There is a story about Sanya (Hainan Province) in the New York Times today:

We went to Sanya when our friends from Sweden came down for a visit. It was a nice trip, not crowded, sunnny and warm, etc. We stayed at the Marriott which is a bit out of town – not at all close to much of the development discussed in the article. In fact, I was surprised by what the Times is portraying as a land grab in Sanya – maybe we were there in the off season, maybe we were too far of the beaten track to notice?

At any rate, we did see bags of money, literally. And not justice RMB, dollars, too. Stacks of $100s in bags.

And the other thing made clear in this article, and the reason why Sanya will struggle as a world class destination even while it brings China’s billionaires, is that piecemeal and sketchy development practices will produce a sterile destination will glitz but no substance.

A brief comparison with Phuket will make my point clear. The beach in Phuket is touristy, loaded with premium resorts, yet it is also full of local shops and restaurants. In Sanya, they cleared out the real people. The beach is empty except for the tourists, their reclining chairs, and a few high end restaurants affiliated with the hotel standing behind it. The tourist sites (e.g. underwater boat cruise, butterfly garden) were nothing to write home about. Our trip was a success thanks in no small part to the local restaurant we found, and the kids club at the hotel, of course. To put it bluntly, the type of China you find in Sanya (e.g. see photo of wealthy Chinese on yacht smoking cigar) is not the type of China you want to fly halfway around the world to experience.

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