As a nation on its shift from an opening large country to a fully opening strong country, the ocean is becoming increasingly important. With less than 10% of the total land area, the coastal areas of China carry more than half of its GDP. More than 80% of its foreign trade volume and more than 90% of its oil imports are dependent on marine transportation. China's foreign trade, strategic resources and energies are highly dependent on the ocean, which is becoming fundamental for China's national security. Meanwhile, the heated East Asia integration process is also centered around the ocean. The ocean is becoming a link of friendship among nations, while territorial disputes among the countries are adding uncertainties to the East Asia integration process.
China's reform and opening up started from the coastal areas
Starting with the theory that "Let some people get rich first", Deng Xiaoping had clearly pointed out that "The coastal areas should speed up the opening process so that the vast areas with a population of 200 million could develop earlier, which in return will drive the development of the inland area. It is an overall picture that the leaders of the inland areas should bear in mind. In return, when developing to a certain stage, the coastal areas must contribute more to the development of inland areas. It is also a whole situation. By that time, coastal areas should obey the overall picture, too.In early 1980s，under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, earliest Special Economic Zones were established in coastal areas, which announced the beginning of China's opening up. In 1980, four Special Economic Zones were established in China's southeast coast areas, namely Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong Province and Xiamen in Fujian Province. In 1984, 14 coastal cities opened their doors to foreign investments. The entire Hainan island was set as a Special Economic Zone. At the mean time, other coastal areas including the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and Xiamen-Zhangzhou-Quanzhou Delta in Fujian Province were opened up to the world. (See in Fig. 1) The series of actions reflect the close relationship between the ocean and China's opening up.