HONG Kong, Macau and nine mainland provinces in south China have agreed to hasten development of the South China Sea, as the country targets a stronger marine economy.
 
Members of the Pan-Pearl River Delta region, which has led China’s export-oriented economy for nearly three decades, have signed a cooperative agreement to develop the South China Sea.
 
Fishing will be prioritized, including the establishment of joint fishing fleets and fishery supply bases in the new city of Sansha, according to the agreement.
 
The region will act as a bridgehead for the country to build itself into a maritime power, said Wang Hong, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration.
 
Wang said the PPRD had opened an important window for China to participate in globalization and would continue to serve as a base for China to protect and exploit the South China Sea and safeguard its maritime rights and interests.
 
President Hu Jintao said last month that China should enhance its capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safeguard the country’s maritime rights and interests and build itself into a maritime power.
 
The government’s determination to develop the marine economy has resulted in a series of efforts, including the establishment of Sansha City in July and the State Council’s approval of maritime zoning plans submitted by Guangdong and Hainan provinces for the 2011-2020 period, as well as its approval of a five-year plan for maritime economic development from 2011 to 2015.
 
However, China’s exploitation of its maritime territory is still at a relatively low level, said Luo Liang, a marine economics researcher at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.
 
Data from the Hainan Provincial Fishery Research Institute indicated that the potential fish catch in waters administered by Sansha adds up to 5 million tons, with fishermen able to sustainably catch 2 million tons a year. However, the actual catch stands at just 80,000 tons a year.
 
Oil and gas deposits lying under the ocean are also waiting to be explored.
 
The South China Sea’s oil reserves are estimated to be around 23 to 30 billion tons, with gas reserves believed to total about 16 trillion cubic meters, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources.
 
In late August, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation opened 26 new offshore blocks for development in cooperation with foreign companies, 22 of them in the South China Sea.
 
Emerging maritime industries, such as offshore wind power and tidal power projects, will create new growth in the marine economy, Liu Rongzi, an expert from the China Institute for Marine Affairs, said.
 
Emerging maritime industries saw a 25 percent annual growth rate in the 2006-2010 period, exceeding the marine economy’s overall growth rate of 13.5 percent.
 
By the end of 2015, emerging industries will account for 20 percent of the entire sector, Liu said.
 
 

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