Build­ing an In­ter­na­tional, Mod­ern and Beau­ti­ful Is­land

Ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Chi Fulin, pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of Re­form and De­vel­op­ment

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Zhao Jun, Tan Xingyu and Wang Zhe

As long as a more open model is adopted and growth main­tained, Hainan can catch up with or even over­take Sin­ga­pore in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the next 30 years.

“There would be no Hainan to­day, and it could have not thrived, with­out re­form,” as­serted Chi Fulin, pres­i­dent of the Hainan-based China In­sti­tute of Re­form and De­vel­op­ment (CIRD).

At the end of 1987, 36-year-old Chi Fulin went to Hainan Is­land, where he joined prepa­ra­tions for the found­ing of Hainan Prov­ince. He be­came the first of­fi­cial from the cen­tral govern­ment in Bei­jing to join such a cam­paign.

Since then, Chi has ex­pe­ri­enced the en­tire breadth of Hainan’s progress as part of the team map­ping de­vel­op­ment plans rang­ing from the pro­posal to es­tab­lish a “spe­cial cus­toms ter­ri­tory” in 1992 to the con­struc­tion of an “in­ter­na­tional tourism is­land” in 2010.

His unique ex­pe­ri­ence has made him one of the few rep­re­sen­ta­tive fig­ures to be­come deeply in­volved in China’s re­form and open­ing up as well as the con­struc­tion of the Hainan Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone (SEZ).

Chi Fulin be­came well-known for his re­search in the re­form of the eco­nomic sys­tem. Un­der his lead­er­ship, the CIRD— a once pe­riph­eral aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion—has be­come an im­por­tant hub for China’s re­form re­search.

In 2018, as the coun­try cel­e­brates the 40th an­niver­sary of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of its re­form and open­ing-up poli­cies and Hainan hon­ors the 30th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of the SEZ, Chi has pon­dered over and sum­ma­rized Hainan’s achieve­ments over the past 30 years and set higher goals and greater ex­pec­ta­tions for its fu­ture de­vel­op­ment.

What do you think of the three decades of de­vel­op­ment of the Hainan SEZ?

Chi Fulin (Chi): Be­fore I ar­rived in Hainan Is­land in 1987, I was liv­ing in north­ern China, and imag­ined the is­land a lot. When I got off the plane, I was sur­prised to find the place hardly de­vel­oped: Haikou didn’t even have traf­fic lights. My imag­i­na­tion had been way off. That year, Hainan’s GDP was around 20 bil­lion yuan, and lo­cal fis­cal rev­enue was less than 300 mil­lion yuan.

Over the past 30 years, how­ever, Hainan has grown from a rel­a­tively se­cluded is­land into an in­ter­na­tional tourism des­ti­na­tion and the coun­try’s largest Sez—with sprawl­ing streets full of traf­fic reach­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion. It has also de­vel­oped from a rel­a­tively back­ward re­gion into one of China’s more eco­nom­i­cally de­vel­oped prov­inces. In 2017, Hainan’s GDP sur­passed 446 bil­lion yuan.

The big­gest change is seen in the ev­ery­day lives of lo­cals.

In the past, the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in Hainan was good, but the liv­ing stan­dards were poor, and the is­land was plagued by star­va­tion.

To­day, Hainan has seen dra­matic changes in realms of ed­u­ca­tion, med­i­cal care, health, ecol­ogy, in­come lev­els and ur­ban and ru­ral con­struc­tion.

Op­ti­mism has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly. Over the past few decades, Hainan has at­tracted tal­ent from all over the coun­try to work or start a busi­ness.

What is the most pre­cious ex­pe­ri­ence Hainan has gained since the es­tab­lish­ment of the SEZ 30 years ago?

Chi: I would cite four things: First, the de­vel­op­ment of the is­land econ­omy re­quires open­ing up. As an is­land econ­omy, Hainan re­tains a cer­tain de­gree of in­er­tia and close­ness, which must be over­come through an open model that re­leases its in­ter­nal driv­ing forces. This is de­ter­mined by the laws of the is­land econ­omy.

Sec­ond, in­sti­tu­tional re­forms must adapt to the open model. As an is­land econ­omy, Hainan has to adapt its in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nism to an open model—the pur­pose of the re­form. I think the is­land should im­ple­ment re­forms in ac­cor­dance with the re­quire­ments of the cen­tral govern­ment of China to com­pre­hen­sively deepen re­forms. Hainan should take ad­van­tage of its sta­tus as China’s largest SEZ and make ma­jor break­throughs in the re­form and in­no­va­tion of its eco­nomic sys­tem, so­cial sys­tem, ad­min­is­tra­tive sys­tem and eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion sys­tem to form new im­pe­tus for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

Third, the de­vel­op­ment of an is­land econ­omy re­quires in­dus­trial choice. The

is­land econ­omy should choose the op­ti­mal mode for in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment dur­ing the process of open­ing up. As an in­ter­na­tional tourism is­land, Hainan should make tourism a pil­lar in­dus­try, but cur­rently the in­dus­try is still in­ad­e­quate: Tourism prod­ucts lack va­ri­ety, in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion is yet on its way, and is­land tourism is far from enough to in­te­grate with the de­vel­op­ment of the ser­vice trade.

Fourth, the core of the de­vel­op­ment of the is­land econ­omy lies in strate­gic po­si­tion­ing. The is­land econ­omy can­not fo­cus solely on it­self. If Hainan Is­land sets eyes only on it­self, it doesn’t have much of an ad­van­tage—its strate­gic po­si­tion­ing is ex­tremely im­por­tant.

What role has the Hainan SEZ played in ac­cel­er­at­ing eco­nomic and cul­tural ex­change be­tween China and South­east Asia? Chi:

Hainan is lo­cated on the coast of the South China Sea, ad­ja­cent to South­east Asian coun­tries, which gives it con­ve­nient ge­o­graph­i­cal con­nec­tions.

In the past, it served as a gate­way for Chi­nese ac­cess to South­east Asian coun­tries such as Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and In­done­sia. Now, these coun­tries host a par­tic­u­larly large num­ber of overseas Chi­nese from Hainan. In ad­di­tion, Hainan and South­east Asia share a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties in re­sources.

Hainan plays an im­por­tant role in the re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion of China with South­east Asia, and much room for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment re­mains.

Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries around the South China Sea de­pends not only on the Chi­nese mar­ket, but also on the de­vel­op­ment of China. Hainan has be­come an off­shore hub for the

con­struc­tion of the Belt and Road. Now, Sanya is build­ing a large-scale port for cruise ships that serve South­east Asian coun­tries.

Hainan should be­come the lead­ing hub of Pan-south China Sea co­op­er­a­tion. When the South China Sea be­comes a sea of peace and co­op­er­a­tion, the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries will ben­e­fit from China’s de­vel­op­ment.

What op­por­tu­ni­ties do you see for Hainan in the next 30 years?

Chi: Sit­u­ated at a new start­ing point, Hainan is fac­ing three ma­jor new op­por­tu­ni­ties and tak­ing on four ma­jor new mis­sions.

The three ma­jor new op­por­tu­ni­ties are: im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, de­vel­op­ment of an open econ­omy for the pro­mo­tion of a new pat­tern of com­pre­hen­sive open­ing up, and up­grad­ing of China’s con­sump­tion struc­ture. The four ma­jor new mis­sions are: 1. Ex­pand open­ing up in the con­text of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. As re­quired for the con­struc­tion of the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road, over the next few years, Hainan will strive to be­come a pi­o­neer­ing area for the de­vel­op­ment and open­ing up of Pan-south China Sea co­op­er­a­tion and build a free trade eco­nomic cor­ri­dor con­nect­ing Pan-south China Sea coun­tries and re­gions.

2. Com­pre­hen­sively fur­ther re­forms. In the fu­ture, we must cre­ate more dy­namic in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nisms.

3. Serve na­tional strat­egy. In the com­ing years, Hainan should give full play to its own strength and con­trib­ute re­mark­ably to build­ing China into a mar­itime power.

4. Achieve green de­vel­op­ment. Hainan en­joys prom­i­nent strength in ecol­ogy. We must fo­cus on “green­ing up” and “pro­tect­ing blues,” and blaze a new trail for a har­mo­nious de­vel­op­ment be­tween man and na­ture through new mod­els, new sys­tems, and new mech­a­nisms for green de­vel­op­ment and green liv­ing against the back­drop of eco­nomic re­form and open­ing up.

We must strive to build Hainan into a highly in­ter­na­tion­al­ized and mod­ern trea­sure is­land by 2049.

Specif­i­cally, the main in­di­ca­tors of Hainan’s eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment should reach the lev­els of advanced economies, its green de­vel­op­ment should lead the world, and Hainan should serve as a prac­ti­cal ex­am­ple as China be­comes a great mod­ern so­cial­ist coun­try.

I strongly be­lieve that as long as we adopt a more open model and main­tain growth, Hainan can catch up with or even over­take Sin­ga­pore in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the next 30 years.

Chi Fulin, pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of Re­form and De­vel­op­ment, is one of the few peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in China’s re­form and open­ing up and con­struc­tion of the Hainan Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone. by Zhao Jun

2002: Vil­lagers in a re­mote area are pleas­antly sur­prised by drinking wa­ter pumped up from a deep well in Haikou. by Huang Yim­ing/ VCG

1992: Two fe­male stu­dents chat on a street in Haikou, Hainan Prov­ince. The city was un­der rapid de­vel­op­ment. by Huang Yim­ing/vcg

Over the past three decades, Hainan has grown from a rel­a­tively se­cluded is­land into an in­ter­na­tional tourism is­land and the largest spe­cial eco­nomic zone in China. VCG

Lo­cated in Haikou, Hainan Prov­ince, the Cen­tury Bridge mea­sures 2,664 me­ters in length. It is a land­mark struc­ture and a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion of the city. by Qin Bin

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