China also dreams of achieving marine environmental sustainability. Policy rhetoric certainly emphasises environmental sustainability; ‘ecological civilisation’ (生態文明), a framework to live in harmony with nature, is highly promoted, even constitutionalised. However, much of ‘ecological civilisation’ acts as a means to intensify production in some areas while restricting production activities in other, mostly rural, landscapes (e.g. Brown 2014; Hong 2018). This policy better protects some ecologically sensitive areas but also presents social and economic challenges, as it can displace livelihoods (Chen et al. 2017). Challenges in marine environmental governance also remain, including pollution, overfishing, subsidies, implementation and enforcement, and varied levels of government capacity (Zhang et al. 2016; Cao et al. 2017; Mallory 2016). China’s focus on its ocean economy also has international dimensions. The 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, a component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, aims to recreate historical international partnerships through investments, trade and aid. China’s aspirations to become a maritime power have intensified a range of maritime disputes, such as in the South China Sea. China is also increasingly involved in ocean developments in the global commons, such as in the polar regions and on the high seas (e.g. seabed mining and distant water fishing), where it sees significant security and resource opportunities (Brady 2019; Mallory 2013). In particular, the increasingly international scope of China’s ocean economy means that its vision of becoming a strong maritime power is now interacting with alternative visions for a sustainable ocean economy currently being developed. While elements of relational and subjective well-being are addressed in China’s ‘Ocean Dream’, they are invoked in the service of state power rather than individual or group agency and wellbeing.
Tabatha Grace Mallory is founder and Chief Executive Officer of China Ocean Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA.