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Haikou originally served as the port for Qiongshan, the ancient administrative capital of Hainan island which is located 5 km inland.
In the 13th century it was fortified and became a military post under the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The port is located west of the mouth of the Nandu, Hainan's principal river.


When Qiongshan was opened to foreign trade under the Treaty of Tianjin (1858), Haikou started to rival the old administrative city.


In 1926, Haikou overtook Qiongshan in population and in the 1930s it was declared a separate administrative county.


Haikou developed as a port during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) when the Japanese invaded and occupied Hainan Island from early 1939 to 1945.


Since 1949, Haikou has maintained its position as Hainan's main port, handling more than half of the island's total trade. It has replaced Qiongshan as the island's administrative capital.


In 1988, Haikou was made a prefecture-level city as well as the capital of the newly-created Hainan Province.


Administrative districts
Longhua District ,Xiuying District ,Qiongshan District ,Meilan District


A UN environmental survey listed Haikou as having the 5th best air quality out of 160 surveyed cities. The air quality in Haikou rates, on average, 28 on the air quality index, ranking the city number one in China among medium and large sized cities.


The groundwater is of international standard, and is classified as mineral water.

In 1995, the Haikou city government began an initiative to improve the quality of life for its residents. With the approval of the World Health Organization, and China's Ministry of Health, a ten-point plan was undertaken to address such issues as:

Community health care, Vaccinations for children, Waste recycling, Greenbelts and urban trees .Environmentally friendly construction, Public toilets, Sewage treatment, Communications, Noise pollution .


By 2004, the city had established 43 new community health service centers reaching 85 percent of the population. The initiative has increased the size of Haikou's green spaces to 2,000 hectares, with trees lining 40 percent of its roads. Noise pollution has dropped from 61.1db to 58.2db. 300 public toilets have been built. All industrial effluents, industrial waste water and solid waste, and all live sewage, is now processed through centralized treatment centers, and is disposed of without environmental impact. These improvements and others have increased life expectancy in Haikou to 78.26 years.


Haikou city has also built 163 model ecological villages. Now, over 200,000 villagers in 933 villages have tap water in their homes.


Haikou received 4.11 million tourists in 2002, up 7.99 percent from 2001. The city earned approximately three billion Yuan (361 million US dollars) from the tourism industry during that period, up 11 percent from the previous year.


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