders and entrepreneurs from home and abroad, have expressed interest in setting up operations at the park," said Ma.

Though the building was opened for use only in December, it is already home to big-ticket companies such as consultancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers and internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Alibaba has teamed up with the local government for cooperation in the digital economy, smart services and e-commerce, with an overarching vision of transforming Hainan into an intelligent information island.

"Hainan is slowly but surely becoming the test bed for China's further opening up and reform and companies like Alibaba are the catalysts and magnets for sustained investments," said Ma.

"We have accommodated the companies and startups in three parts of the park depending on their business operations so that there will be closer synergy and fruitful cooperation between big and small companies."

The pattern has already started bearing fruit. By the end of last year, the park was host to 202 companies, with 65 percent of them from outside the island. Total revenue rose to 15 billion yuan in 2018, up 67 percent on an annualized basis.

According to data from the Hainan provincial government, by the middle of March this year, 30 of the world's top 500 companies had conducted business operations in the island, including firms like Tencent, Deloitte and Thomas Cook.

"We have been taking positive steps to transform the development pattern since the establishment of the free trade zone and have made some modest achievements within the first year," said Zhu Lian, deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

According to Zhu, the island had 381 high-tech companies as of last year, a year-on-year growth of 46.1 percent, and total revenue of over 100 billion yuan. Revenues of internet companies posted year-on-year growth of 40 percent and amounted to 60 billion yuan.

"It is important to further efforts to create an improved business environment on the island as it will help attract more investors and investment," Zhu said.

Statistics from the provincial government show that foreign direct investment increased 112.68 percent year-on-year to $733.05 million in 2018. Foreign trade grew 20.8 percent year-on-year to $12.52 billion during the same period.

Apart from the internet and tourism sectors, the province is also stepping up efforts in 10 other pillar industries, including high-efficiency agriculture, medical tourism, exhibitions and modern logistics, according to an annual government work report released in January.

Responsible editor: 胥圣兰
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