Trade Resources Policy & Opinion China Builds ´Blue Engine´ with Belt and Road Countries

China Builds ´Blue Engine´ with Belt and Road Countries

2.3 (3 Votes)

The National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, and the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) jointly issued a document entitled "The Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative" on June 20, saying that China is willing to work closely with countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, engage in all-dimensional and broad-scoped maritime cooperation, build open and inclusive cooperation platforms, and establish a constructive and pragmatic Blue Partnership to forge a "blue engine" for sustainable development.

The document says that ocean cooperation will focus on building of three blue economic passages: the China-Indian Ocean-Africa-Mediterranean Sea Blue Economic Passage, the China-Oceania-South Pacific Blue Economic Passage and one leading up to Europe via the Arctic Ocean.

Zhai Kun, a researcher with Ocean Research Institute at Peking University, said oceans represent a key direction of China's future cooperation with the world. Many countries along the Belt and Road have coastlines, so strengthening maritime cooperation with them could ensure closer ties between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Zhai noted, "The document signals another measure taken by China to promote global interconnectivity. Development of mechanisms for cooperation among port cities and for conducting joint maritime search and rescue will further facilitate maritime transportation, boost the development of marine economy and bridge regional development gaps."

Currently, many ports in China's provincial-level regions, including Guangxi, Guangdong and Hainan, have opened shipping routes to and formed friendly ties with ports in Singapore, Thailand, India and other countries along the Belt and Road.

The China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network, which includes the Beibu Gulf ports in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, now covers 47 ports of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The first seven projects under the network are advancing smoothly and some of them have begun to serve the maritime transport between China and the ASEAN countries.

According to the document, the Blue Partnership is an effective way for promoting ocean cooperation. Efforts will be exerted to promote policy coordination, deepen common understanding, enhance mutual political trust, build bilateral and multilateral cooperative mechanisms and to jointly participate in ocean governance, so as to provide the institutional framework for ocean cooperation.

Zhuang Guotu, head of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, said maritime economy, especially port logistics, is an important aspect in deepening cooperation between China and countries along the Road.

Zhuang said, "More than 60 percent of trade between China and the ASEAN countries is realized via port logistics. Shipping routes to the Belt and Road countries dominate major routes of such Chinese provincial-level regions as Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi."

As cooperation between China and Belt and Road countries deepens in various areas including trade, investment and tourism, it is an irresistible trend to promote maritime interconnectivity and expand cooperation in port industry, maritime shipping, logistics, informatization and human resources.

"Development of the port industry has the potential to become a 'blue engine' in economic cooperation between China and countries along the Road, and help relevant countries improve their industrialization level," Zhuang added.

Maritime cooperation is a systemic project that entails dynamic analysis, foresight in strategic planning, effective risk control and effect evaluation by all partners, Zhai added. 

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