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China seeks solutions for global maritime governance

JIANG XIUMIN | 2021-04-22 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

A man-made pond with creatures such as coral, seaweed, fish, the ecological system of which will be used to restore the seabed environment  Photo: Luo Yunfei/CNSphoto

After the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea encountered new challenges from changes in the marine environment, international treaties on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) have become key for the new-round of global maritime interest adjustments. Global maritime governance orders are moving through a period of profound adjustments. 

As the scope expands for human development, the sea is an important issue in global governance. International cooperation and sea-themed disputes keep escalating, maritime affairs plays a growing role in China’s internal politics and foreign diplomacy, and the international community advances their pace in promoting global maritime governance. The world’s biggest developing country and a political force that carries significant weight in the international community, China has the willingness, responsibility, and capability to play a more active role in global maritime governance. 
Above all, an improved domestic system is the underpinning. Top-level design and planning, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, should be highlighted. Foreign marine systems under the command of departments of marine management, environmental management, and fishery management need to be optimized. In addition, domestic sea-related policy systems in China should make corresponding adjustments and improvements. 
Next, attention should be paid to operation systems regarding these action plans. This would begin with incentive mechanisms for motivating participation in global maritime governance. Encouragement and support should be given on a national level in terms of finance, personnel, and policy. Initiatives from government institutions, departments, non-government organizations, and citizens should be fully mobilized. Operating system improvement would continue with information sharing mechanisms. Data and platforms for sea monitoring, meteorology, environmental research, and R&D regarding the sea can be integrated within China, and marine information sharing with other countries can be expanded. Finally, it is vital to study and evaluate the degree to which China participates in global maritime governance, its effects and the possible risks. This will provide counsel as China formulates relevant policies and engages in key decision-making. 
China must also advance its reform of rules for global maritime governance. This would begin by summarizing trends in development, reform of regulations, and understanding the factors which lurk behind these tendencies. Advancement would continue by taking advantage of global maritime governance platforms such as the UN, the International Seabed Authority, and the Arctic Council. China can offer its solutions in terms of BBNJ, regulations about international exploitation of seabed mineral resources, legal systems for high seas protection, and polar governance. In this way, its ability to set agendas and negotiate in the process of international treaty rule formulation can be strengthened. 
A final task is to accelerate China’s efforts in integrating different platforms of global maritime governance and build new platforms. This would further make use of international multi-lateral dialogue and cooperation mechanisms such as BRICS, the G20 Group, the Davos Forum, and the Boao Forum to seek broad consensus from the international community. China could also set up platforms for global academic communication on maritime governance. To strengthen cooperation between universities, research institutes, and think tanks from different countries, more support should be given to the convention of a series of forums such as the International Marine Fisheries Development Forum, the International Marine Ecology Forum, the International Forum of Ocean Information and International Cooperation, and the Development Forum on Marine Economy. In addition, China should play a leading role in setting up global intergovernmental maritime organizations which have comprehensive functions. As it participates in global maritime governance in a deeper way, China should launch initiatives such as establishing intergovernmental world maritime organizations, which can leverage reforms in global maritime governance orders. 
Jiang Xiumin is from the School of International Affairs and Public Administration at the Ocean University of China.
Edited by BAI LE