Home  >  Media center   >   News

Infrastructure developments set to drive growth

By MA ZHIPING in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-03

Driven by the nation's reform and opening-up policies, Hainan province, like other parts of the country, has made great progress in advancing its transportation and communications infrastructure in recent years.

The transportation sector on the island, China's southernmost province, improved enormously during the period of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2015-20).

Expressways now link all of Hainan's counties, while more than 20 shipping lines and over 100 air routes were launched to destinations overseas, according to officials with the provincial transportation authorities.

For years, Hainan's isolated position meant the island was backward economically.

Wang Guilan, a taxi driver, recalled that in 1981, Haikou, the provincial capital, got its first traffic lights, which were only slightly taller than the average person.

"But at many crossroads, the traffic was still guided by traffic police, who carried a baton and had a whistle," said Wang, who used to grow vegetables in a downtown spot that is now covered by high-rise buildings.

In 2018, Haikou launched its "smart traffic brain" project, giving the capital a brand-new citywide artificial intelligence traffic control system.

"It was completely automatic, providing visual data of local traffic and making it more scientific and precise for us to make correct, quick responses and decisions," said Chen Dong, an official with the city's traffic police detachment.

As some older islanders have observed, evolution has been going on year by year in every walk of life, especially in the means of traveling around the island. Lao Wang, a 60-something businessman, said bumpy roads meant it used to take a whole day to travel by bus from Haikou in the north to Sanya on the island's southern tip.

The journey by road was cut to about three hours as highway density rose from 79.2 kilometers per 100 square kilometers in 2015 to 118 kilometers per 100 sq km last year.

A high-speed loop railway has been running since late 2015, the world's first on a tropical island. Taking about three hours per circuit, 40 pairs of trains run on the loop every day, carrying around 30 million people a year. The travel time from Haikou to Sanya has been cut to 90 minutes.

Haikou Meilan International Airport-the eighth Skytrax five-star airport in the world and the first on the Chinese mainland-had passenger throughput of 24.21 million in 2019, with 297 flights to 149 cities at home and abroad. When the second phase comes into service, annual passenger throughput will reach 35 million, according to the airport authorities.

The number of domestic and foreign air routes will be increased to 646 during the period of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), reaching 200 cities worldwide with passenger throughput of 60 million, according to the Hainan Government's plan.

Thanks to new opening-up policies for shipping and aviation, released in June last year as part of the master plan for the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port, about 30 international freight companies have registered at the Port of Yangpu on the island.

More than 20 domestic and foreign trade routes will be opened, reaching 100 ports around the world with cargo throughput of 266 million metric tons, said Zhou Junping, head of the Yangpu Economic Development Zone, a major area for the demonstration of the early implementation of the FTP's opening-up policies.

The trial opening of the Seventh Freedom of the Air for passenger and freight transportation means Hainan has the highest level of such traffic rights in the country.

It is the only province to have opened the third, fourth, fifth and seventh air traffic rights, allowing foreign carriers to operate flights between two foreign countries without having to touch down in the airline's home country.

Last month, a cargo plane operated by My Indo Airlines took off from Jakarta and landed at Haikou Meilan Airport 16 hours after stopping in Singapore.

After loading in Haikou, it flew to Singapore, marking the smooth opening of the first freight route in the Hainan FTP under the Fifth Air Traffic Right, which allows goods to be sent to a third country. The new route further extended Hainan's international cargo aviation market in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, the development of the communications infrastructure has been fast-tracked in Hainan, which is a designated national demonstration area for 5G networks.

Han Meibie, a 78-year-old in Wangxia, a mountain-enclosed town in Changjiang Li autonomous county, often has video chats with her relatives in Haikou, about three hours drive north. Such visual communication was just a dream a few years ago.

Wangxia, in the hinterland of the 1,495-meter-high Bawangling Mountain, a national nature reserve and believed to be the earliest residence of the Li ethnic group, the island's indigenous people, is becoming a popular cyber destination. That's because of the development of ecotourism, which is revealing the special charms of local resources and the Li culture, and the development of 5G services across the island in the past two years.

Cui Shutian, deputy director of the Hainan Industry and Information Department, said that since 2015, the province has listed the optical, road, water and gas networks, plus the power grid, as strategic infrastructure.

Supported by 21.3 billion yuan of government investment in optical networks, cross-province broadband expanded from 960 gigabytes per second in 2015 to 7,260 GB/s last year, and the number of base stations had reached 10,823 by the end of December.

The move has narrowed the digital gap between urban and rural areas, improved online facilities for Hainan's 7.64 million netizens and promoted local social and economic development.

Progress has also been made to ensure the safe and orderly flow of cross-border data. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has approved the establishment of the Haikou international communication service bureau and also allowed the Hainan FTP to build dedicated internet data channels in nine key industrial parks.

According to the master plan for the FTP, the province will enjoy a convenient and open transportation policy and the island will speed up construction of a modern comprehensive transportation system by developing Yangpu as an international shipping hub for the new international land-sea trade corridor and Haikou Meilan Airport as an international aviation hub.

In February, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, released the National Comprehensive Three-dimensional Transportation Network Plan (2021-35), the nation's first medium- and long-term plan for the transportation sector.

The plan highlights the key position of the Hainan FTP transportation infrastructure in the national network to help support its development and establish the Hainan FTP as fertile ground for investors from home and abroad.