Sun-seeking retirees flock to Hainan, 'China's Florida'

Updated: 2017-03-18 07:27:11

Blessed by palm-fringed beaches and balmy weather, the island province of Hainan is fast becoming known as "China's Florida," drawing masses of retirees fleeing the biting cold of their hometowns.

"At home in Harbin, it (can be) -30 ℃, it's unbearable! But here the climate is perfect," said a 71-year-old pensioner who gave only her surname, Wang.

Hailing from the capital of the polluted, frigid, rust-belt province of Heilongjiang on the Siberian border, Wang and her husband have migrated each winter to the Hainan resort town of Sanya for the past eight years.

"Here we can breathe, and that warmth is better for our health," said Qi Ningxia, a 60-year-old asthma-sufferer from Heilongjiang, who joined Wang in waving brightly colored fans in a group exercise-dance near the shore of the South China Sea.

"And we find so many people here from our province! We are sure we will not be bored," Qi said.

Between 600,000 and 700,000 elderly descend on Sanya every winter, almost doubling its population, said Huang Cheng, a sociologist at Sanya University.

Nearly half of these "migratory birds", as they are called, come from the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning.

The trend began in 2000 as residents of those provinces began buying Sanya apartments, opening businesses and luring friends and family to join them, creating a "snowball effect," Huang said.

Recreational centers with features aimed at the elderly, such as mahjong tables, have mushroomed.

"Ping-Pong, billiards, chess, calligraphy, painting or computer science" are among the offerings on display, said the director of one such center who only gave her surname Zhang.

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