BOAO, Hainan, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Representatives from China's southern island province of Hainan and cities and provinces of ASEAN countries signed a joint initiative at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference which concluded Friday, making their commitment to jointly building a higher level of China-ASEAN strategic partnership.
The joint initiative was signed at the ASEAN-China Governors/Mayors' Dialogue which was held during the BFA annual conference in Boao, a coastal town in Hainan.
"BFA has become an important platform for Hainan to participate in the construction of the Belt and Road," said Wang Sheng, director of the province's foreign affairs office.
In recent years, Hainan has strengthened connectivity with Belt and Road (B&R) countries with a series of conferences and panel discussions, such as the ASEAN-China Governors/Mayors' Dialogue and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: Island Economic Cooperation.
Last year, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road cruise tourism program was proposed at the dialogue to promote the development of cruise tourism.
So far, Hainan has opened a total of 14 cruise routes to Vietnam, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries and cities.
The dialogue this year, with the theme "ASEAN-China Connectivity and Hainan Free Trade Port," emphasizes connectivity between China and ASEAN countries both on the sea and in the air.
A four-hour flight from Hainan could take one to 21 Asian countries and regions, and an eight-hour flight to 59 countries and regions in Asia, Oceania, Europe and Africa.
"We hope to build a platform to push forward the opening of direct flights between Chiang Mai and Hainan," said Viroon Phantevee, vice governor of Chiang Mai, Thailand at this year's dialogue.
BFA has also pushed forward cooperation between Hainan and B&R countries, with an array of projects carried out in recent years.
For example, projects on sharing the seed production technology of a rice breed have been carried out between Hainan and several ASEAN countries. With the technology promoted at previous ASEAN-China Governors/Mayors' Dialogue, nearly 100 experts now come to Hainan to learn about the breed and related technology each year.
So far, 550,000 hectares of hybrid rice has been planted in the Philippines, 2.5 million hectares in India, 330,000 hectares in Pakistan, 700,000 hectares in Vietnam and 200,000 hectares in Indonesia.
"Hainan has played an important role in the cooperation on seed production among ASEAN countries," Wang said.
At this year's dialogue, a series of cooperation projects have also been reached, including one on industry and information between Hainan and the Republic of Korea and another on animal husbandry with Sweden.
With the opportunities that BFA has provided, Hainan has sought more international cooperation, with its number of friendship cities reaching 60 and more to come.
BFA will better serve the Belt and Road Initiative and panel discussions will be held on the Hainan free trade zone and the reform, institutional innovation, investment and trade facilitation, business environment, and ecological development of the free trade port, Wang said.
"Hainan will continue to hold conferences and discussions to push forward practical cooperation in areas of health, blue economy, tourism, culture, education, technology, tropical agriculture and seed production," he said.