Hainan to urge exploitation of waters

By Jiang Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-11 0:48:01

South China's Hainan Province will launch a pilot program this year that encourages people to bid for the rights to exploit the waters in the South China Sea, with analysts believing the move is intended to safeguard territorial sovereignty.

Zhang Jun, director of the provincial department of ocean and fisheries, was quoted by China National Radio as saying that the pilot program will be started in territorial waters with huge market demands.

The rights include 13 types of marine exploitation, including aquaculture, transportation, energy and mineral resources exploration and tourism, according to the State Ocean Administration (SOA).

Zhang noted that the approval process of territorial waters and uninhabited islands will be improved and a bidding or auction system for land reclamation and uninhabited islands will also be drafted, while authorities vow to supervise all development projects.

The SOA vowed in January to push forward the marketization of the development of islands and territorial waters.

"There should be less government intervention in resource allocation and they should give full play to the market to create motivation for the marine economy," Liu Cigui, head of the SOA, was quoted as saying by the Shanghai Securities News.

Wang Xiaopeng, a maritime border expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that it is natural that Hainan plays a leading role in market development of territorial waters as it is the largest marine province in China.

"While such economic measures aren't the same as policies regarding sovereignty over the waters, they will make a de facto contribution to safeguarding the sovereign rights of the disputed waters," Wang noted.

According to a report released by the China Institute for Marine Affairs, the ocean, with its affluent resources, has become the new target of competition among different countries.

The report stressed that the ability to explore and exploit the sea will help build experience and boost overall maritime security.

Wang said that China has proven its technological capability in deepwater oil and gas exploration in the Nansha Islands and once access to the market is relaxed, it will attract more investors.

Similarly, development of marine fish culture in cages led by the central government has been successful in the Zhongsha Islands.

More than 3,500 territorial water development projects have been approved in Hainan since 1988, which are mainly focused on fishery, transportation, industry and tourism.

The marine development blueprint (2011-20) has divided its territorial waters into more than 200 functional zones, with energy exploration included, according to the website of the local fishery department.

"The projects are very likely to promote the development of the city of Sansha in Hainan and they will also play key roles in protecting China's marine resources of the South China Sea," Wang noted. 

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