Hainan (Chinese: 海南; pinyin: Hǎinán ▶) is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China, located off the southern coast of the country. It consists of several islands, the largest of which is also called Hainan Island (Hainan Dao). When speaking of "Hainan" in Chinese, it is usually the main Hainan Island that is referred to. The province is closest in proximity to Guangxi autonomous region and Guangdong province to the north, and the port cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the northeast.
Hainan island was called the Pearl Cliffs (珠崖 Zhūyá), Fine Jade Cliffs (瓊崖 Qióngyá), and the Fine Jade Land (瓊州 Qióngzhōu). The latter two gave rise to the province's abbreviation, Qióng (琼 in Simplified Chinese), referring to the greenery cover on the island. The People's Republic of China government claims Hainan's territories to extend to the southern Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands and other disputed marine territories. In addition, Hainan is also known as the largest Special Economic Zone laid out by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping after the economic reforms of the late 1970s.
The province has long been considered a place of exile rather than immigration by Chinese. Hainan served as an exile island for dissent government officials who had not warranted execution. The natural beauty and remoteness of the island has been providing a means for economic development. First, Hainan has become a popular tourist destination with beautiful beaches and mountains. Secondly, the Chinese government selected Hainan as its main space launch site. That could provide the island province with impetus to develop knowledge age industries, permitting a bypass of heavy manufacturing industries and focus on clean industries suited to the natural environment.
Hainan, separated by the Qiongzhou Strait (瓊州海峽) from the Leizhou Peninsula (雷州半島) of Guangdong, is the largest island administered by the People's Republic of China. The PRC however, regard it as the second largest island, since Taiwan is considered the largest. To the west of Hainan is the Gulf of Tonkin. Wuzhi Mountain, at an elevation of 1,876m, is the highest point on the island.
Most of the rivers in Hainan originate in its central area and flow radially in different directions. The Nandu River in the northern part of the island is 314km long, and its tributary, the Xinwu River, is 109km long, while the Changhua River in the west is 230km long, and the Wanquan River in the east is 162km long. Evaporation during the dry season around the coastal areas greatly reduces the flow of these rivers. There are very few natural lakes in Hainan. There is a well-known artificial reservoir, the Songtao Reservoir, in the central-north area.
Hainan has a tropical moist monsoonal climate. Its annual temperature change is less than 15 degrees Celsius. The coldest months are January and February when the temperatures drop to 16 to 21 degrees Celsius, and the hottest months are July and August, when the temperatures are 25 to 29 degrees Celsius. Except for the mountainous regions in the central part of the island, the daily average temperature in Hainan is above 10 degrees Celsius. The summer in the north is swelteringly hot and, for more than 20 days in a year, the temperature can be higher than 35 degrees Celsius. The average annual precipitation is 1500 to 2000 mm and can be as high as 2400mm in central and eastern areas, and as low as 900mm in the coastal areas of the southwest. The eastern part of Hainan lies in the path of typhoons, and 70 percent of the annual precipitation is derived from typhoons and the summer rainy season. Major flooding occurs due to typhoons and that can cause many problems for the local residents.
In the official PRC territorial claim, Hainan Province includes not just one island, but also some two hundred South China Sea Islands. The containment of the South China Sea Islands provides Hainan with a very large water body, but disproportionately small land area. James Shoal island (曾母暗沙 Zengmu Ansha), which is presently marked by the People's Republic of China, signifies the country's southernmost border, but the Malaysians also claim it as part of their continental territory.
Since the 1980s, Hainan province has been a Special Economic Zone of China. Prior to this, the province had a reputation for being a "Wild West" area, largely untouched by industrialization. Even today, there are relatively few factories in the province. In terms of agriculture, the province has developed a small economy, which is comprised mainly of natural rubber, seed breeding, vegetables, tropical fruits, tropical flowers and plants, and marine aquaculture. Major tropical crops with large growing areas and high economic value include coconuts, oil palm, betel palm, pepper, sisal hemp, lemon grass, cashews, and cocoa. Currently, 3.152 million hectares of land in Hainan have been cultivated, while 260,000 hectares remain untouched, around 90 percent of which are potential farming lands.
Hainan has an abundant mineral resources pool. Over 10 varieties of superior minerals hold a very important position in China’s mining industry, including glass-quality quartz sand, natural gas, titanium, zircon, sapphire, crystal, oil shale and zeolite. The reserves of iron ore account for roughly 70 percent of the country’s high-grade iron ore reserves. The reserves of titanium and zircon make up 70 and 60 percent of the country’s totals respectively. In addition, gold, granite and mineral water are of significant developmental value for the province.
In addition, a basic industrial system is beginning to take shape in the province, focusing on natural gas, chemicals, building materials, beverages, food, medicine, chemical fibers, textiles, machinery, electronics, metallurgy, and several other industries. While this nascent industrial economy grows, tourism will continue to play an important part of Hainan's economy, largely because of its relatively untouched tropical beaches and lush forests.
Its nominal GDP for 2006 was 105.24 billion yuan (US$13.6 billion), making it the fourth smallest in all of the People's Republic of China, contributing a minuscule 0.5 percent to the entire country's economy. Its GDP per capita was 12,650 yuan (US$1,640).