Aquaculture Development in China
The Role of Public Sector Policies

Nathanael Hishamunda
Fishery Planning Officer
Fishery Policy and Planning Division
FAO Fisheries Department
Rohana P. Subasinghe
Senior Fishery Resources Officer (Fish Health)
Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service
Fishery Resources Division
FAO Fisheries Department

Rome, 2003

Table of Contents

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ISBN 92-5-104957-2
ISSN 0429-9345

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© FAO 2003

Hishamunda, N.; Subasinghe, R.
Aquaculture development in China: the role of public sector policies.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 427. Rome, FAO. 2003. 64p.


This report analyses the reasons and factors, including the role of public sector policies, behind aquaculture development in China. The aim is to understand the future of this development and to make the Chinese experience available to the rest of the world, especially developing countries as they strive to develop the sector as a part of their efforts to achieve food security and economic growth. China’s aquaculture growth seems to have been driven by national policies towards food self-sufficiency and economic reasons. These include employment generation, especially for rural communities, creation and accumulation of real assets and wealth at the national, local and individual levels and earning the much-needed foreign exchange to purchase capital goods for the reconstruction of the economy after the country’s emergence from foreign domination and civil strife in 1949.

The development of the sector occurred mainly through two policy regimes: the egalitarian model under the Centralised State Planning from 1949 to 1978, and the Open Market Economy Regime from 1978 onwards. In the first model, tight government controls from all stages of production to marketing, and therefore the lack of input from producers and consumers as well as attention to market forces and other signals in the production and consumption decision-making processes were the norm. With this model, the development was slow. In the second and most efficient model, economic and policy reforms were performed to allow producers to make production and marketing decisions. Emphasis was on full employment of productive resources including the human factor, suitable water surfaces, mudflats and water-logged lands. Investment in research and technology, diversification of cultured species including indigenous and introduced species, promotion of high commercial value species, establishment of a nationwide aquaculture extension network down to the grassroots level, and establishment and constant improvement of the enabling policy, legal and regulatory frameworks were also promoted.

With continued pro-active government policies, adequate advanced planning, scientifically designed production technologies, sound management and the increasingly important world demand for aquaculture products, aquaculture in China can be and is likely to be productively stable, sustainable and competitive both domestically and internationally. There are valuable lessons which can be learnt from the Chinese experience: (1) aquaculture can be developed in a sustainable manner to generate food and jobs, and improve income and livelihoods of rural and urban populations, thus alleviating hunger and poverty; (2) the engine for an economically resilient and sustainable aquaculture is the Government’s will and determination to establish sound policies in support of the development of the sector, especially issue specific policies; it is also the market determined demand for the product; (3) full employment of productive factors, including human resources, continuous improvements in legal and regulatory framework for the development of the sector, and scientific breakthroughs in production technologies will strengthen aquaculture and ensure its sustainability, thereby making aquaculture a good contributor to the country’s overall economic growth.

Table of Contents

Preparation of this document

1. Introduction

2. Historical development

2.1 The pre-1949 period
2.2 The 1949-1978 period
2.3 The post-1978 period

2.3.1 Major freshwater aquaculture farming systems, species and production technologies
2.3.2 Major marine and brackishwater aquaculture systems, species and production technologies
2.3.3 Structure and organization of the industry
2.3.4 Performance of the sector
2.3.5 Strengths and constraints

3. Development policies

3.1 Rationale for the Government intervention in aquaculture
3.2 General sector specific policies

3.2.1 Self-reliance in fish through full employment of resources
3.2.2 Setting aquaculture as a priority in the development of the fishery sector
3.2.3 Establishment of aquaculture production bases
3.2.4 Promotion of sustainable aquaculture development
3.2.5 Continuous adjustments in the structure of the aquaculture sector
3.2.6 Address specific policy needs through a specialized agency
3.2.7 Establishment of a good administrative framework for aquaculture management
3.2.8 Establishment of good supporting structures of aquaculture management
3.2.9 Establishment of good legal and regulatory framework for aquaculture development
3.2.10 Emphasis on research, technological development and information dissemination
3.2.11 Promotion of high commercial value species

3.3 Issue specific policies

3.3.1 Policies on feed issues
3.3.2 Policies dealing with feed issues
3.3.3 Policies dealing with appropriate technologies
3.3.4 Policies dealing with marketing issues
3.3.5 Land issue policies: structural reforms of farm ownership and property rights
3.3.6 Investment issue policies

4. The way forward

4.1 Orientation of the Chinese aquaculture policies

4.1.1 Development through market economy and openness to trade
4.1.2 China as a source of new aquaculture technologies
4.1.3 Environmental protection

4.2 Future of aquaculture supply
4.3 Future demand for aquaculture products
4.4. Future role of aquaculture in Chinese society
4.5 Main challenges ahead

5. Conclusions

6. Bibliography

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