Golf course construction has been booming in China. Yet, in 2004, due to stated environmental concerns, the construction of new golf courses on the mainland was banned by the Chinese government. While this official ban has not stopped the development of new courses on the mainland, the island of Hainan was specifically exempted from this ban on golf course development.
Hainan is the country's sole tropical island province, with a land area of 35,354 square kilometers and a population of 8.45 million. In 1988, Hainan was separated from Guangdong Province and became China's largest Special Economic Zone. Hainan has become a destination for considerable flows of investment from both the mainland and overseas investors. In 2010, the Central Government approved a blueprint for the development of Hainan as an international tourism island with a central component being a focus on sustainable development and ecotourism.
Simultaneously, the development of golf courses on Hainan has been identified as a means to attract wealthy tourists. The largest golf complex in the world, with 10 separate courses has been constructed, the island already has over 30 other courses with up to 300 more planned.
This paper examines the contradictions between an official central government policy banning golf course development and local officials who see land sales to developers for course construction and accompanying luxury housing as a way to boost to local revenue, between ecotourism and the negative effects of golf development, and between participatory planning and real-estate driven development.