Yang Guozhen is the former director of the history department of Xiamen University. He was one of the first maritime history researchers in China and founded studies of the subject at Xiamen University in 1991.
Here’s his first person account.
I was born in Fujian’s Longyan city and moved to the coastal city of Xiamen in 1949. So I have experience and became interested in maritime culture and history in my early life. As I continued my research in maritime history, I found that the development of maritime power had never been valued in China, although we had the maritime Silk Road and far sea voyages as far back as thousands of years ago.
The heart of Chinese culture has been attached to its agrarian tradition, which was developed from the inland areas.
But a country won’t prosper without developing its maritime power, which is supposed to be open, creative, adventurous and even aggressive.
My studies try to generate greater attention on the research and development of oceans, to think globally.
When the 15-century explorers sailed into uncharted waters, maritime trade fueled the economy of the West and launched its history of expansion.
China actually had the opportunity to build its maritime power in ancient times but chose to close our doors, for which we have paid a price.
But now China has another opportunity to develop its maritime power. First, great attention should be paid to China’s maritime rights, including protecting its maritime territory. China still faces a complicated international situation and increasing tension in our maritime territory.
Second, China needs to explore and develop ocean resources and protect the environment at the same time.
China is not only an inland country. It also has long coastallines and huge maritime territory. Whether China can rise as a great nation depends on how we develop and use maritime power wisely.