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1. Introduction

Aquaculture is increasingly considered by many policy makers and development agents as an integral component in the search for global world food security and economic development. Mainland China has a long history of aquaculture, going back to at least 2 500 years. However, a rapid and steady development of aquaculture in China occurred after the 1950s, especially after 1978, making aquaculture the major contributor to China’s aquatic output since the early 1990s. In the year 2000, the share of aquaculture output to China’s aquatic production was estimated at 60 percent, compared to about 17 percent in 1950 and 27 percent in 1978. In addition, China is the world’s leader in aquaculture production.

Though abundant scientific literature on China’s aquaculture exists, much is yet to be understood about the development of the sector in China. In particular, the reasons and factors behind aquaculture development in China are poorly documented. Their analysis could play a critical role not only in understanding the future of aquaculture in China, but also shape aquaculture development in many parts of the world. It is within this framework that FAO Fisheries Department and the Government of China conducted a joint study which seeks to analyse policy and other factors that were conducive to the sustainable development of the sector. The ultimate goal is to evaluate ways whereby the Chinese experience of sustainable and lucrative aquaculture practices could benefit other countries with aquaculture potential, especially developing countries. The approach which was taken to achieve this goal consists of answering four questions, namely: why did aquaculture develop in China; what is the current level of aquaculture development in China; how was this development achieved, and where is aquaculture heading in China.

The study covered all China P.R., except Taiwan Province. It was essentially completed by a team of seven Chinese experts in freshwater, brackishwater and marine aquaculture as well as in fish marketing, economics and policy making. The team collated, summarized and analysed information required to complete the study and prepared the present report. The main role of FAO was to provide guidance as to what information should be collected and organized to get the expected output, and to provide technical and other inputs as appropriate from the conceptual to the report writing phase.

Information used to write the report came mainly from existing documentation on the sector, observations from field visits by experts as well as the team’s knowledge of the sector. Major players in the sector such as policy makers/government officials, farm managers/owners, domestic sellers of aquaculture products, processors of aquaculture products, exporters of aquaculture products and consumers also provided useful information to complete the study.

In addition to this introductory section, this report contains the following main chapters: historical development; the role of public sector policies; the way forward; and a short conclusion.

By presenting a brief history of aquaculture and discussing the current situation of aquaculture development in China whereby the structure, organization and the performance of the sector are presented, the first chapter provides answers to the "why and what" questions. Through a discussion of general and specific policies which the Government used to provide impetus to and to develop aquaculture, the second chapter addresses the issue of "how" aquaculture developed in China. The third chapter assesses the future of the Chinese aquaculture in terms of the expected role of Chinese aquaculture as a source of new technologies, its role in the Chinese society, potential supply expansion, domestic and international market, aquaculture and environment, weaknesses and strengths and orientation of future policies, thereby answering the question of "where to".

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