China’sXiamen:A successful practice of sustainable development in bay city

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Xiamen in southeast China’s Fujian province is a typical bay city. It rises from the sea, drawn into its embrace.

The ecological conservation of bay cities is a global issue. Xiamen is rich in marine resources, but its sea area is small, which has been subjected to intense development and frequent economic activities. As a result, the city’s marine ecosystem was once fragile.

On March 30, 1988, Xi Jinping, who then served as a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China Xiamen Municipal Committee and executive vice mayor of Xiamen, chaired a special meeting on cleaning up the Yundang Lake in Xiamen.

The meeting is believed as the start of the comprehensive treatment of the lake that has lasted more than 30 years so far. It also started Xiamen’s ecological protection and restoration of sea, river basins, and the entire region, as well as coordinated efforts on land and at sea to improve the city’s marine ecological environment.

While advancing the comprehensive treatment of the Yundang Lake, Xiamen launched cooperation with the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) in 1994 for integrated coastal management. 

It successfully developed a model featuring in-advance legislation, centralized coordination, technological support, integrated law enforcement and public participation, which has been recognized by the International Maritime Organization as the “Xiamen Model.”

This model for integrated coastal management in Xiamen, along with efforts for the River Thames inBritain and the Boston Harbor in the U.S., has been highlighted by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection as three exemplary global cases that show that determined, coordinated action can produce benefits even in large urban areas, where development and population pressures are concentrated. The “Xiamen Model” has been widely promoted internationally and has had a significant impact.

Over the past 30 years, Xiamen has gradually built a “circle of friends” to share its ideas and experiences, actively participating in global marine governance. 

The city has conducted training courses in Costa Rica on topics such as mariculture technology and marine spatial planning. It has also collaborated with Thailand on beach restoration in Pattaya and established a joint marine ecology station in North Sulawesi province, Indonesia.

“The practices of Xiamen in marine ecological conservation provide valuable references for other countries and regions. This is a meaningful step in the history of global marine governance,” said PEMSEA Chair Emeritus Chua Thia-Eng.

In October 2005, an international marine city forum was held in Xiamen, and since 2007 it has been officially upgraded to the World Ocean Week in Xiamen. The event has become one of the most important platforms globally for promoting water cooperation and exchanges. 

Today, the World Ocean Week in Xiamen has been held for 18 consecutive years and has gradually developed into an international annual event that combines ocean-themed forums, professional exhibitions, and ocean cultural carnivals.

Many important collaborations on the ocean took place in the grand event, and many significant achievements were born there.

It has collaborated with important international programs such as the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and established a long-term cooperation mechanism with the Global Ocean Negative Carbon Emissions program. 

The International Digital Twins of the Ocean Summit 2023 was held during the World Ocean Week in Xiamen, which used data to create a virtual ocean and provide a strong digital foundation for the development of the ocean economy and ecological protection.

The Digital Deep-Sea Typical Habitats major scientific program was officially announced during the 2023 World Ocean Week in Xiamen, bringing together top scientists around the world to explore the deep sea

“I am very encouraged by Xiamen’s active participation in international ocean cooperation,” said Peter Thomson, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, when attending the opening ceremony of the World Ocean Week in Xiamen in November 2023. It was the third time for him to join the event.

Xiamen is deeply involved in global ocean governance, fostering “blue partnerships” and strengthening cooperation with relevant countries and regions in areas such as marine resource development and marine ecological restoration. 

It has collaborated with ASEAN countries on the seaweed industry and the construction of marine protected area networks. It has also joined forces with BRICS countries to establish a BRICS ocean sustainable development research center. 

Additionally, Xiamen has partnered with multiple countries’ marine authorities, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Solomon Islands, as well as the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific, to launch the Blue Citizen Initiative and incorporated it into the deliverables of maritime cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Furthermore, the Secretariat of the PEMSEA Network of Local Governments has permanently settled in Xiamen. 

Through these efforts, Xiamen aims to contribute Chinese wisdom and solutions to addressing global marine ecological issues, and to provide solutions for the protection and sustainable development of the world’s marine environment.

“I find China’s ecological civilization approach to be very inspiring,” said Thomson, adding that Xiamen, once a participant in international programs, should take the lead in certain areas of marine conservation.



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