Seeking a bigger Belt and Road role
2018-04-09, MA ZHIPING and LIU XIAOLI

South China’s Hainan province will accelerate its opening-up by involving itself more closely in the Belt and Road Initiative, enlarging its circle of international friends, and establishing a pan-South China Sea tourism economy cooperation rim, according to senior officials with the provincial government.

“During the Boao Forum for Asia 2018 annual conference — to be held from April 8 to 11, with the theme of An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity — Hainan will arrange eight Hainan-themed events to further explore opportunities and insights for cooperation,” Wang Sheng, director of Hainan’s foreign affairs office, said on April 2.

They include the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Island Economy sub-forum, the ASEAN-China governors’ and mayors’ dialogue (involving member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), as well as the Belt and Road Initiative: Healthcare Industries and Roundtable of Overseas Chinese CEOs Dialogue with Think Tanks.

The Boao Forum for Asia, launched in 2001, has become a key international platform for Hainan to showcase itself.

Hainan, which marks its 30th anniversary as the country’s youngest province on April 13, is looking forward to welcoming global political and business leaders at Boao, which is known as the oriental Davos — a nod to the town in the Swiss Alps that hosts the World Economic Forum annual meeting each January.

Established as a province and the country’s only provincial special economic zone in 1988, Hainan has been a pioneer nationally for reform and opening-up.

More than 200 important domestic and international conferences are held there every year, attracting large numbers of political and business leaders, officials and experts from all sectors, according to statistics from the local government. 

Shen Xiaoming, the provincial governor, said Hainan will continue to use the Boao Forum for Asia and other exchange platforms, such as the Roundtable Meeting on China-Africa Cooperation, to promote the development of the island province and to serve the nation’s diplomacy.

Hainan will create greater opportunities for both Chinese and overseas firms in its pillar industries, which include tropical high-efficiency agriculture, tourism, Internet and marine sectors. Each industry aims to generate more than 100 billion yuan ($15.9 billion) in annual output value by 2020, according to a provincial government report.

“A more vibrant mechanism and more favorable business environment for international enterprises will be created,” said Shen. He added that Hainan will also attract more multinational companies, operation centers and accounting centers to the island.

So far, Hainan has established sister relationships with 56 overseas provinces and cities worldwide, including Hawaii in the United States, South Korea’s Jeju Special Autonomous Province, and Finland’s Oulu Province.

A total of 56 air routes now connect Hainan with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and international destinations including Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Germany. International flight routes are expected to increase to 100 by 2020.

Cruise routes to the province have expanded to 17, covering more of Southeast Asia, according to officials with the provincial government.

Tourists from 26 countries including Austria, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the US, South Korea and Russia enjoy a visa-free policy, which will be extended to more than 50 countries.

Meanwhile, Hainan’s advanced technology in agriculture has entered the international market. The Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center in Congo was built with support from Hainan University in 2007. 

Hainan has also made efforts to bring more benefits to people in the region.

The province has sent doctors to Cambodia to provide medical services. A total of 543 cataract patients have regained their sight in the past two years, thanks to the Hainan Cambodia Brightness Action campaign.

The province has also organized international training workshops on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major diseases in ASEAN countries.

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