The Academy of Ocean of China and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences recently held a joint forum on maritime strategy. Following are excerpts from the presentations made by five scholars at the forum:
Maritime rules have to be improved
China should play a leading role in reshaping the world maritime order and, based on this, expeditiously build itself into a strong maritime country, in order to boost its socialist modernization drive with Chinese characteristics across the seas.
The report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October says that in the process of becoming a strong maritime country, China should make the promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative a key task, because it aims to build a community of shared future for humankind based on the principles of "consultation, co-building and sharing" and help develop a new type of international relations.
China should also make clear that the new type of international relations would be developed on the basis of a new national security and development perspective, so as to realize the goals of cooperation, common development and win-win results. Such diplomatic principles constitute China's basic maritime governance philosophy, which can facilitate the realization of its strong maritime country strategy.
The world's current maritime laws are the result of a compromise between cooperation and confrontation in the international community and thus are ambiguous besides having inherent limitations. And given their limitations on the jurisdiction claims of littoral states and the general contention of rights by other countries, such as freedom of navigation and flight, and its perceptive and technical limitations on such new issues as the genetic sources of marine biodiversity, the extant maritime laws need to be changed in a bid to better promote human development.
In fact, there are already calls to restrict the freedom of navigation in the high seas and strengthen the role of international agencies to conduct comprehensive maritime management. Whether these ideas and claims will be recognized by the international community and incorporated into the maritime laws remains to be seen.
Against this backdrop, China should transform its role and orientation to help reshape the world maritime order, by making it more comprehensive, and playing a leading role in maintaining the new order and creating an environment favorable to the realization of its strong maritime country strategy. For example, China should transform its role from an observer, maintainer and executor of maritime rules to a maker, maintainer and supervisor of the new rules.
By being clear about its role and aims, China can help transform the maritime rules to promote comprehensive sea management and realize sustainable and integrated human-marine development. As such, China should adhere to the integrated land-sea development principle, and expedite the implementation of its strong maritime country strategy to help improve the prevailing maritime system on a bilateral, regional and multilateral basis.
Better safeguard rising overseas interests
China's efforts to become a strong maritime country, as mapped out by the report of the 19th National Congress of the CPC, are an important part of the country's strategy to achieve national rejuvenation. However, during this process, China will have great opportunities as well as face huge challenges. Therefore, China has to be prepared to overcome crises, by strengthening top-level design and comprehensive strategic arrangements to better protect its maritime rights and interests, and advance international cooperation.
Some of China's current maritime rights and interests face huge challenges. Closer to its coasts, some of China's sovereign islands and reefs have been occupied, its coastal resources exploited and maritime information stolen by other countries. In the open sea, some non-traditional maritime threats are on the rise, such as piracy and terrorist activities, which pose a serious threat to the safety of China's marine research and transport vessels.
The maritime containment strategies adopted by some Western countries against China in the past, too, pose a potential threat to the safety of China's waterways.
China also has to better safeguard its expanding overseas rights and interests. Especially since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, China's overseas interests have been growing rapidly, not just in the economic field, but also in financial, technological, political and diplomatic fields. The Belt and Road Initiative involves 65 countries across Asia and Europe, and it is expected to cover more in the future.
The ever-increasing common interests with the countries along the Belt and Road and other stakeholders will not only enhance China's comprehensive national strength but also create more opportunities for these countries and greatly boost their people's well-being. The economic cooperation measures jointly advanced by China and the relevant countries based on the principles of "consultation, co-building and sharing" may also bring about changes to the established regional economic, even political, landscape. And this could challenge some traditional powers' existing spheres of influence and thus make them uncomfortable, even anxious.