China has often come under criticism from its neighbors and Western nations for being a major polluter of air and water.
Now, China says it wants to cooperate with other nations in efforts to clean up the oceans and protect sea life.
In a recent speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for speeding up “innovation” in ocean technologies and creating “blue partnerships” with other countries. Xi spoke on October 15 to the 2019 China Marine Economy Expo in the southern Chinese port city Shenzhen. His comments were reported by the state-run China Daily news website.
Xi suggested improvements in efforts to stop ocean pollution and protect animals that are affected by it. He also urged cooperation with other nations in resource development.
Experts believe such offers would help China improve its image with other countries, especially some of its neighbors in Asia. The latest proposal for cooperation follows a series of attempts by China to reach out to other countries in Asia.
Eduardo Araral is a professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school. He told VOA he sees China’s invitation as part of a larger campaign aimed at gaining more acceptance with its neighbors.
“China approaches things using all tools and all means possible, from hard power to soft power to diplomacy,” Araral said. He added that some Southeast Asian countries that have territorial disputes with China would likely welcome joint pollution control.
The disputes are centered on the South China Sea. China claims most of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea as its territory. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines also claim parts of the waterway.
China has angered other claimants in recent years by creating small man-made islands in some disputed areas of the sea and building military equipment on some of the land.
Araral said Xi’s recent call fits in with China’s past attempts to find new ways to cooperate with its neighbors. “I think it should be welcomed because it recognizes that other countries in Southeast Asia bordering the South China Sea have legitimate interests in terms of the resources,” he said.
One of those resources is fishing. China has the world’s largest distant-water fishing operation with 2,500 ships and boats, the activist group Global Fishing Watch estimates. Some Chinese fishing operations take place in exclusive economic areas of other countries where enforcement is not strong. Chinese fishing boats have turned up in waters claimed by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Araral said he thinks new cooperation efforts between China and its neighbors could help stop overfishing. They also may lead to research on joint resource development. Some Southeast Asian nations will welcome China’s invitation if they are not asked to give up their territorial claims in the South China Sea, he added.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Ralph Jennings reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
innovation – n. a new idea or method that is being tried for the first time, or the use of such ideas or methods
approach – v. to deal with something
legitimate – adj. permitted by law
exclusive – adj. not shared with other people, organizations, etc.