Xiamen, or Amoy, is a coastal sub-provincial city in southeast China's Fujian Province. It looks out on the Taiwan Strait, comprising Xiamen Island, Gulangyu Island, and a larger region on the mainland stretching from the northern bank of the Jiulong River to Tong'an District. Its land area is 1,565 square km, and its sea area is 300 square km. Its nickname, "Egret Island," comes from its history as an egret habitat.
In July 1979, the Central Government approved the establishment of a special zone for exports in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen on a trial basis along with special policies and flexible measures to be taken therein. On May 15, 1980, the special zone for exports was officially named the "Special Economic Zone." Due to its location, three zones for Taiwanese investment were launched in Xiamen's Haicang, Xinlin and Jimei districts; the Xiangyu bonded area was established in 1992.
From 1981 to 2008, Xiamen's GDP increased from 480 million yuan ($70.5 million) to 156.5 billion yuan ($23.1 billion), with an annual growth rate of 17.7 percent. Gross industrial output value increased 23.4 percent from 1.007 billion yuan ($200 million) to 301 billion yuan ($44.3 billion). Financial revenue rose from 195 million yuan ($28.7 million) to 41.0 billion yuan ($6.0 billion).
Xiamen has also developed into an important gathering place for Chinese foreign capital and an important port for foreign trade. There were a total of 7,828 foreign-invested enterprises in the city as of 2007; actual paid-up foreign investment reached $16.9 billion. The total volume of imports and exports added up to $237.3 billion.
Xiamen is called the "Marine Garden" for its unparalleled ocean views. Blending unique regional culture, beautiful natural scenery, mild weather, a cozy lifestyle and warm-hearted residents, it is considered one of the most livable cities in the world.
Set up in November 1949, the Xiamen Overseas Chinese Travel Service (now China Travel Service Xiamen) was the first travel agency to open after the founding of the People's Republic of China. Tourism has been booming since the 1980s thanks to the reform and opening-up policy, and soon became the city's pillar industry. In recent years, Xiamen has become a favored destination for cross-Strait exchange, for it is the nearest port city on the Chinese mainland to Jinmen (Quemoy), Pescadores and Taiwan Island.
From 1991 to 1998, the number of tourists, person-days and tourism revenue in Xiamen ranked in the top 10 among Chinese tourist cities for eight straight years. Domestic and foreign tourists in Xiamen hit 21.94 million as of 2008. More than 11.5 million people visited Xiamen in the first half of 2009; total tourism income reached 14.6 billion yuan ($2.14 billion), or 6.42 percent more than last year.