China's first aircraft carrier started sea trials on Aug. 10. A series of sea-related events recently drew great public attention, including the completion of a 5,000-meter dive by the country's Jiaolong deep sea submarine, the introduction of plans for the development of a new coastal economic zone, expansion of the country's "treasure hunting" in the sea as well as disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea.
The Chinese nation used to lack ocean awareness. Much of its glory has been related to the land rather than the sea, and the Silk Road linking Asia and Europe through trade was mainly on land. Admittedly, Zheng He, a senior general and eunuch in the Ming Dynasty carried out several great naval expeditions with some 120,000 people, which were the most glorious sea-related events in Chinese history. However, "China has never carried out as great expeditions since Zheng He died," said Liang Qichao, a philosopher and reformist during the Qing Dynasty.
China started banning maritime activities in the Ming Dynasty, when its GDP ranked first in the world. The ban is partly why the country slid into decline and suffered imperialist bullying in the last century.
China has never lacked adventurous navigators. The ancient people in Shandong, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces often went to Southeast Asia by sea, and certain entire villages in Fujian had migrated to Southeast Asia by sea. There are few records about their migration, but it is internationally recognized that the ancestors of nearly 300 million people who speak Austronesian languages are traceable to China's Fujian. The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including more than 1,000 kinds of languages.
Today, China cannot achieve sustainable development and national rejuvenation without going to the ocean. The United Nations referred to the 21st century as a "Century of Oceans" in 2001, and various state governments have all initiated new maritime development strategies, including China with its vast maritime territory.
China has held to the path of peaceful development in the process of going to the ocean. China's peaceful development is not limited to land. China's first and second island chains are not the shackles curbing its reform and opening-up. Some countries have stepped into the South China Sea and East China Sea issues, intensifying the contention for maritime right and interests. China is committed to building a good partnership and an amicable neighborhood of peaceful development and common prosperity.
China has never sought to be a dominating or subordinate country and will never offend or intimidate any other country as well as benefit itself at the expense of others or suffer the consequences of violating its core national interests.
Some favor the "China threat theory," the essence of which is the "threatening China theory." The groundless "China threat theory" cannot hoax the world and the malicious "threatening China theory" can never frighten China.
China should go to the ocean depending on both a strong will and scientific planning. The State Council has successively approved and adopted the "Development Plan for the Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone," the "Development Plan for the Zhejiang Ocean Economic Demonstration Zone" and the "Development Plan for the Guangdong Comprehensive Ocean Economic Demonstration Zone" in 2011. This will integrate the three economic zones through the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, forming a marine-economy-based major coastal city cluster.
Today's China will achieve prosperity through its ocean development and build a "maritime China."
(By Ye Xiaowen, a special commenter at People's Daily and a senior consultant at the China Strategy Culture Promotion Association)