The tower was topped out in 2009 and it became operational on 29 September 2010 for the 2010 Asian Games. The tower briefly held the title of tallest tower in the world, replacing the CN Tower, before being surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree. It was the tallest structure in China prior to the topping out of Shanghai Tower on 3 August 2013. It is now the second tallest tower and the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.
There had been a long discussion about the naming of the Canton Tower since the commencement of its construction in 2005 after the groundbreaking ceremony. In September 2009, at the request of the tower's investor, Guangzhou Daily launched a contest for naming proposals.
The contest attracted over 180,000 valid entries, among which "Haixin Tower" was awarded the first prize. The name alluded to the city's historical setting as the start of the Maritime Silk Road and the tower's geographical proximity to Haixinsha Island. However, this name was considered obscure to people unfamiliar with the history of the city.
Local residents continued to refer to the tower by various nicknames including "Slim Waist", "Twisted Firewood" and "Yangdianfeng" ( literally: "Peak of the Ram City"; homophonic to "epilepsy" in colloquial Chinese).
The Canton tower's twisted shape or hyperboloid structure corresponds to the Russian Empire patent No. 1896, dated 12 March 1899 received by Vladimir Shukhov, the Russian engineer and architect.The structure is similar to the Adziogol Lighthouse (designed by Vladimir Shukhov in 1910) in Ukraine's Dnepr delta.
The indoor public observatory is 449 m above the ground, which takes the form of a terraced elliptical space, roughly half the size of a standard football field. Opened in December 2011, the rooftop at 488 m was the highest and largest outdoor observation deck in the world, taking over the title from the observation deck of Burj Khalifa at 452m. This remained the case until 14 October 2014, when the record of highest outdoor observatory was retaken by Burj Khalifa when it opened its new observatory called At The Top - Sky, at a height of 555m.