Maritime: Qingdao looks forward to an ocean of growth

Updated: 2014-07-09 07:26

By Xie Chuanjiao and Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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Maritime: Qingdao looks forward to an ocean of growth
Agents from the Huangdao Inspection and Quarantine Bureau check imported cars in the New Area. YU FANGPING / FOR CHINA DAILY 
Marine strategy

Liu Cigui, head of the State Oceanic Administration, said the new zone will strengthen innovation and the role of businesses in China's new maritime strategy.

"The marine industries are an important pillar in the development of a maritime power," he told a forum in Beijing in May. "By setting up zones focused on the marine economy and raising specific funds, we will help businesses gain a bigger say in the nation's endeavors to upgrade maritime technology."

Ecopark aims to develop the perfect environment

The Qingdao Sino-German Ecopark, the only joint project between the Chinese and German governments, will strive to promote cutting-edge, environmentally friendly technology for the marine industries, its managers said.

The park, in the Qingdao West Coast New Area, will develop a number of ocean sectors, including marine biological businesses, maritime energy surveys and exploitation, monitoring of the marine environment, and desalination projects, according to Liu Wen, an official from the park's management committee.

"We have organized 34 promotional events in Europe to attract investment," Liu said. "But businesses that are unable to meet our environmental standards won't be invited."

Several German companies involved in the fields of marine biology and ocean technology have already started to build facilities in the park, she said.

The park is cooperating with Wolfgang Feist, co-originator of "passive housing" - energy efficient, solar-powered buildings - to run a trial of ultralow-energy structures and then industrialize them to help reduce the buildings' ecological footprints.

Construction of the park, which covers 11.6 square kilometers, began at the end of 2011 after the project was endorsed by then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The construction of 13 commercial platforms, including a German Enterprise Promotion Plaza, is progressing well, according to the authorities.

To maintain harmonious ecological development in the park, the management committee used assessment systems produced by the German Sustainable Building Council to produce a comprehensive set of indexes to gauge the park's consumption of energy and resources, it's reduction of pollution, and a number of other eco-friendly measures.

More than 7,600 residents of 15 villages who were relocated to make way for the park will be given new apartments featuring green and energy-saving technologies, according to Zong Bo, a management committee official, who said construction of the local infrastructure will be completed in 2015, and the park will be fully operational in 2020. 

By Xie Chuanjiao and Zhao Lei

Last week, he told reporters that China would go further and deeper into the ocean to expand the country's maritime interests. The importance of the move is indicated by its inclusion in one of the government's most important documents - the report to the 18th CPC National Congress, held in November 2012, which will guide the nation's direction in the coming years.

The report stipulated: "We should improve our capacity to exploit marine resources, develop the marine economy, protect the ocean environment, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power".

In a speech at a maritime cooperation forum in Athens, Greece, on June 20, Premier Li Keqiang said the ocean has played an indispensable role in the history of Chinese civilization, and helped forge connections with other nations.

"China is willing to work with other ocean-driven countries to forge partnerships in oceanic affairs," Li told the audience. "We will join hands in opening maritime routes, developing ocean economies, exploiting the resources, and exploring unknown parts of the ocean."

Looking to the ocean

In June, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved the establishment of the New Area in the Huangdao district of Qingdao. 

In the development plan for the area, the National Development and Reform Commission said it will "pilot innovation in marine technology, serve as a strategic base for deep-sea and offshore exploration, and become a pioneer in international cooperation for the marine economy".

The New Area, on the west coast of Jiaozhou Bay, covering 2,096 square km of land and about 5,000 square km of ocean, is the second National New Area dedicated to the development of the maritime industries, following the Zhoushan Archipelago New Area in Zhejiang province, established in 2011. It's expected to be ranked third, in terms of annual gross product, among China's nine national new areas, after the Tianjin Binhai New Area and the Pudong New Area in Shanghai.

Wang Jianxiang, Party chief of the Qingdao West Coast New Area, said the territory lies between the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster and the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone, and is at the eastern end of the Eurasian Land Bridge, the overland rail link between East Asia and Europe, which provides a "superb geographic advantage".

The fact that Qingdao has seven national-level oceanographic research institutes, including the Ocean University of China, will add momentum to the area's sustainable development, Wang added, noting that the city is also home to China's only manned deep-sea submersible, The Jiaolong, and the nation's most advanced oceanographic survey vessel, The Science.

The new zone's two deepwater ports are capable of handling as much as 700 million tons of cargo a year.

With these advantages, it aims to reach a gross product of 500 billion yuan in 2020, and to ensure the output of the marine industries will rise by 15 percent annually, Wang said.

Wang, who is also Qingdao's deputy mayor, said the approval of the New Area is expected to lead to another round of development in the city.

"Qingdao now has unprecedented opportunities to upgrade its industries and reinvent itself as a global city with a vibrant marine-related economy," he added.

'Abundant opportunities'

"Everyone who has visited our company is now aware of the close connections between their lives and the ocean," said Li Kechang, vice-president of Qingdao Bright Moon Seaweed Group.

"The noodles we eat, the soft drinks we like, the medicines we take, and the cotton clothes we wear - none of them can be made without materials produced from seaweed," he said. "Trust me, almost every one of our daily necessities is connected to our products."

The company, which began as a tiny marine-chemicals plant, has grown to become the world's biggest enterprise in seaweed-based products, developing and manufacturing a wide range of items such as alginate, functional sugar alcohol, biomedical materials and marine-based cosmetics.

"As people become increasingly concerned about quality of life, our products, which are totally green and organic, will embrace a much bigger market," Li said. "The New Area is determined to boost the marine economy, so it will depend heavily on the maritime biological sector, offering us abundant opportunities."

In 2013, China's maritime industries generated 5.43 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 7.6 percent a year, according to the State Oceanic Administration.

In 2013, the gross oceanic product accounted for 9.5 percent of China's GDP, and more than 35 million people were employed in maritime-related jobs. The New Area's establishment should see the gross oceanic product account for 10 percent of national GDP next year.

Zhao Yingmin, head of the Huangdao Science and Technology Bureau, said the new zone will offer strong support to high-tech enterprises by facilitating cutting-edge research.

"We will work with research institutions and enterprises to develop unmanned submersibles to meet the pressing demand for deep-sea and offshore exploration," Zhao said.

"This will be the engine for the area's growth, and enable Chinese companies to take the lead in the field of marine robotics."

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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