China's largest special economic zone (SEZ) was born when the country's top legislature adopted decisions on setting up Hainan Province and the Hainan SEZ three decades ago.
The rulings were made at the First Session of the Seventh National People's Congress on April 13, 1988. Hainan was allowed to apply more relaxed policies on foreign investment and operate a more flexible economic management system than other SEZs.
The island spun off from south China's Guangdong Province to become the youngest province and embarked on a unique path of reform and opening up.
The establishment of Hainan Province came at a time when the nascent reform and opening-up policy still faced some doubts, and Hainan became a pioneer in the drive. Compared with the first batch of 14 coastal cities to open up to foreign investment in 1984, Hainan was the only province opening up to the outside world as a whole.
As the only provincial SEZ in China, Hainan functioned as a test field for reform and opening up. The province pioneered a number of reforms. For instance, it adopted a streamlined administrative system, which has provided valuable experiences for China's institutional reform. China's reform and opening up gathered steam after late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's famous southern tour in 1992. Against this backdrop, Hainan explored a unique approach to development based on its advantages as China's largest SEZ and an international tourism island with an enviable natural environment. Its favorable policies for tourists include visa exemption for 26 countries, tax rebates and convenient air routes, making the island province an ideal choice for both domestic and international tourists.
Nevertheless, Hainan has yet to develop its potential to the fullest. The province still conjures up the primary vision of beaches and an overheated real estate market. It needs to make breakthroughs in opening up, urban services, market management and industrial development.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of China's reform and opening-up program. Hainan has an important strategic role to play in opening up in the new era. On an inspection tour of the province in April 2013, President Xi Jinping called on Hainan to take the lead in opening up in order to provide fresh experiences of an open economic system for other parts of the country. Xi made the call with a view of the general picture of all-round reform and opening up nationwide.
Hainan's future is therefore worthy of our expectations.