Hainan Island is located between 18o10' --20o10' north latitude and 108o37' --111o3' east longitude and is separated from mainland China to the north by the c. (c. = circa = almost) 30 km wide Qiongzhou Strait (Fig. G1). The island has an area of c. 34,000 km2 and a total coastline length of c. 1500 km. It has mountains above 500 m asl (above sea level) comprising c. 26% of the total Island area with peaks reaching as high as 1867 m asl, surrounded by hills between 100 m and 500 m asl (c. 14 % of the island), and terraces and lowlands below 100 m asl (c. 60% of the island) (Fig. G2). Extensive lowlands occur particularly in the north and northeast, some associated with vast deltas, the largest of them being that of the Nandu River. The three major rivers, Nandu, Changhua and Wanquan, have a combined 15x109-m3/year discharge. The rivers are extensively impounded for drinking water supply and irrigation, and some are used for power generation.

Geologically, Hainan Island is located on a continental margin in the northern part of the South China Sea (Fig. G3). The island has a complex geological history. It is composed of several terranes accreted during the Paleozoic as they migrated northward from the Australian zone to the Chinese zone. The accretion led to several orogenies, remnants of which constitute the predominantly metamorphic and granitic central mountains and hills (Tables G1,  G2; Figs. G4, G5). Since Mesozoic times the geological history of the island has developed in unison with mainland China. There has been renewed emplacement of granite, some rhyolite volcanism, and development of several extensional and transtension basins, some on the island itself, oriented SW--NE, and others offshore to the south, west and north of the island (Figs. G3, G5). The northern part of the island has experienced renewed extension during the Cenozoic with extensive basaltic eruptions. The basaltic lava covers an area of 4159 km2. The upper Mesozoic--Recent tectonism is related to both the Himalayan orogeny (transcurrent movements associated with the Red River strike slip fault system) and the distant Philippine plate subduction (Figs. G3). Similar to other parts of the world, the island has been affected by major sea-level variations due to worldwide Pleistocene glaciations and extensive deposition of Quaternary sediments, many of the coastal ones having been uplifted and exposed inland.

The contacts between the various terranes are marked by morphotectonic alignments related to major faults. The major fault trends are SW--NE across the island, E--W in the north and south, and SE--NW (Figs. G3A, G5). These faults determine, among other things, the distribution of volcanic cones in the north, the overall parallelogram-shape of the island, the orientation of major valleys and the drainage of some of the major rivers, and the localization of promontories, embayments and offshore basins some of which are oil and gas producers (Fig. G6).  Some faults are still active, particularly in the north, as indicated by the distribution of historical earthquakes (Fig. G7).

Hainan Island has a great variety of coastal types. These include rugged rock cliffs in the northwest associated with Cenozoic basaltic lava; rocky promontories to the south and east associated with granitic and metamorphic rocks; deep, narrow embayments related to flooded fluvial valleys, and wide embayments characterized by shoreline barriers--lagoons and a series of raised coastal ridges alternating with dried-out lagoons in the south (Fig. G8). Several embayments with deep tidal inlets are used for harbors.

The late Tertiary -- Pleistocene isostatic (tectonic) and eustatic (sea level change) movements that have affected the area are recorded in various terraces at 80, 60--40 and 20 m asl and in successions of coastal sand ridges/baymouth bars, which can be observed from inland areas to the modern seashore ) ("bar" is a local term; here we use it interchangeably with the more accurate terms "bar/barrier" or "barrier" for shoreline features and "ridge" or "coastal ridge", frequently implying "beach ridge", for uplifted, inland features) (Wang Ying, 1992; Yao Qingyi et al., 1981). Holocene variations in sea level and climate are particularly well recorded and dated in coastal barriers, coral reefs and beachrock (Zhang Zhongying et al., 1987). Conditions suitable for reef development, for example, started about 8000 a (a = years BP) and continued vigorously until about 5000 a. Subsequent to that, the rate of reef growth changed through time, with possible good periods around 3000 a BP and possibly c. 700 a  (Lu Bingquan et al., 1984; Zhao Xitao, 1979; Wang Ying et al., 2001).


Climate and oceanography

Hainan Island is located at the margin between the tropical and subtropical zones. Its annual average temperature ranges between 22oC and 26oC (Fig. G9). Cool winter spells with temperatures down to approximately 16oC, and extreme lows of  5oC, may affect the north-facing, high mountain slopes. Annual total solar radiant energy is c. 5016--5852 million joules per square meter; annual cumulative sunlight reaches up to c. 1600--2600 hours. The annual average rainfall is between c. 1000 mm and c. 2400 mm (Fig. G9), but western areas are dryer due to the orographic effect of the high central mountains (Fig. G10). Hainan Island has well-defined wet and dry seasons. During the dry season that usually lasts from November to April, it receives the northeastern monsoons from the mainland. The summer monsoons from the South China Sea usually affect the island from May to October and bring much rainfall. The most intense rainfall occurs when typhoons invade the island. Typhoons are frequent, particularly during summer (August to September), and they derive both from the northwest Pacific Ocean and, mostly, from the South China Sea. During the past 35 years the largest southern town, Sanya has experienced a total of about 180 typhoons, some with wind velocities as high as 40--45 m/s (Beaufort equivalent 8) (Wang Ying et al., 1992). During typhoons, low-lying coastal areas as well as the alluvial plains may experience flooding.

The overall oceanographic conditions of coastal waters of Hainan Island are characterized by micro- to meso-tides (1--3 m tidal excursions), mostly of the diurnal type except along the S and SE coasts where diurnal, semidiurnal and mixed tides balance over one month period (Wang Ying et al., 1992). Wave regime is influenced by both monsoons and typhoons. During winter, NE waves prevail; during summer, the SE and SW waves dominate (Fig. G10; Wang Ying et al., 1992). Storm waves are usually c. 2--3 m, but they can reach up to 7--8 m during typhoons. The strongest waves develop along the east coast and parts of the northwest coasts.



The soils of Hainan Island have developed in varied environments affected by overall high annual precipitation but with alternation of dry and wet seasons. Soils have developed on various parent materials (sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks and various sediments) and on very different landforms (steep mountains, hills, tablelands and plains). The soils consist mostly of argosols, ferrosols, ferralosol, cambosols, primosols and anthrosols (Fig. G11). Argosols develop mainly in the central mountains above 800 m asl. Ferrosols include mainly laterite and red soils (of the old Chinese soil classification) developed on granite, sandstone and shale (Atlas of Hainan Province, 1996), and are widely distributed on lower mountains, hills and tablelands. Ferralosols include mainly the laterite and red soil of the old classification developed on basalt, and are mainly located on tablelands of the north part of the island. Cambosols include dry red soil and some brown laterite of the old classification, and are distributed broadly on the dryer tablelands and low hills of the western part of the island. Primosols include red soil developed on shallow marine deposits, coastal sandy soil and part of basalt red earth of the old classification; they are found mainly on coastal zones. Anthrosols are paddy soils scattered on lowlands everywhere. Argosols, ferrosols, ferralosols and cambosols cover c. 90% of Hainan Island. They generally have heavy texture and poor permeability and are subject to intense erosion under heavy rain conditions.



Most of Hainan Island was covered by tropical forest about 700,000 a BP. Since about 111 a BC, before the West Han dynasty, the area of tropical rain forests has been continuously reduced. Now, only patches of tropical rain forest remain mainly in the central--southwestern part of the island (Fig. G12). Second-growth forest and dense bush cover large areas. The tropical forest area of Hainan Island is characterized by seasonal fluctuations in precipitation. A plant succession has developed in the southwestern part of the island on mountain slopes: tropical semi-deciduous seasonal rain forest and grass with sparse trees are found at lower elevations, and tropical mountain rain forest and moss with stunted (short) trees at higher elevations up to the top of the mountains. In protected areas, the tropical forest still harbors numerous animal species including tree-mouse, civet cat, leopard-cat, and water-deer.

Reforestation has been actively carried out in the past decades, especially in the1980s. For the 1979--1998 period, about 26,700 ha per year were reforested; that is, the forest area increased from 1.27 million ha in 1978 to 1.72 million ha in 1998. Similarly, log (wood) production increased from 59 million cubic meters in 1978 to 89 million in 1998. In 1998 forest production value reached 4.27 billion yuan.



There are 9 Cities and 10 Counties in Hainan Island (Fig. G13). Haikou and Sanya are prefecture-level Cities and the others are County-level ones. The town of Haikou is the capital of Hainan Province. There are more than 200 smaller towns on the island.

In 2000 AD Hainan Island had a population of about 7.5 million comprising 37 ethnic groups, of which Minorities account for 17.29%. Only about 200 people live on the other small islands that are included in Hainan Province.  From the first census in 1953 to the fifth in 2000 the population has increased on average by 2.34 % per year (Fig. G14). Minority people (that is, not of Han origin) mainly live in the center and south parts of the island (Fig. G15). With economic development, urbanization has expanded as well although at a lower rate than that of other developed countries: the urban population has increased from 16.6% of the island total in 1987 to 26.6% in 1998.

Since 1988 the Provincial Government has strived to improve the investment environment in Hainan Island. Since 1993, fixed asset investment has been more than 16 billion yuan per year (Fig. G16). Infrastructure improvements have included power, transportation and communication to meet the requirements for further large-scale development.

By 1997, in Hainan Island there were 5 power plants built with an installed generation power capacity of 1.6 million kw. In 1997 the generated electricity was 3.2 billion kwh (Information Office of Hainan Provincial People's Government, 1998).

A complete transportation system has been established in Hainan Island, including railway, highways, harbors, and airports (Fig. G17). A 214km-long railway around the west side of the island connects Haikou City in the north and Sanya City in the south. In future, the railway transportation will join Hainan Island with mainland China across Qiongzhou Strait via ferry. The total length of highways in 1999 was 17,300 km, of which a four 4-lane 495 km-long expressway runs around the island. A 350km-long highway across the middle of the island from north to south, and a second one connecting the towns of Haikou and Wenchang are under construction.

There are 24 harbors in Hainan Island. Most are small, for fishing fleets and local transportation. Main commercial harbors are those of Haikou, Basuo, Yangpu, Sanya and Qinglan. In 2001 the total loading and unloading capacity of these harbors was 17,480,000 tons, with 15 berths that could accommodate 10,000 tonnage-class ships. Including the minor harbors, the transported goods in 2001 exceeded 21 million tons (Fig. G18).

The island has two newly constructed international airports, the Haikou Meilan airport to the north, and the Sanya Phoenix airport to the south, servicing  more than 100 domestic and international air routes.  They were put in service in 1994 and in 1999 respectively, and are capable of landing some of the largest commercial planes such as the Boeing 767. Haikou Meilan international airport has a transportation capacity of 8,000,000 passengers and 150,000 tons of goods per year.  In 1999 about 4,150,000 passengers traveled through these airports (Information Office of Hainan Provincial People's Government, 1998).    

In Hainan Island, communication systems include program-controlled and movable telephones, digital microwave, optical fiber and satellite communications as well as paging and packet switching technology. By 1997, 11,331 long-distance circuits connected Hainan Island with 230 countries (Information Office of Hainan Provincial People's Government, 1998).

As the largest Special Economical District of China, Hainan Province has undergone dramatic development since its establishment in 1988, increasing rapidly during the early 1990s to reach 56.6 billion yuan in GDP in 2001(Fig. G19A). Parallel to this there has been a great increase in per-capita GDP and provincial revenue (Fig. G19B).

The industrial enterprises in Hainan Island are divided into three classes: "first" includes agriculture, forestry, husbandry and fisheries; "second" includes manufacturing, mining, power and construction; and "third" includes transportation, communication, service trades, tourism and finance). In the past the island was an agriculture-centered region; production of the "first" industry accounted for more than 50% of total GDP, and the proportion of the "third" industry production in total GDP was less than 30%. After Hainan Province was established in 1988, the government optimized its industry structure, strengthening the "second" industry and greatly expanding the "third" industry, especially tourism. The relative importance of the three industrial classes has greatly changed from 1987 to 2001 (Fig. G20). 

Agriculture still is a major activity in Hainan Island as it is else in mainland China. Hainan Island is the principal tropical area in China, and is sometimes referred to as the natural greenhouse of China. It has optimum conditions for tropical agriculture. Before the 1980s, agriculture was mainly devoted to grain and sugarcane production. After the establishment of Hainan Province, agricultural production diversified at an accelerating rate. Grain production continues to meet local demand, and vegetables, melons and tropical fruits are produced both for internal consumption and for export (Figs. G21, G22; Table G3). In 1998 the production value of watermelons and vegetables, and tropical fruits reached 3.975 billion yuan and 1.324 billion yuan, respectively, accounting for 15.7% and 5.2% of the gross agricultural production that includes agriculture, forestry, husbandry and fishery. 

In agricultural production the Hainan Agricultural Reclamation Bureau plays an important role in Hainan Island. The Bureau is a major government-owned integrated farm-industry-commerce enterprise. It was established in 1952 to systematically develop the island and its major plantations, particularly rubber. The Bureau now has 92 farms with a total land area of 854,582 ha, a quarter of the area of the island (Fig. G23). Main commodities produced by the Bureau include dry rubber, fruits, sugarcane, grain, meat, and aquatic products (Table G4). In 1995 its gross agricultural production reached 2.55 billion yuan. In the same year, the Bureau's total revenues, including all its activities, exceeded 3.6 billion yuan. 

In Hainan Island, fisheries have been and continue to be one of the main "first" industry activities especially with the advent of modern aquaculture. In the 1990s the production increased on average by 11.6% per year (Fig. G24). The proportion of aquatic production value in respect to the gross agricultural production (agriculture, forest, husbandry, fishery) increased from 11.04% in 1990 to 19.94% in 1999.

In the period 1981--1986, before Hainan Province was established, the "second industry" (usually referred to simply as industry) production accounted for 30--40% of total agricultural and industrial production. The food industry, chemical industry, textile industry, mining and rubber industry (rubber products) accounted for, respectively, 26.4%, 10,8%, 6.3%, 6.3% of the total industrial production in 1987 (Hainan Government, 1999). After Hainan Province was established, new technologies, equipment and foreign investment were introduced. This led to the development of many new enterprises such as the production of medicines and motor vehicles, and caused a number of old activities such as food and beverage production to be rejuvenated. "Second" industry production increased dramatically and in 1993 surpassed "first" industry production for the first time (Fig. G25).  In addition, the industrial structure was greatly changed. In1998 the top five enterprises were transportation (motorcycle and vehicle manufacturing) (19.7%), food (15.8%), medicine (10.1%), beverage (8.0%) and chemical (chemical materials and products, chemical fiber) (7.9%) (Five decades of Hainan Province in These industries have since become the industrial backbone of Hainan Island, their production accounting for c. 60% of total industrial production.

Hainan Island has great potential for tourism (Fig. G26). The potential resources for tourism include numerous tropical beaches, scenic mountain sites, pristine natural settings, plantations, historical sites and ethnic cultures (Liu Qing, 1998). Tourism started developing in Hainan Island in the 1980s when sites were developed, such as historical sites in Haikou City, beaches in Sanya City, Monkey Island in Lingshui County, an ethnic cultural museum in Tongshi City, and tropical plantations in Danzhou City.  In 1986 the National Tourism Bureau listed Hainan Island as one of the seven key tourist-developing regions of China. The establishment of the province as a Specific Economic Region in the late 1980s greatly stimulated tourism as well. From 1992 to 1997, c. 200 key tourist projects had been developed with good facilities, roads and services ( By 1998 the established tourism sites included 7 state and 23 provincial scenic areas, five first-grade, 14 second-grade and 20 third-grade beaches. Other developed tourist sites include 28 mountainous landscape areas, 18 rock and cave localities, 21 river and lake settings, 21 fauna and flora bases, 31 historical sites and scenic spots, 9 local ethnic-theme facilities (Information Office of Hainan Provincial People's Government, 1998).  By 2001, there were 217 travel agencies and 177 'star'-class hotels and tourist visits reached 11 million (Table G5). Tourist revenue topped 8.89 billion yuan and foreign revenue was more than 1 billion USD (Fig. G27).