China’s Efforts in Marine Biodiversity Conservation: Recent Developments in Policy and Institutional Reform

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
Jiayi Wang School of Law, Sun Yat-sen University Guangzhou People’s Republic of China

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Keyuan Zou Harris Professor of International Law, University of Central Lancashire Preston United KingdomEditorial Board Member

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Marine biodiversity is essential for providing material foundations for sustainable social development and maintaining balance in the ecosystems of the earth. However, in recent years, marine biodiversity has been threatened by the combined effects of human activities and climate change, and has deteriorated at both domestic and international levels. Effective marine biodiversity conservation is dependent upon a comprehensive policy and legislation framework and scientific conservation measures. As a responsible developing country, China has made great efforts to protect marine biodiversity. This article provides an overview of recent policy and institutional developments in China with respect to marine biodiversity conservation. These current developments indicate that China’s marine biodiversity conservation strategy is increasingly holistic and unified, and emphasises integrated management of the sea.


Marine biodiversity plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. In 2010, States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a revised Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020,1 which establishes five strategic goals that are further articulated through 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.2 Target 11 provides that ‘by 2020, at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are conserved’.3 This target was later reaffirmed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015.4

Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals pose new challenges to coastal States, because securing these targets requires effective policy and regulatory measures within domestic law. This article provides an overview of recent policy and institutional developments in China with respect to marine biodiversity conservation, and discusses both present and future challenges facing China in meeting its international commitments.

Policy Developments

China has not formulated a comprehensive policy on marine biodiversity. However, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2011–2030 (NBSAP),5 the 13th National Five-year Plan for Marine Economic Development 2016–2020,6 the National Plan for Marine Ecological and Environmental Protection 2017–20207 and the National Marine Functional Zoning Plan 2011–20208 contain relevant policy measures on marine biodiversity. In combination, these four instruments provide a general framework for marine biodiversity conservation.

In order to give effect to the Aichi Targets, China updated its national biodiversity strategy in 2010. Updating the NBSAP was a participatory process, engaging a wide range of stakeholders.9 The NSBAP establishes four basic principles for biodiversity conservation: conservation first, sustainable use, public participation, and benefit sharing. It identifies the Yellow and Bohai Seas Protected Region, the East China Sea and Taiwan Strait Protected Region, and the South China Sea Protected Region as the priority areas for marine and coastal biodiversity conservation. In its short-term strategy, the Chinese government was required to make sure that 90 per cent of national key protected species and typical ecosystems would be at a favourable conservation status by 2015.10 In its mid-term strategy, by 2020, a system of nature reserves with reasonable layouts and comprehensive functions will be established, and the decline in marine biodiversity curbed.11 The long-term goal is effective protection of marine biodiversity by 2030.

At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on 18 October 2017, President Xi Jinping confirmed that building an ecological civilisation to ensure the harmony between man and nature was one of the fourteen points of the basic strategy of Chinese socialism. The concept of ecological civilisation was first proposed at the 17th National Congress of CPC in 2007. The objective of giving prominence to ecological civilisation was then incorporated in the Constitution of the Communist Party as a guide for action in the 18th National Congress of the CPC.12 In order to turn the slogan into reality, ‘building an ecological civilisation’ was endorsed as a major framework for environmental laws and policies in the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of CPC.13 The Fourth Plenary Session of the Committee further stressed the goal of ‘advancing the law based governance’ through the rule of law. This provided a powerful driver for ecological progress.14

President Xi advanced the requirement to speed up the reform of governance systems for developing an ecological civilisation.15 The specific tasks required to achieve ecological progress include: promoting green development, solving prominent environmental problems, intensifying ecological systems protection, and reforming the environmental regulatory system.16

In 2014, a decision of the Central Committee required the government to speed up the establishment of a legal system that effectively promoted green, circular and low-carbon development. The government was also required to strengthen legislation on ecological compensation and pollution prevention, as well as the protection of the marine environment.17

Since it was introduced, ecological civilisation has become a fundamental guideline for the development of new and stricter environmental policies and laws. Thus, the Marine Environment Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (MEPL) was amended in 201718 to define marine ecological red lines (MERL),19 and to provide for marine ecological compensation systems as the fundamental systems of marine environmental protection.20 The concept of MERL is an approach related to marine spatial planning; it refers to the geographical boundary line of the areas with special important ecological functions that should have mandatory strict protection.21 When the MERL is delineated, coastal governments should fix control indicators according to the ecological environmental and socio-economic situation.22 In the context of management planning, the MERL provides a bottom line for marine environmental management.

The marine ecological compensation mechanism is an important step taken by the Chinese government to protect the marine environment and to coordinate the ecological interests of various stakeholders. It includes two types of compensation. First, there is marine protective compensation, which refers to the government’s expenditure on restoration of marine ecosystems that are damaged by cumulative adverse effects of development activities and compensation to people who protect the environment.23 Second, there is marine ecological damage compensation, which refers to the maritime administration seeking compensation on behalf of the State from the person responsible for causing damage to the marine ecology, marine resources and marine protected areas.24 This compensation includes the cost for preventive measures, restoration expenses, loss during restoration and investigation expenses.25

A second important piece of legislation is the Environmental Protection Tax Law (EPTL).26 This came into effect on 1 January 2018, introducing environmental protection taxes on both land and sea discharges. At the same time, China started to implement a new ban on the import of twenty-four specific wastes in four categories.27 This ban reflects China’s national commitment to waste minimisation, and it effectively reduced the volume of mismanaged solid wastes entering into the sea.

The concept of ecological civilisation was also incorporated into the 13th National Five-year Plan for Marine Economic Development (2016–2020).28 The Plan calls for an expansion of the blue economy, promotion of the scientific utilisation of marine resources, and protection of the marine environment. It places greater emphasis on marine ecological civilisation. Marine ecological progress encompasses the principles of prioritising conservation, protection and natural recovery, and involves five major parts and a series of specific measures (see Table 1). The updated Plan attaches equal importance to development and protection measures to strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources and control the sources of marine environmental pollution. Table 1 highlights safeguard measures in the Plan that strengthen macro guidance and policy adjustment, and improve related systems, as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.29

Table 1
Table 1

The contents of marine ecological civilisation

Citation: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 35, 2 (2020) ; 10.1163/15718085-BJA10008

To put the guiding principles into action, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) issued the National Plan for Marine Ecological and Environmental Protection (2017–2020). This updated plan was based on the principle of ecological orientation, highlighting the ecosystem approach and comprehensive marine governance.30 The arrangement of tasks under the Plan involves six priority areas covering the entire process of marine governance: building a pattern of green development, strengthening marine ecological protection, promoting marine environmental restoration, strengthening joint prevention and control of land and sea pollution, preventing and controlling marine environmental risks, and promoting marine ecological and environmental monitoring. These task arrangements are oriented towards giving priority to conservation and promoting a sound marine economic structure. Great importance is attached to shifting the protection of ecosystems from the present decentralised and fragmented regime to one subject to centralised integration. To strengthen marine ecological protection, four major tasks are highlighted, including completing work on drawing MERL, developing a network of marine protected areas (MPAs), conserving marine biodiversity, and protecting the ecological environment of island and reefs.

Developing a network of MPAs is also referred to in the National Marine Functional Zoning Plan (2011–2020) issued by the State Council in 2015. It was the first attempt of China to connect the main marine functional zones with marine conservation. The Plan sets the goal that, by 2020, the total area of MPAs will exceed 5 per cent of the sea under China’s national jurisdiction, of which over 11 per cent comprises coastal marine areas.31 The expansion of MPA coverage in China’s sea areas can have significant benefits, including preservation of critical habitats and conservation of marine biodiversity. The development of the MPA network not only matches the spirit of ‘ecological civilization’, it also helps China to meet its commitments on the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11.32

The current developments in Chinese marine policy and legislation show that the basic policy is shaped by the idea of ecological civilisation and suggest that the strategy is increasingly holistic and unified. It emphasises the connections between marine economic development and marine environment protection and reflects a more comprehensive and systematic management scheme for prior-prevention, in-process control and supervision.

After the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the policy of ecological civilisation was given a more prominent profile. On 11 March 2018, the 13th National People’s Congress adopted the Constitution of the PRC (2018 Amendment). Ecological civilisation was written into the Constitution.33 Under this amendment, the State Council is granted functions and powers ‘to build an ecological civilisation’.34 With its express incorporation into the Constitution, ecological progress truly enters into the five-sphere integrated plan.35 The relevant contents of ecological civilisation in the Constitution provide the fundamental legal basis for ecological progress and ensure the coordination between the Party’s regulation and national legislation. Basic laws and regulations can be used comprehensively and systematically to implement the legal norms of ecological civilisation. These developments have resulted in institutional reform related to marine biodiversity conservation.

Institutional Developments

In the context of the central government’s great push for ecological civilisation, China’s ocean and coastal management system has become focused more on the integrity of marine ecology and the functions of ecological services. Major reforms have been made to the structure of institutions.36 In March 2018, China announced a plan for the reform of ministerial structures to better manage natural resources and fight pollution. Under the reform, nature reserves, scenic areas, natural heritage sites and geological parks that were under the administration of the SOA, the Ministry of Land and Resources, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture were taken over by the newly-established Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).37

The reformed ministerial structure brought divided governance of different natural resources, such as land, oceans, lakes, forests and wetlands under one roof, and began the process of managing them as one ecosystem. This centralised management approach is intended to eliminate duplication in spatial planning and to avoid disputes about jurisdiction over marine reserves.38 Such jurisdictional disputes potentially weakened the effectiveness of conservation measures, since the authorities might have different conservation objectives. The new MNR will have general jurisdiction over all marine reserves and manage most activities within a single reserve.39 The division of land and sea management in marine reserves will come to an end. This significant change reflects a holistic and ecosystem-based approach to the management of marine reserves.

However, the reform also creates challenges. The MNR is mainly responsible for the management of natural resources, while the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) is charged with the management of pollution from all sources (see Fig. 1). Since the two newly-established ministries now have multiple-sector responsibilities, the question arises as to how to address marine biodiversity conservation in a united and coordinated manner.

The consolidation of relatively small ministries into one larger institution is a long-term project. The initial stage of institutional adjustment has resulted in a preliminary agglomeration of primary and secondary functions of resource conservation and environmental protection.40 The MNR and MEE have developed their organisational structure and completed staffing adjustments. The operational relationship between the two ministries has also been established (see Fig. 2). The MNR is responsible for formulating policies for marine economic development, the utilisation of marine resources and the conduct of marine ecological restoration, while the MEE is responsible for supervising the implementation of policies with the object of ecological protection. However, this alignment is not entirely satisfactory because the functions of the MNR are more extensive than those of the MEE. The MNR has the additional objectives of protecting the ecological environment and promoting the development of the marine economy and the effective utilisation of marine natural resources.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Reform of the ministerial structure on natural resources management and ecological environmental protection

Citation: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 35, 2 (2020) ; 10.1163/15718085-BJA10008

Note: This figure was created by the authors based on information from the Plan on Deepening Reform (n 38).

The pursuit of both economic and ecological values is to a certain extent contradictory. The supervisory function of the MEE can effectively restrict the economic function of the MNR. However, there is no clear hierarchy between the two ministries. From this perspective, the question of how to harmonise the mandates of the two ministries is a long-term challenge. On 2 June 2018, the State Council publicised its newly revised regulations to guide its work.41 The aim of these regulations is to strengthen the coordination of the two ministries by adopting a new regulation to enhance legislative coordination and introduce third-party assessments of important legislative issues that are the subject of controversy between ministries.42 However, this is only an initial achievement, and the in-depth integration of and smooth communication decision-making between the two ministries remains a long-term task.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Departments with competence in marine resources and environment management under MNR and MEE

Citation: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 35, 2 (2020) ; 10.1163/15718085-BJA10008

Note: Regulations on the Allocation of Functions, Internal Bodies, and Staffing of Ministry of Natural Resources, in force 1 August 2018, available at; accessed 20 February 2020; Regulations on the Allocation of Functions, Internal Bodies, and Staffing of Ministry of Ecology and Environment, in force 1 August 2018, available at; accessed 20 February 2020.

The management of marine reserves is now the responsibility of the MNR. Professor Xue Guifang has observed that the question of how to address the comprehensive management of land and sea and how best to take account of marine biodiversity into the management of marine reserves will be a test of the new institutional capacity and competence.43 She notes that since some types of marine reserves, which were established over a decade ago, have accumulated some good management experience, it is unclear whether the former authorities can pass all the management experience on to a body that previously only managed reserves on land.

Besides the issue of inter-ministerial coordination, there remains a question about how to disentangle the vertical relationship between the central government and the local authorities. The new institutional structures will inevitably trigger adjustments in the relevant local government agencies, the transition of the departments’ duties and relocation of the departments’ interests. This is an urgent matter and needs to be addressed by the central government.

Finally, it should be recalled that China’s National Plan for Marine Ecological and Environmental Protection 2017–2020 was formulated by SOA. The continued implementation of this Plan is also a challenge, because it was based on the old institutional structure. The Plan will need to be reviewed to account for the organisational restructuring and transfer of authority to a new executing agency (MNR). This Plan is comprehensive and contains ten main targets. It is expected that those targets will be implemented by the MNR and MEE. However, it is not yet clear whether the Plan will be continued by these ministries. It may be temporarily shelved until the new organisational framework is finalised. If the Plan is to be continued and achieve its goals, there needs to be a revised operational regime to ensure that the actions under the Plan are implemented by the MNR and MEE.


Marine biodiversity is a basic component of the global bio-support system and a key object of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Domestic Chinese legislative processes reflect the increasing concern of the international community on the issue of marine biodiversity conservation. In China, there have been policy, legal and institutional developments that support the protection of marine biodiversity. However, the recent institutional changes pose various new challenges in China. This reflects perhaps the underlying need to match the complex natural systems with coherent institutional structures. Paradoxically, these changes may slow progress towards achieving some goals as new systems take time to come into operation. The implementation of the new strategy on the conservation of marine biodiversity is still at the initial stage. It remains to be seen whether the new institutions are up to the challenge.


This article is part of a research project funded by China’s National Social Sciences Foundation (18VHQ002). Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Decision X/2 (2010), Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020; see also CBD, ‘Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets’ available at; accessed 25 August 2019.


CBD Decision X/2, ibid., Annex. The goals and targets comprise both aspirations for achievement at the global level and a flexible framework for the establishment of national or regional targets.


Target 11 is under the Strategic Goal C, to improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. Target 11 provides: ‘By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes’.


United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Res 70/1 (25 September 2015), Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Doc A/RES/70/1. Goal 14, sub-target 14.5 reaffirms the Aichi Target 11: ‘By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information’. Specific targets were set out in SDG 14, including prevention of marine pollution, expansion of marine protected areas, regulation of overfishing, increase of scientific knowledge, as well as intensification of research capability and technology transfer, which will have a direct contribution to the conservation of marine biodiversity.


China’s first Biodiversity Protection Action Plan was officially released on 13 June 1994. The updated National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2011–2030 (NBSAP) is available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


The 13th National Five-year Plan for Marine Economic Development (2016–2020) (in Chinese), May 2017, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


The State Oceanic Administration formulated the National Plan for Marine Ecological and Environmental Protection shortly after the closing of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, based on its responsibility of organising and carrying out marine ecological and environmental protection. The National Plan is positioned as a guiding plan for departments in marine affairs.


The National Marine Functional Zoning Plan (2011–2020) (in Chinese), August 2015, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


The updating process of NBSAP took three years. More than twenty central government departments and thirty-one provincial governments were consulted. It is also an outcome of the joint efforts of China’s Coordinating Group for Implementation of the Convention of Biological Diversity and the Inter-ministerial Joint Conference on Conservation of Biological Resources. See Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China, China’s Fifth National Report of the Implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity (China Environment Press, Beijing, 2014) 176.


NBSAP (n 5), Part III, Chapter 3, para 1.


Ibid., para 3.


‘Building of an ecological civilization’ was incorporated in the Constitution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at its 18th Nation Congress in 2012. See Z Wang, H He, and M Fan, ‘The Ecological Civilization Debate in China: The Role of Ecological Marxism and Constructive Post-Modernism: Beyond the Predicament of Legislation’ (2014) Monthly Review 66(6), available at; accessed 16 February 2020.


See Communiqué of the Third Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC, 12 November 2013, available at; accessed 16 February 2020.


Communiqué of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC, 23 October 2014, p. 2, para 5, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


Xi Jinping, Report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, 18 October 2017, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


Ibid., at pp. 45–47.


Decision of the CPC Central Committee on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Promoting the Rule of Law, 5 November 2014, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


Marine Environment Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (2017 Amendment), 4 November 2017 [MEPL]. The MEPL was amended for the third time and came into effect on 5 November 2017. The full text is available at; accessed 16 February 2020.


The amended MEPL adds a new clause into the general provisions: ‘the State sets ecological protection red lines in key marine ecological functional zones, eco-sensitive areas and fragile zones, and strictly implements protection’ (Art. 3). The essential objective of a marine ecological red line is to identify important marine ecological functional areas, marine ecological fragile areas and marine ecological sensitive areas, then to further subdivide them into prohibited and restricted development zones according to ecological characteristics and management objectives.


Ibid., Article 24, which provides that ‘[t]he State shall establish and improve a compensation system for marine ecological protection.’


CPC Central Committee and the State Council, ‘Several Opinions on Defining and Protecting Ecological Redlines’, 7 February 2017, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


State Oceanic Administration, Technical Guide for Demarcation of Marine Ecological Red Lines (April 2016), Article 6. The full text is available at; accessed 16 February 2020.Take the MERL of the Bohai Sea as an example. The control indicators include that ‘the retention rate of Bohai shoreline is not less than 40%; the proportion area of the MERL zones in the Bohai Sea area under Shandong province is not less than 40%; by 2020, in the MERL zones, 100% of the pollutants discharged from direct drain outlets must meet the acceptable standard, and the total amount of land-based pollutants entering into the sea must be reduced by 10–15%’. See SX Wang, The Marine Ecological Red Line of Shandong Province (Ocean Press, Beijing, 2017) 8.


YH Jiang, JW Zhang, KL Chen et al., ‘Moving Towards a Systematic Marine Eco- compensation Mechanism in China: Policy, Practice and Strategy’ (2019) 169(1) Ocean & Coastal Management 10–19, at p. 11. The measures related to marine protective compensation include financial subsidies for important ecological areas and subsidies to local affected individuals. It should be noted that due to the establishment of marine ecological red lines in the prohibited and restricted areas, economic development is constrained due to ecological protection. China has introduced a financial transfer payment mechanism to ensure that the protected regions are properly compensated by the beneficiary regions.


MEPL (n 18), Article 89. According to Article 9 of the Constitution of the PRC and Article 46 of the Real Right Law, waters and sea areas shall be under the ownership of the State; thus, the State has the right to seek compensation for damages. The full text of the Real Right Law (16 March 2007) is available at; accessed 16 February 2020. It should be noted that in the judicial practice of China, the scope of marine ecological damages includes loss of marine environmental capacity, loss of marine nature resources and loss of ecological services. Due to the division of State government functions, the responsible person might be sued by different departments on behalf of the State, as reflected in the Tasman Sea oil spill. In this case, the Infinite Shipping Co. Ltd. and the London steamboat ship owners association were sued by the Tianjin Maritime Administration for the loss of marine environmental capacity and marine ecological services and by Tianjin fishery management administration for compensation for loss of fishery. See F Tang and XL Rong, ‘Compensation for Maritime Ecological Damages in China Judicial Practice’ (2016) 12(1) Cross Cultural Communication 40–43.


Supreme People’s Court on Handling Cases concerning Compensation Disputes over Marine Natural Resources and Environmental Damage (Judicial Interpretation, [2017] 23), Article 2. The full text is available at; accessed 17 February 2020. Article 89 of MEPL (n 18) is a general provision; in order to better implement the principled provision, the Supreme People’s Court issued a judicial interpretation on the handling of cases concerning compensation disputes over marine natural resources and environmental damage, which became effective on 15 January 2018. This judicial interpretation contains thirteen provisions, and mainly addresses the issue of how to implement the provisions of Article 89 of the MEPL.


The Environmental Protection Tax Law was passed at the 25th Session of the 12th National People’s Congress in December 2016.


The Implementation Plan for the Reform of the Import Management System of Solid Waste was adopted at the 34th Meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform. Under the Plan, by the end of 2017 the import of solid wastes that caused environmental damage would be forbidden, and by the end of 2019, imported solid wastes that could be replaced by domestic resources should be phased out.


The 13th National Five-year Plan for Marine Economic Development (2016–2020) (n 6) was jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Oceanic Administration in 2017. Ecological progress is an important part of the Plan. The chapter setting out the overall objectives provided that ‘by 2020, remarkable achievements have been made in the construction of marine ecological civilization, with the rate of natural shoreline retention is not less than 35%, and 70% of coastal waters meet the water quality standard – Class I and II’.


Ibid., Chapter 5.


‘The National Plan for Marine Ecological and Environmental Protection was issued, with emphasis on marine environmental management and restoration,’ 24 February 2018, available at; accessed 20 February 2020.


National Marine Functional Zoning Plan (n 8), Chapter 2: The Overall Objectives, para 4.


YZ Li and DL Fluharty, ‘Marine Protected Area Networks in China: Challenges and Prospects’ (2017) 85 Marine Policy 8–16, at p. 9.


The Constitution (2018 Amendment) set out the goal ‘to promote the coordinated development of material, political, spiritual, social, and ecological civilizations to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, powerful, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and beautiful and achieve the grand rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. The Constitution (2004 Amendment) only refers to promoting ‘the coordinated development of material civilization, political civilization and spiritual civilization’. There was no mention of social and ecological civilization.


Constitution (2018 Amendment), Article 89(6).


The five-sphere integrated plan is the overall plan for building socialism with Chinese characteristics. It refers to promoting economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress to achieve socialist modernization and the great renewal of the Chinese nation. See Xi (n 15), Part I, para.2.


Prior to 2018, natural resource management of China followed a sectoral approach. The management of groundwater, seas, agricultural effluents, forests, and river basins, each fell under a different government department, which resulted in the fragmentation of management. The ecological civilization concept emphasizes systematic ecological environmental governance and holistic resource management. The implementation of ecological civilization is one of the key reasons for China’s ministerial structure reform in 2018.


See the CPC Central Committee, Plan on Deepening Reform of Party and State Institutions (March 2018), available at, accessed 26 August 2019.


Marine reserves originally under the administration of the SOA mostly contain parts of coastal wetlands, which are also under the jurisdiction of the former State Forestry Administration. Therefore, there are often two or even more authorities in one marine reserve.


Key environmental development activities and ecological damage restoration activities that have an impact on the environment should be under the supervision of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.


Before the institutional reform of 2018, the main functions of resource and environmental protection were combined with other sub-functions in the field of administrative management. For example, the Ministry of Environmental Protection undertook the main responsibilities related to environmental protection, however, some environmental protection functions were scattered between other departments, such as marine, ports, fisheries, public security, and transportation.


Rules of the State Council, 25 June 2018, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.


Ibid., Article 20.


Reported in C Zhang, ‘How ‘Viper Island’ Started a Wave of Coastal Conservation’ 2018(11) Chinadialogue Ocean, available at; accessed 26 August 2019.

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