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Making Waves
Expo highlights the potential of the marine economy, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative
By Yu Lintao | NO. 50 DECEMBER 13, 2018
Visitors at the Sixth China Marine Economy Expo in Zhanjiang, south China's Guangdong Province, on November 23 (COURTESY PHOTO)

When the Sixth China Marine Economy Expo (CMEE) kicked off in Zhanjiang, south China's Guangdong Province, on November 22, it saw a remarkable debut. BASF, one of the world's leading chemical companies, took part in the expo for the first time, regarding it as a platform to facilitate its business in the Chinese market as well as along the burgeoning 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt are the two components of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to strengthen infrastructure, trade and people-to-people connectivity between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

Entering the Chinese market in 1885, BASF has seen its business expand. China is now the company's third largest market worldwide. When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Germany in July, BASF signed a memorandum of understanding to build an integrated site featuring smart manufacturing in Guangdong. The investment is estimated to reach up to $10 billion.

"The CMEE is an excellent platform for business promotion with many enterprises from both China and foreign countries participating, particularly those along the maritime Silk Road," a BASF spokesperson told Beijing Review.

At the CMEE, BASF showcased a variety of products to look for partners. They included solutions for the sustainability of the marine economy as well as a range of innovations designed to enhance the quality of life. The German company was especially promoting its solutions for windstorm damage in coastal areas at the expo. Zheng Daqing, Senior Vice President of BASF, pointed out how their new material "plastic" poles could withstand strong wind. The poles were made of glass fiber and polyurethane, providing wind resistance 2.5 times higher than that of a traditional structure.

The CMEE, the only national-level comprehensive marine expo in China, debuted in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, in 2012 and has been held annually in Zhanjiang since 2014. Located on the southernmost tip of the Chinese mainland and facing the sea on three sides, Zhanjiang is the city with the longest coastline in China with unique geographical advantages and abundant marine resources.

The CMEE aims to provide a platform for innovation and collaboration for the development of the marine economy as well as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. It promotes new technologies and materials, especially for high-end manufacturing and service industries. Over the past five years, more than 11,000 enterprises from 83 countries clinched deals worth some 200 billion yuan ($28.8 billion) at the international trade fair.

Under the theme Leading Cooperative Sharing in Blue Marine, the CMEE 2018, which ended on November 25, displayed innovations in thriving industries such as marine engineering equipment, marine energy and technology, and port logistics. Coastal tourism, biomedicine and modern marine services were also key segments. According to the Zhanjiang local government, this year's CMEE witnessed the participation of more than 2,400 enterprises from 72 countries and regions as well as the signing of intentional cooperation deals worth 110 billion yuan ($15.8 billion).

Platform for diversification

With the rapid growth of the marine economy in China and the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative, the CMEE is becoming a more valuable platform for enterprises seeking marine economy cooperation and business opportunities.

"This is the second time we have attended the event," Gao Yong, chief engineer of the Business Managing and Planning Department of China Railway Construction Corp. (CRCC), said.

Traditionally focusing on businesses such as railway construction and municipal engineering, the CRCC is seeking to expand its business map in the marine economy with the rapid development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"We recently expanded our marine economy-related department and developed cutting-edge marine engineering technologies. We hope the CMEE can help us find more partners to explore marine business opportunities. And as a latecomer, we also hope to learn from the forerunners of the marine economy by joining the CMEE," Gao told Beijing Review. He exuded optimism about the marine business opportunities created by the Belt and Road Initiative.

Participation in the CMEE in the past two years has helped the CRCC harvest numerous business opportunities. According to Gao, this year, his company had more than 20 business negotiations with other exhibitors, reaching several cooperative intentions.

At this year's CMEE, Liao Yunshu, an engineer with China Shipbuilding Industry Group, received many potential buyers from Southeast Asian countries who were very interested in the company's intelligent integrated aquaculture platform.

The platform is able to withstand typhoons measuring 12 on the Beaufort scale and 9-meter-high waves. "Via the CMEE, demand and supply were well matched," Liao said.

The Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) has been a regular exhibitor since the expo was launched. "The CMEE has contributed to our brand promotion in the Chinese market, particularly our aquatic products," Zhuang Youfen, a manager at the group's Aquatic Business Department, said. "It gave us a favorable treatment in many ways, for instance, a well-located booth. With promotions in recent years, our products are very competitive in the Chinese market."

Encouraging figures

According to the China Ocean Economic Development Index (OEDI) 2018 released by the National Marine Data and Information Service (NMDIS) at the opening ceremony of this year's CMEE, the average annual growth of China's OEDI was 3.8 percent from 2010 to 2017. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent.

China's total output value of marine produce increased 6.9 percent in 2017 over the same period the previous year and contributed 9.7 percent to the national economic growth. The service sector has accounted for 56.6 percent of China's marine economy while the emerging marine industry maintained a momentum of rapid development, with a 10.2-percent increase year on year.

He Guangshun, Director of the NMDIS, said the statistics show that while China's marine economy is expanding, its industrial structure is also optimizing.

Innovation is regarded as the primary impetus for the development of the marine economy. According to He, in recent years, China has increased investment in marine technology innovation, which has led to the rapid development of new marine technologies. For instance, in 2017, the number of personnel in China's major marine science institutions increased 20 percent year on year, research and development expenditure grew 7.9 percent, and the number of awarded patents rose 15.3 percent.

At this year's CMEE, paths to innovative development of the marine economy were discussed at 12 sub-forums, where business leaders, industry experts and government officials exchanged views on port logistics, marine big data, the marine environment and ecological protection. Modern fisheries, marine biomedicine and aquatic animal healthcare were also on the agenda.

At the inauguration of the expo, Wang Hong, Director of the State Oceanic Administration of China, said over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China has accelerated marine resource development and utilization while enhancing its ecological environmental protection capabilities. It has also improved scientific and technological innovations in related fields. As a result, the marine economy has continued to grow. The blue ocean has become an important space for building a modern economic system in the new era.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

Comments to yulintao@bjreview.com

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