China launches first ocean economic zone

Updated: 2011-02-19 11:01


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BEIJING - China's first ocean economic zone in the coastal province of Shandong was inaugurated Friday when it signed contracts worth $38.6 billion, signaling the country is enlarging its economic focus from the land to cover the ocean, as well.

The Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone inked at a promotional conference in Beijing a package of contacts that include 23 programs valued at 255 billion yuan ($38.6 billion).

The programs covered agricultural technology, new energy utilization, international logistics, tourism and culture, said Fei Yunliang, head of the construction office of the economic zone.

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One program is a joint project by Wendeng county government and Hong Kong-based Shiwei Co Ltd to develop islands in the Nanhai district into a tourist destination, said Fei.

The project's first phase would cost about 5 billion yuan and is scheduled to be completed in 2013, Fei said.

The Shandong provincial government also signed strategic cooperation agreements with 12 banks, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and six insurance firms to support construction of the economic zone.

In the meantime, the government will speed up construction of the infrastructure, such as multi-layer traffic networks and an energy supply system.

The provincial government will allocate 2 billion yuan this year to support the construction of the zone.

The Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone is one of three regional ocean economic zones approved by the State Council in April last year as pilot zones for the development of China's marine economy.

The economic zone covers all the offshore waters of Shandong province with an area of 159,500 square kilometers.

It also covers 64,000 square kilometers of land that includes six cities - Qingdao, Dongying, Yantai, Weifang, Weihai and Rizhao - and two coastal counties in Shandong.

The State Council approved the development plan for the economic zone on Jan 4 as part of the national development strategy.

According to the plan, the Shandong provincial government will coordinate the development of its land and marine economies and strengthen exploitation, especially in emerging marine industries.

Addressing the promotional conference, Wang Gang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said the zone's development plan is China's first regional development strategy to focus on the marine economy.

Wang said the zone's development is in line with national interests and would facilitate the transformation of the economic growth mode and contribute to achieving the balanced development of the country's regions.

Zheng Guibin, deputy director with the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences, said the land economy and marine economy are mutually supported and, thus, should be given the same priorities for synergies.

Shen Zhiyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said the ability to utilize marine resources is crucial for a country's economic prosperity and success.

China has abundant marine resources, with its 3 million square kilometers of offshore waters and 32,000 kilometers of coastline.

Further, China has a proven marine oil reserve of 24.6 billion tonnes and natural gas reserve of 1.6 billion cubic meters.

However, the marine economy accounts for no more than 10 percent of China's gross domestic product (GDP), and it is mainly centered on traditional industries such as fishing, transport and tourism, which together account for two-thirds of the total marine output.

Emerging industries, including marine-related biomedicine, power, chemicals and seawater utilization, only account for five percent of marine output.


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