Friday, July 13, 2012

Hainan and Florida

A Hainan beach near Baoa, the site of the famous
Baoa Asian Forum on Hainan Island.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
While in Hainan, China, I worked with my colleagues on a project comparing tourism and sustainability in Hainan with Florida.  There are a tremendous number of similarities:  rapid late 20th century development, tourist economy, significant agricultural development, strategic significance, real estate booms and busts, and high rates of season visitors and in-migration.

Yet, each of these places is managing its environment differently.  In Florida, there is strong protection of the natural assets like beaches, water quality, and preservation of land and natural resources.  While Florida has issues in these areas, overall, it does a fairly good job.  Hainan, while making progress, does have a way to go in environmental protection.  In addition, Florida's current focus on economic development is on diversification of its economic base by promoting the development of high-tech industries and encouraging Fortune 500 companies to relocate.  This is challenged by Florida's relatively low education standards and overall quality of workforce training compared to national standards.  Hainan, in contrast is focusing on using tourism as a means of sustainable economic development.  They too have one of the more challenging work forces in their nation in terms of job training.  Thus, universities and other training centers are working at building basic service skills and environmental training.

A spring in a protected forest in Florida.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Nevertheless, Hainan could look to Florida for economic development options.  Some have called Hainan the Hawaii of China.  To me that is the wrong comparison.  Hainan is bigger (Hainan has an area of approximately 13,000 square miles and Hawaii has an area of approximately 11,000 square miles) the population is also larger (the population of Hainan is 8.7 million compared with Hawaii's 1.3 million).  Hainan is much more economically diverse.  Plus its setting on the edge of the Asian continent has parallels to Florida's geographic advantage.

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