The Future of China’s Tropical Hainan Island

Despite Initial Unpopularity, Golf in China is Growing

China is now building the world’s largest golf resort on Hainan Island, a 22 golf course development that would cover an area larger than Manhattan.

Endangered Hainan gibbon

Last of the Hainan gibbons

Hainan Island sits just off the coast of China, where villagers live in centuries-old houses made of lava rock, and miles of tropical rainforest cover the land. The island has long been known as “the lung of Haikou”, for its lush landscape and fresh air. A Haikou based environmental group was moving forward with plans to turn much of the region into a forest park. Recently, however, local government has stepped in, offering a development contract to The Mission Hills Group from Hong Kong to create the monstrous golf resort.

Golf has never been popular in China. In the mid-1980’s the Communist Party even banned the sport as “too bourgeois”. Construction remains technically illegal, and very little of the population has interest in golf. Despite this, China is experiencing a “golf boom”. Hundreds of courses are planned to be opened in the next few years, with hopes of attracting tourists in the millions.

Workers on Hainan Island Tend to Resort

“Green lawns and sand traps are now replacing ancient villages and tropical forests on Hainan Island, one of China’s most pristine spots,” according to a recently published photo essay by writer Dan Washburn and photographer Ryan Pyle.

The development is harming centuries old villages and forest, which also happen to be home to several endangered species. This includes the Hainan gibbon, one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, and only living member of the Pongidae family in China. Hainan’s beauty has always been laced with poverty and lawlessness, but its fragile ecosystem is irreplaceable.

The Chinese government hopes to make Hainan a “top international tourist destination” by 2020. If completed, the The Mission Hills Group’s golf resort, code named “Project 791″ will be the largest golf resort in the world.

Mission Hills Group can be contacted here

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