In the vast collective realm of mari-time utilization, exploration and ecol-ogy, the 21st Century is considered bysome to be the "Century of the Ocean."The oceans sustain us, and, if properly man-aged and cared for, will enable sustainabledevelopment. Thus, oceanic conditions areof paramount concern to governments andpeoples around the world.
Besides a vast land territory, China alsoboasts an expansive maritime area. Thenation's coastline stretches for 18.000 kilo-meters, and within her waters are more than7.300 islands which exceed 500 square me-ters in dry-ground expanse, China governsabout 3 million square kilometers of mari-time area, of which 380.000 square kilome-ters are territorial sea and inland waters.
In recent years, many coastal provincesand cities have set their sights on maritimeexploration. For instance. Shandong Prov-ince has established a goal to create "Mari-time Shandong:" Fujian Province has for-mulated a strategy based on developing theEconomic Zone West of the Taiwan Straits:Liaoning Province has worked out a strat-egy to develop its coastal belt: Tianjin Mu-nicipality has drafted a plan to better utilizeits coastal area; Hebei Province has workedout a blueprint for the coostruction of theCaofeidian Industrial Park; Jiangsu Prov-ince has included coastal exploration intoits economic development strategy; and theGuangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region hasestablished the Around-Beibu Gulf Eco-nomic Cooperation Forum.