The idea of a city in the ocean populated by people capable of swimming around as freely as fish is more than a dream: Chinese marine scientists predict it will be a reality, and possibly by the end of this century.
This was one of the predictions put forward by four prominent marine scientists -- Yuan Yeli, Tang Qisheng, Xiang Jianhai, and Gao Shu – in a televised forum on the ocean that included discussion of the the potential changes to human life that marine science will make over the next 100 years.
All four scientists are involved with China’s key “973” research project, a key national basic research project ratified in March 1997 by the State Council, China’s cabinet. Sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it aims to select and support various research programs across the nation. So far, more than 60 projects have been ratified, including four marine projects.
“The ocean in the 21st century will be a digital ocean,” said Yuan Yeli, director of the First Institute of Oceanology under the State Oceanic Administration. As an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Science, Yuan predicted that in the future people will drive their private boats to take a long ocean journey, during which they can check out on the Internet navigation routes and related information such as climate and other features of their destinations.
Tang Qisheng, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and director of the Huanghai Marine Products Institute under the Chinese Institute of Aquaculture, believes that in the years to come marine products will enrich people’s diets, providing humans with more and better food. The distinguished ecologist also said that the 21st century will be a century characterized by multi-discipline and cross-discipline research which will generate many new marine sciences.
Xiang Jianhai, president of Ocean Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that humans originated in the ocean, and in the 21st century, humans will return to the ocean. He also said that humans would build many cities and ports under the ocean, and at some point devise ways to be able to swim as fish in the wide ocean.
“Now, more and more people are talking about migrating to the moon. For me, migrating to the ocean would be more realistic and practical,” this well-respected scientist added.
Gao Shu, senior researcher at Ocean Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, presented an even more imaginative view:
He thinks that in the later part of this century, about 90 percent of China’s population will be living in the coastal provinces. At the same time, this young ocean scientist believes that China will become a strong ocean country in the 21st century.
“In the 21st century, people will get together along the sea shores,” he said.
Ocean provides new economic opportunity for China’s national economy
According to the State Oceanic Administration, marine economy is becoming a new growth point in China’s national economy. In a recently released report, the State Oceanic Administration declared that in the past 20 years, the total output value of major marine industries has increased five-fold to reach 327 billion yuan (US$39.56 billion), the average annual growth rate being 25 percent, much faster than the growth rate of the national economy.
Chen Qingtai, vice director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, estimated that the marine products’ output value will account for more than 5 percent of China’s gross national product, provided that China’s marine industry keeps up the current growing rate. He also noted that since the adoption of the opening-up and reform policy more than two decades ago, the ocean has become one of the most important channels through which China fully engages in the global economy. At the same time, marine economy enjoys a more important role in the national economy. Take the year 1998 for instance: The overall output value of marine products amounted to 310 billion yuan (US$37.50 billion)
As a major developing ocean country, China has a 18000-km-long (11,185 miles) coastal line and more than 6500 islands. Experts agree that China’s superior natural resources and environment as well as its various kinds of species provide China with a huge potential in developing its marine industry.
China has built 59 marine reserves
According to information from the State Oceanic Administration, 59 ocean reserves of various types have been built so far. All of them are making great contributions to the protection of the typical marine eco-system and the diversity of the oceanic organisms.
The Chinese government also puts heavy emphasis on protecting the ocean resources and environment. Since the 1980s, under the guidance of the State Oceanic Administration, all the coastal provinces have made appropriate district divisions in ocean areas to help provide a scientific basis for the ocean’s overall management.
To make better use of the ocean, the State Oceanic Administration and the Ministry of Finance formulated in 1993 a Provisional Regulations on the Utilization and Management of Sea Areas to promote licensed and paid uses of marine waters.
In addition, the State Oceanic Administration has cooperated actively with related international organizations in promoting the application of comprehensive sea management in China. With great support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), China has set up varying modes of coastline management demonstration zones in Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan provinces.
118 frontier projects put forward by scientists
In terms of ocean research, Chinese scientists are approaching the world’s top levels. According to a recent publication, Frontier Disciplines for Contemporary Ocean Technology, Chinese authoritative ocean researchers used in-depth studies on the status quo of the world oceanology to put forward for the first time 118 frontier projects, covering marine physics, marine chemistry, marine geology, marine organism and marine environment. All these projects are expected to lead China into a new era of further developing and protecting the ocean, said Qin Yunshan, president of the China Society of Ocean, Lakes and Swamps.
Frontier Disciplines for Contemporary Ocean Technology, an in-depth summary of the present situation of the world’s oceans, is co-edited by Su Jilan and Qin Yunshan, two distinguished academicians with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and published by Xueyuan Publishing House. Su Jilan, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations, said that having a summary and introduction to the frontier disciplines of the worlds’ development in marine science is a basic and far-reaching work, which will definitely play an important role in promoting China’s ocean research.
(Dragon News Net, November 13, 2001, translated for china.org.cn by Feng Shu)