Today, the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its eighth collective study session, whose study content was an investigation into the building of a maritime superpower. Just now, the explanations by Zeng Heng, the deputy chief engineer of China National Offshore Oil Corporation and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and researcher Gao Zhiguo, director of the Institute of Ocean Development Strategy of the State Oceanic Administration as well as the discussion and speeches by the comrades were very good. After listening to it, I was very inspired. Next, I will discuss a few points learned from study.
The ocean is an important base for strategic resources, and there is huge potential for the exploitation of the world’s marine resources. In the 21st century, mankind has entered a period of large-scale development and utilization of the ocean. The ocean plays an even more important role in the country’s pattern of economic development and opening to the outside world. Its role in safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests has increased in prominence, its role in the construction of the nation’s ecological civilization has become more significant, and its strategic position in international political, economic, military, and technological competition has also risen significantly.
Throughout history, the development of great powers has been inseparably linked to the ocean. Some people say “The strong of the world are inevitably the victors at sea, while the weak of the world are necessarily weak at sea” (强于天下者必胜于海，衰于天下者必弱于海). For example, after the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century, some Western nations relied on advanced ocean navigation technology to open up sea routes, expand overseas colonies, control world trade, and plunder world resources, creating the important conditions that allowed them to become world powers.
The Chinese nation was one of the first nations to make use of the ocean. As early as the Spring and Autumn Period, our ancestors first conceptualized a primitive idea of sea power. At that time, Qi was called the “Land of Sea Kings”. Guan Zhong, the Chancellor of Qi, proposed the idea of a government monopoly on the “resources of the mountains and the sea” (唯官山海为可耳, state monopoly on mineral and maritime resources). He said that, if the state organizes the development of land and sea resources in a unified manner, the country can become prosperous and strong. Long ago, our ancestors opened up the “Maritime Silk Road” for communication between the East and the West. For over a thousand years, China and other countries around the world have been able to communicate with each other through maritime trade and cultural exchanges. Chinese civilization also expanded to other parts of the world along these trade routes. In the first half of the 15th century, the seven voyages of Zheng He to the Western Ocean were one of the great maritime feats in human history.
After the mid-Ming Dynasty, when the world entered the age of exploration and the West established its maritime hegemony, China’s feudal dynasty adopted a closed-door policy. Its economic and technological development was slow, and overall national power was gradually declining. During and after the Opium Wars, most of the invasions of China by Western powers came from the sea. Continuous invasion by Western powers gradually turned China into a semicolonial and semi-feudal country.
Historical experience tells us that orienting to the ocean will lead to prosperity, while abandoning the ocean will lead to decline. A strong country is a strong maritime power, and a weak country is a weak maritime power.
China is both a major land power and a major sea power. We have more than 18,000 kilometers of continental coastline, over 14,000 kilometers of island coastline, claim over 3 million square kilometers of jurisdictional waters, and have extensive maritime strategic interests. How the marine industry develops and whether marine issues are resolved well or not are linked to the survival and development of our nation as well as the rise and fall, security or danger of our country.
我国既是陆地大国，也是海洋大国，拥有1. 8万多公里大陆海岸线、1. 4万多公里岛屿岸线、300万平方公里主张管辖海域，拥有产泛的海洋战略利益。海洋事业发展得怎么样，海洋问题解决得好不好，关系我们民族生存发展，关系我们国家兴衰安危。
The party and the State have long placed a great emphasis on marine work and the development of marine undertakings. The 18th Party Congress made a major deployment for the building of a maritime superpower. This is a strategic choice made by our Party after accurately grasping the characteristics of the times and world trends, objectively analyzing the features of the development process and stage of China’s marine industry, and making overall plans for the overall situation. The implementation of this major deployment is of great and far-reaching significance for promoting sustained and healthy economic development, safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and realizing the goal of establishing a well-off society in an all-round way and thus achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
After years of development, China has established a relatively complete marine industry system, achieved major breakthroughs in marine science and technology, continuously enhanced marine resource development capabilities, gradual improved marine laws and regulations, completed the preliminary establishment of a comprehensive marine management system, and significantly enhanced the maintenance of marine rights and interests. On the whole, the marine industry has entered its best period of development in our history. These achievements have laid a solid foundation for our construction of a maritime superpower.
How should China approach the construction of a maritime superpower? This problem not only concerns us, but the international community as a whole. Some say that China’s promotion of the construction of a maritime superpower will make it into a new maritime hegemon, affecting regional stability and world peace. This worry is completely unnecessary! We will never follow the old path of colonization and plunder like some major powers in history. That path runs counter to the general trend of peaceful world development and it does not conform to the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. We adhere to the development path of sea-based national prosperity, sea-based national strength, harmony between man and the sea, and mutually beneficial cooperation. We will achieve the goal of building a maritime superpower through peaceful, development-oriented, cooperative, and mutually beneficial methods.
We must follow the development trends of international maritime affairs, focus on the overall development of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, coordinate the overall domestic and international situations, adhere to land and sea coordination, and steadily promote the building of a maritime superpower.
First, we will improve the development of marine resources and focus on promoting the transformation of the marine economy to a quality and efficient type. A developed marine economy is an important support for the construction of a maritime superpower. The marine economy has become one of the most dynamic and promising areas of economic growth for coastal countries. The development of the Chinese marine economy has made great achievements, but compared with developed countries, the scale of our economy is small, its degree of development and intensity of utilization of marine resources is not high, and the development methods are still relatively unrefined. We must improve our marine development capabilities, expand the field of marine development, and make the marine economy a new point of growth.
It is necessary to strengthen marine industry planning and guidance, optimize the structure of the marine industry, improve the quality of marine economic growth, and focus on the development and utilization of marine biological resources, seawater utilization, the marine shipbuilding industry, marine oil and gas, mineral resource exploration and exploitation, marine transportation, marine tourism, and other industries. We must implement major special projects for marine engineering and equipment, improve deep-sea exploration, development, and load-carrying capacity, cultivate and expand strategic emerging marine industries, increase the contribution rate of the marine industry to economic growth, strive to make the marine industry a pillar industry of the national economy, and contribute to the assurance of national energy security, food security, and water resources security.
Second, we will protect the marine ecological environment and strive to promote the conversion of marine development methods to recycling and reuse type. Currently, the situation of China’s coastal ecological environment is not promising, and environmental problems such as marine pollution and marine disasters are becoming increasingly apparent. If this problem is not solved well, not only will it impact sustainable economic and social development, but it will also impact social stability. We must resolutely take measures to curb the deterioration of the marine ecological environment with all our strength to significantly improve China’s marine ecological environment, allow the people to eat green, safe, and worry-free marine products, and enjoy the blue sea, blue sky, and clean beaches.
We must incorporate the construction of a marine ecological civilization into the overall layout of marine development, adhere to the principle of placing an equal emphasis on development and protection while performing pollution prevention and ecological restoration at the same time, scientifically and rationally develop and utilize marine resources, and maintain the natural reproduction capabilities of the marine environment. We must establish a total control system for marine pollution to effectively control the discharge of land-sourced pollutants into the sea at their sources. We must improve the environmental impact assessment system for marine engineering, resolutely exercise control based on environmental impact assessment results, and absolutely prevent the implementation of projects that seriously damage the marine environment. We must formulate coastline protection and utilization plans as soon as possible, strictly control land reclamation projects, protect coastal wetlands, and seriously investigate and deal with “three-sided projects” (三边工程), with simultaneous application, approval, and construction, as well as the practices of subdivision (化整为零) and ultra vires approval (越权审批). We must speed up the establishment of marine ecological compensation and ecological damage compensation systems, carry out marine restoration projects, promote the construction of marine nature reserves, and improve the emergency response mechanisms for marine environmental emergencies.
Third, we will develop marine science and technology and strive to promote the transformation of marine science and technology to innovation-led type. To build a maritime superpower, we must vigorously develop advanced marine technology. In recent years, Chinese marine science and technology have achieved some breakthroughs, and some research results have had a great impact on the international community. In general, however, marine science and technology is still a “weak link” (短腿, lit. short leg) and has difficulty meeting the development requirements of the marine industry. We must rely on scientific and technological progress and innovation and strive to break through the scientific and technological bottlenecks that impede the development of the marine economy and the protection of the marine ecosystem.
We must do a good job in overall planning for marine scientific and technological innovation, insist on doing what must be done and refraining from what must not be done, and focus on making breakthroughs in advanced marine technology in the deep-water, green, and safety fields. In particular, it is necessary to promote the research and development of core technologies and key general-purpose technologies that are urgently needed in the process of the transformation of the marine economy. It is necessary to carry out in-depth scientific investigations in open ocean and polar regions, carry out deep-sea and far–off-shore surveys and research, expand international cooperation in marine science and technology, and make preliminary preparations for the utilization of ocean and polar resources.
Fourth, we will safeguard national maritime rights and interests and strive to promote the transformation of maritime rights protection to a unified and comprehensive type. Due to complicated historical reasons, China’s surrounding waters, and especially the South China Sea, are among the regions in the world with the most disputes over island sovereignty, most acute maritime delimitation issues, most intense competition for resources, and most complicated geopolitical situation. More than half of the 3 million square kilometers of maritime jurisdiction claimed by China involve overlapping maritime claims and jurisdictional disputes with neighboring countries. Our work as regards safeguarding maritime rights and interests is facing a very complicated and serious situation. To solve this problem, we must implement unified coordination for the two overall interests of maintaining stability and safeguarding rights, insist on maintaining the unity of national sovereignty, security, and development interests, maintain maritime rights and interests in a manner corresponding to the increase in overall national strength, and achieve progress while maintaining stability.
On the one hand, we must persist in resolving disputes through peaceful methods and negotiation methods and strive to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. On the other hand, we must be prepared to deal with various complex situations, strengthen the building of forces for the protection of maritime rights and law enforcement, accelerate the pace of construction of a modernized navy, improve maritime rights protection capabilities, and resolutely safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests. We love peace and adhere to the path of peaceful development, but we must never give up our legitimate rights and interests, let alone sacrifice our country’s core interests.
We must adhere to the principles of “sovereignty belongs to us (主权属我), shelving differences, and seeking joint development,” promote mutually beneficial and friendly cooperation with ASEAN countries, find and expand the convergence of common interests by strengthening cooperation, and create the conditions for the resolution of maritime issues. At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen security dialogs, strengthen communication and coordination with relevant parties, and strive to resolve differences and eliminate misjudgments.
In short, building a maritime superpower is an important part of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must further concern ourselves with the ocean, understand the ocean, and manage the ocean so as to promote the continuous realization of new achievements in China’s construction of a maritime superpower.