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Hainan: from hidden gem to global hub

Hainan has become a sought-after destination for global youth, drawn by its opportunities, natural beauty, and inclusive policies.

By Meng Wenjie | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-10 05:49
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From left to right: Anne Jing Ping Wen from the US, Vitor Moura from Brazil, Zhong Yutong from China, Jood Ghazwan Sharaf from Bulgaria, Sergi Drago from Spain, Dylan Walker from the US, Melina Gisela Weber from Germany, Andreev Aleksei from Russia. [Photo by Alexander Roux/For China Daily]

Jan Kerekes, a Canadian who has lived in South China's Hainan province for six years, traveled extensively around the world before making this island his home.

In the latest episode of China Daily's Youth Power, which aired on June 30, Kerekes shared what led him to settle down in Hainan.

Although Kerekes was an experienced traveler, he knew little about Hainan before arriving. Over the past six years, he has witnessed the island transform into a popular destination for global adventurers.

"Hainan is really opening up. The whole world comes here, and you see the opportunities right in front of you," Kerekes said. "It is a place where you can pursue your dreams."

One of the eight young guests in this episode, Andreev Aleksei, a 30-year-old Russian, found Kerekes's story particularly resonant. He visited Hainan in 2017 and gradually fell in love with the place.

"When I went back to my country, I missed the island so much that I had to come back," Aleksei said.

Now a teacher at Hainan University in Haikou, the capital city, Aleksei highlighted the island's promising opportunities and abundant natural resources.

"Hainan not only hosts the Boao Forum for Asia but it is also the best place for windsurfing and parachuting," he said.

Aleksei also noticed that the road he used to ride his motorcycle along the Mulan Bay coastline in Wenchang, which was narrow and in poor condition four years ago, is now in excellent shape. Additionally, several new highways have been constructed.

"At the end of last year, the Hainan Coastal Scenic Highway opened. It's a road that goes all along the island," he said.

To encourage international talent to come, Hainan has introduced 16 measures to streamline living and working conditions for foreigners. These measures cover various areas, including entry clearance, accommodation and residency, healthcare, investment, professional qualifications, and business development.

For example, Aleksei mentioned that Hainan offers numerous benefits and advantageous policies to assist global talents in establishing businesses in the region.

"[The application process]takes just three days, and it can be completed entirely online, even for foreigners," he said.

Melina Gisela Weber, 31, a German student at Beijing Foreign Studies University who started her business in Beijing, emphasized the importance of getting professional assistance to obtain essential information when launching a business venture in a foreign country.

The young guests also visited the Haikou Municipal Government Service Center to learn more about these measures. There, they met people from around the world with different needs — whether for visas, education, or business.

"I think it's a testament to the inclusivity of the entire province," said Jood Ghazwan Sharaf, a 27-year-old Bulgarian student at Tsinghua University.

Dylan Walker, 27, from the United States, was impressed by the efficiency of the "one window for all" system, a comprehensive service approach.

"It's like a one-stop service," he said. "You don't have to run all over the place."

Anne Jing Ping Wen, a 24-yearold from the US studying at Peking University, was surprised to see international signs throughout the hall.

"A lot of the signs are in English, which is rare and makes it extremely understandable for foreigners," she said.

In addition to aiding tourists and residents from around the world in their daily lives and business activities, Hainan has made significant economic progress.

One notable example is the Yangpu Economic Development Zone, which has evolved from a small port into Hainan's largest international port.

Established as a state-level development zone and approved by the State Council in 1992, it benefits from free trade zone policies and is recognized as the "showcase" of the Hainan Free Trade Port.

In the zone, the young guests explored the Yangpu Offshore Wind Power Industrial Park, where they discovered Hainan's commitment to developing its marine economy and striving for a harmonious coexistence with the ocean.

Lin Qingsong, the park's general manager, highlighted Hainan's leading role in wind power development, citing its vast sea area and abundant wind resources.

According to him, while Hainan's wind power utilization is still in its early stages compared to coastal regions like Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces in East and South China, this project stands out as a pioneering model for future large-scale offshore wind power initiatives.

"What caught my attention is that this is the very first model used on the island," said Sergi Drago, a 30-year-old Spanish student from Tsinghua University. "The success of this model here will be replicated in other parts of the island. I'm really looking forward to seeing the next steps in development."

Sharaf was impressed by China's innovative economic experiments and its hands-on approach of "crossing the river by touching the stones".

"We can see that China is not an economy that goes within itself. It goes outward to benefit the rest of humanity," she said. "The experiments that are done here are not limited to Hainan. They also demonstrate that China is willing to work for the future."

As a global resident of Hainan, Aleksei encouraged international tourists to explore the region.

He believes that this island is not only a dynamic free trade model with great potential and various opportunities for the future but also a natural paradise with picturesque coastal views and a laid-back lifestyle that strikes a balance between work and leisure.

"This is quite a unique place in China," Aleksei said. "No matter what purpose brings you here, whether it's tourism, starting a business, or work, just come here, and you will fall in love with it."

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