Home OPINIONS China’s strategy of making oceans our second home

China’s strategy of making oceans our second home

The symposium on the 2023 Global Maritime Cooperation and Ocean Governance opened on November 8 in Sanya, south China’s Hainan Province. More than 300 experts, scientists, representatives of international organisations and relevant maritime departments from more than 30 countries and regions attended the two-day forum. Numerous topics were discussed including challenges to global ocean governance, and the sustainable development of marine fisheries.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a keynote address titled, “Working Together to Make Our Oceans a Peaceful, Tranquil, Clean and Beautiful Home with Fairness, Justice and Prosperity.” He noted that oceans are an important foundation for humanity’s survival and development, and a natural arena for exchanges between civilizations.

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Today, the world yearns to strengthen maritime cooperation and improve ocean governance. Maritime development faces unprecedented risks and challenges. Cold War mentality and zero-sum game are threatening peace and stability at sea, climate change and overexploitation are undermining the ocean’s sustainable development, environment pollution and willful discharge are damaging the clean and beautiful marine environment, and natural disasters and illegal activities of piracy are disrupting the tranquility and order of the oceans.

Oceans are the common home of humanity, whose development and preservation require our joint efforts. With great foresight and for the common interests of China and the world, and the well-being of humanity, President Xi Jinping proposed the building of a maritime community with a shared future, charting the course for global ocean governance and providing China’s solution to developing and protecting the beautiful and prosperous oceans as our home.

To achieve this vision, we must stay committed to dialogue and consultation, and safeguard maritime peace and tranquility. It is important to take the legitimate concerns of all countries seriously, settle disputes and disagreements through dialogue and consultation, continuously improve emergency communication mechanisms, and step up regional security cooperation so as to build solid and truly lasting maritime security.

Historical disputes over maritime territorial rights and interests should be resolved through friendly and direct consultation between the parties concerned. Bloc confrontation and zero-sum game at sea must be firmly rejected. China will continue to work with ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the DOC, agree on a COC at an early date, and foster a peaceful and secure order in the South China Sea.

We must uphold fairness and justice, and improve the ocean governance system. Ocean governance would not be possible without common rules, and rules must be rooted in fairness and justice to be effective. We should practice true multilateralism and promote just and reasonable international ocean governance.

China promised to firmly uphold the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law. It will continue to comprehensively participate in the maritime rulemaking and implementation of governance mechanisms under the UN framework, and earnestly honour its obligations under the international law of the sea including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Meanwhile, many new issues and challenges have arisen in the implementation of UNCLOS which came into force nearly 30 years ago. Wang Yi noted that we need to take a fact-based approach, keep abreast with the times and further develop the Convention to make it more equitable.

The South China Sea arbitration is an example of political manipulation of the international rule of law of the sea. Since then, it has undermined the atmosphere for maritime peace and cooperation in the region, eroded the basic values of fairness and justice, and should be a cause for alarm and be rejected by the international community.

We need to prioritise ecological conservation to preserve clean and beautiful oceans. To a great extent, sustainable development of humanity depends on the health of the ocean. As President Xi Jinping puts it, “we should cherish the ocean as we treat our lives.” China attaches great importance to the conservation of marine ecology, pursues a green and low-carbon path to development that prioritises ecological conservation, commits itself to tackling climate change and enhancing mitigation and preparedness of disasters, and opposes the discharge of nuclear contaminated water, making its own contribution to sustainable development of the ocean in the world.

China took an active part in negotiations on the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Agreement, and was among the first to sign it. China will adhere to the sustainable use of fishery resources, continue the fishing moratorium arrangements and take resolute countermeasures against illegal fishing.

We need to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation for maritime prosperity. The oceans connect the world, and should be a bond that facilitates exchanges and cooperation among countries, not a block that decouples, disrupts supply chains or isolates one from another. We should uphold the vision of mutually beneficial cooperation so that all parties can share development opportunities and achievements.

Based on the principle of planning together, building together and benefiting together, China will work with all parties to pursue high-quality Maritime Silk Road cooperation and Blue Economy Partnership. China will continue to step up infrastructure cooperation with other countries on such fields as ports and submarine fiber optic cables, safeguard the safety of sea routes, and steadily enhance maritime connectivity.

Since ancient times, China has cherished the pursuit of “tranquil seas, clear rivers and a peaceful world,” and the open mind as tolerant as the ocean as it is “vast enough to admit hundreds of rivers.” The world should uphold the vision of building a maritime community with a shared future, and work towards peaceful, prosperous and beautiful oceans shared by all countries.

 

Stephen Ndegwa
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