Hainan (literally "South of the Sea [Qiongzhou Strait]") is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The name "Hainan" also refers to Hainan Island, the main island of the province. Hainan is located in the South China Sea, separated from Guangdong's Leizhou Peninsula to the north by the shallow and narrow Qiongzhou Strait.
For centuries Hainan Island was part of Guangdong Province, but in 1988 this resource-rich tropical island became part of the newly created Hainan Province.
The province has an area of 33,920 square kilometres (13,100 sq mi) and is China's southernmost province. Although it comprises some two hundred islands scattered among three archipelagos off the southern coast, 32,900 square kilometres (12,700 sq mi) (97%) of its land mass is Hainan Island, from which the province takes its name. The PRC government claims territories of the province extend to the southern Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and other disputed marine territory.
Hainan Province is the largest Special Economic Zone laid out by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s.
There are a total of eight major cities and ten counties in Hainan Province. Haikou on the northern coast of Hainan Island is the capital whilst Sanya is a well-known tourist destination on the south coast. The other major cities are Wenchang, Qionghai, Wanning, Wuzhishan, Dongfang and Danzhou.
Even while Hainan Island was a part of Guangdong Province it had a considerable amount of local autonomy; the southern half of the island was an autonomous prefecture. Hainan's elevation to provincial level in 1988 increased its accountability to the Central People's Government, but by designating the new province a special economic zone the central government expressed its intent to allow Hainan maximum flexibility in devising programs to facilitate foreign investment and economic growth. Administratively, the province has been divided into five economic major districts.
The politics of Hainan is structured in a dual party-government system like all other governing institutions in mainland China.
The Governor of Hainan is the highest-ranking official in the People's Government of Hainan. However, in the province's dual party-government governing system, the Governor has less power than the Hainan Communist Party of China Provincial Committee Secretary or CPC Party Chief.
In the official PRC territorial claim, Hainan Province includes not just one island, but also some two hundred South China Sea Islands. Whilst the containment of the South China Sea Islands means that Hainan Province has a very large water body, it has a disproportionally small land area. James Shoal, which is presently marked by the PRC, signifies the country's southernmost border. But Malaysia also claims that it is on their continental shelf.
Hainan Province uses a slightly different administrative system than the other provinces of China. Most other provinces are divided entirely into prefecture-level divisions, each of which is then divided entirely into county-level divisions. County-level divisions generally do not come directly under the province. In Hainan, nearly all county-level divisions (the four districts excepted) come directly under the province. This method of division is due to Hainan's relatively sparse population of around 8 million people.