The uncharted waters of the future

Updated: 2013-01-14 10:41

By Li Jingyu and Zhang Chenyao (China Daily)

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As world looks towards maritime sector, China cannot afford to be left behind

At different periods of time, China has variously proposed to develop itself into a powerful country in different aspects such as sports, technology and culture. During the 18th National Party Congress, the strategic plan of developing China into a maritime power was first mentioned and supported by many. In our opinion, this is quite meaningful to China's social and economic development.

The decision reflects China's ability to catch up with worldwide trends. It is an inevitable choice in China's move toward sustainable development and signals that China will be a great marine power on the world stage.

For this reason, some suggestions for the implementation of this goal need to be considered, including paying attention to the development of marine economy as this lays the material foundation for marine power; paying attention to the safety of the maritime passageway; paying attention to maritime rights and interests; emphasizing maritime innovation as it provides strategic support; and paying attention to international cooperation as it broadens China's path to becoming a maritime power.

China will gain an advantage in the maritime sector if it makes efforts in these areas.

The Chinese government seems to have been paying greater, if not unprecedented, attention to the ocean in recent years.

One aspect was enshrined in black and white in the country's 12th Five-Year Plan, a blueprint of economic and social development from 2011 to 2015.

In the 62-chapter document endorsed in March by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, "promoting the development of the ocean economy" became an independent chapter for the first time. It reads: "(China will) stick to coordinating the development of the land and the ocean, formulate and carry out the strategy of developing the ocean and enhance the ability of developing, controlling and comprehensively managing the sea."

We should realize that the 21st century is the century of the sea as people have entered into a period of nautical exploration. Explorations of the sea have paved the way for China's future development and it is part of China's strategic development that cannot be neglected.

Specifically speaking, the first important requirement for building China into a maritime power is to protect its national interests in the sea. The second is to develop a new growth engine for a balanced regional economic development. The third is to promote the unified development of the land and the sea. The fourth is to achieve sustainable development.

In an era of economic globalization, China must use its geographical advantage and actively follow up on the revolutionary trend created by marine science.

A country's competitiveness not only depends on its economy, trade and finance, but also on environment, culture, energy, military power, politics and many other elements. As countries around the world start to turn their attention to territorial waters, considered rich in resources, the importance of integrated maritime indicators is growing.

During the process of China developing into a maritime power, the world should join forces to safeguard maritime peace. If there is any maritime hegemonism, terrorism and privacy, the stability of the world's waters cannot be maintained.

One more thing that should be borne in mind is that by developing itself into a maritime power, China is not trying to make any "threat theories" mentioned by foreign powers. Because China is an influential country in the maritime sector and a permanent member of the United Nations, it has the responsibility to coordinate maritime affairs and maintain international nautical peace.

Li Jingyu is a professor and Zhang Chenyao is a researcher at Institute of Marine Development, Liaoning Normal University.