China to build first ever ocean economic zone to boost marine economy

BEIJING: China has launched its first-ever ocean economic zone in the coastal province of Shandong  when it signed contracts worth 38.6 billion U.S. dollars, signaling the country is enlarging its economic focus from the land to cover the ocean, as well. The Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone signed a package of contracts at a promotional conference here Friday that included 23 programs valued at 255 billion yuan (38.6 billion U.S. dollars).The programs covers agricultural technology, new energy utilization, international logistics, tourism and culture, said Fei Yunliang, head of the construction office of the economic zone.One program is a joint project by Wendeng County government and Hong Kong-based Shiwei Co., Ltd. to develop islands in the Nanhai District into a tourist destination, said Fei.The project’s first phase would cost about 5 billion yuan (758 million dollars) and is scheduled to be completed in 2013, Fei said.The Shandong provincial government also signed strategic cooperation agreements with 12 banks, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and six insurance firms to support construction of the economic zone.In the meantime, the government will speed up construction of the infrastructure, such as multi-layer traffic networks and an energy supply system.The provincial government will allocate 2 billion yuan (303 million dollars) this year to support the construction of the zone.The Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone is one of three regional ocean economic zones approved by the State Council, or the Cabinet, in April last year as pilot zones for the development of China’s marine economy.The economic zone covers all the offshore waters of Shandong Province with an area of 159,500 square kilometers.It also covers 64,000 square kilometers of land that includes six cities—Qingdao, Dongying, Yantai, Weifang, Weihai and Rizhao—and two coastal counties in Shandong.The State Council approved the development plan for the economic zone on Jan. 4 as part of the national development strategy.According to the plan, the Shandong government will coordinate the development of its land and marine economies and strengthen exploitation, especially in emerging marine industries.China has abundant marine resources, with its 3 million square kilometers of offshore waters and 32,000 kilometers of coastline.Further, China has a proven marine oil reserve of 24.6 billion tonnes and natural gas reserve of 1.6 billion cubic meters.However, the marine economy accounts for no more than 10 percent of China’s gross domestic product (GDP), and it is mainly centered on traditional industries such as fishing, transport and tourism, which together account for two-thirds of the total marine output.Emerging industries, including marine-related biomedicine, power,  chemicals and seawater utilization, only account for 5 percent of marine output – APP