China's "blue economy" development is picking up speed, driven by central government approval of maritime development zones in coastal regions, experts said Wednesday.
The State Council, or China's cabinet, approved zoning plans for eight major coastal regions for the 2011-2020 period on Tuesday.
Li Mousheng, an official from the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), confirmed that the eight regions include the coastal provinces of Shandong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Liaoning and Hebei, as well as Tianjin municipality and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
The move signals that the development of the "blue economy," described by experts as a marine-based economy, has been raised to an unprecedented strategic level in China, said Liu Shuguang, a professor with the School of Economics affiliated with the Ocean University of China.
Maritime zoning will provide a workable basis for the effective protection of the oceanside environment, as well as the rational exploitation of related resources, said Liu.
In August, several coastal provinces released maritime economy development plans, with the goal of realizing an accumulative output value of 7.05 trillion yuan (1.1 trillion U.S. dollars) by 2015, a report in Wednesday's China Securities Journal said.
Building new residences and tourism projects on land reclaimed from the ocean will not aid the sustainable development of the marine economy, Prof. Liu said, adding that China should strike a balance between exploitation and protection of marine resources.
China should exploit the ocean by considering it as a whole, including its water and resources buried deep in the sea, instead of considering it as an extension of the land, said Prof. Liu.
Developing the marine economy can serve as a source of economic growth for the time being, Prof. Liu said, adding that China should still make sure to maintain regional ecology when developing its maritime economy.
He suggested that the central government should form an environmental protection plan at the state level to be used side-by-side with related zoning approvals.
In 2011, the State Council approved three maritime economy development plans, paving the way for the country's blue economy to develop.
The gross output value of China's marine economy in 2011 reached 4,557 billion yuan, up 10.4 percent year on year, according to the SOA.