Sanya JournalBy AMY QINDecember 9, 2017

SANYA, China — While the white-sand beaches and five-star international resorts are meant to be the main attraction, for the hundreds of thousands of Chinese retirees who descend upon this tropical city every winter, dancing on the seaside boardwalk is often the real draw.

On a recent, balmy morning, palm trees swayed along the beachfront promenade as gray-haired dancers twirled and sashayed about. Retired men in head-to-toe Hawaiian print and women in floppy hats and flowery skirts sat on wheelchairs and folding stools, exchanging gossip over card games. Nearby, singers took turns belting out Mao-era favorites on an outdoor karaoke machine.

Nearly every corner of the promenade was occupied by older snowbirds looking to escape the dreary, bone-chilling winter of the north. And here, in this seaside city on Hainan island, the southernmost edge of China, was their wintertime paradise.

Welcome to China’s Florida.

“Oh, we absolutely love it here,” said Xu Yan, 70, sporting a dyed perm and big sunglasses as she sat beneath a palm tree near a gaggle of ballroom dancers.

Splayed out on a pink towel next to Ms. Xu was her companion, a toothless white Chihuahua named Maomao, who was burying his snout into a mound of torn-up hot dog pieces. Every winter for the past 13 years, Ms. Xu, a retired airline worker, and Maomao have left their home in the frigid northeastern city of Harbin to stay in Sanya.

Like Ms. Xu and Maomao, more than half of the nearly 400,000 retired snowbirds who flock to Sanya every year are said to hail from China’s northeast.

China’s population is rapidly aging; experts predict that by 2055, 400 million Chinese — or about a quarter of the country’s population — will be over age 65. And dramatically improved life expectancy and rising incomes have afforded these older people

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