Island province of south China, in the South China Sea, off the southwest coast of Guangdong province; area 34,000 sq km/13,000 sq mi; population (2013 est) 8,952,800. The capital is Haikou; major towns are Wenchang, Xincun, Tongzha, and Sanya. Hainan is China's second-largest island. Tourism and food-processing are the main industries, while the most important agricultural activities are the cultivation of rice, sugar cane, rubber, pineapples, and betel nuts, and animal husbandry, including pigs, cattle, and poultry.
History Haikou, on the north coast, was formerly a treaty port. It was seized by Japanese forces in 1939 but was returned to China in 1945. It was designated a special economic zone in 1987, offering incentives for foreign trade and investment. In 1988 the island was separated from Guangdong and made into a new province.
Topography The island is 257 km/160 mi long and has a maximum width of 145 km/90 mi. The central and southern portions are traversed by granite mountains reaching an altitude of over 1,525 m/5,000 ft. There are many extinct volcanoes. The northern portion is an undulating plain, broken by isolated hills. Vegetation is lush and tropical.
Climate Hainan has a tropical climate marked by long, hot summers, with a July average temperature of around 28°C/82°F; and short warm winters, the January average temperature being around 20°C/68°F. Heavy rains, annually averaging around 1,600 mm/63 in, fall mainly in the period May to September; typhoons occur in the summer and autumn months.
Economy Hainan contains rich mineral deposits, including gold, silver, tin, iron ore, and lead. Manufacturing industries did not develop on the island before the 1980s, and even the iron ore mined at Shilu and the rubber from its plantations were transported to the mainland for processing. Until the 1980s the government policy of self-sufficiency meant that rice cultivation was emphasized after rubber, although Hainan's hot climate was suited to the fruits and other tropical produce now grown. The island remains China's largest producer of rubber. Hainan's timber resources were also exploited; in 1950 about half the island was covered by forest, but by the 1990s less than 10% remained.
The industries which developed particularly since the 1980s, and were boosted in the late 1990s with the building of a pipeline for petroleum products from Guangdong, are mostly light and related to agriculture, both in the manufacture of supplies such as fertilizer and the processing of produce, especially coconuts. Tourism is very significant to the island's economy, and has particularly benefited the Li and Hmong peoples. The distinctive costumes, traditional dances, and handicrafts of these ethnic communities are displayed at tourist villages built near the main roads across the island.
People There are over 1 million members of the Li ethnic minority on Hainan, living in the centre, south, and southwest of the island. They speak a language similar to that of the Igorot people in the Philippines. Over 50,000 members of the Hmong minority, descendants of early settlers from the mainland, live in the mountains of central Hainan. The Han Chinese, predominant in the north and northeast of the island, form two communities: the Hainanese, whose ancestors came to the island before 1950, and who speak a local dialect distinct from the Cantonese of the nearby mainland; and mainlanders who came to the island after 1950.
20th-century civil war In the clashes between the communists and nationalists from 1927 to 1949, Hainan had the only communist base which operated continuously for the whole period. The communist guerrillas controlled over half the island by 1950, when the mainland government took possession.