​Success of Rongcheng Fishery: Past and Present

(chinadaily.com.cn)| Updated : 2018-07-03

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After so many years, 88 year-old fisherman Tang Houyun still remembers the scenes of the small fishing village of his hometown before the reform and opening up: all fishermen, wearing oiled clothing with their legs tied up with pigskin, went to sea on small wooden fishing boats from shabby ports.

Today, however, Rongcheng, Shandong Province, is known as "China's No.1 Fishery County". In 2017, the total fishery revenue of the county exceeded 82 billion yuan ($12.4 billion).

Ocean blue is gradually seeping into the background of the Chinese economy. China's gross ocean production increased from about 2 trillion yuan in 2006 to over 7 trillion yuan in 2016.

Changes in Rongcheng are regarded as a vivid example of China's 40 years of reform and opening up: from a small fishery county rarely known by people outside, to the No.1 fishery county in China producing the highest output of aquatic products and largest income among of all fishery counties for 36 consecutive years, and from simple fishing and breeding to coordinated deep processing, leisure fishing, high-end manufacturing, port logistics, international trade and other emerging industries.


Shanggouwan marine ranch in Rongcheng, East China's Shandong province. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

How the NO.1 fishery county made its way

This year is the 20th year Tang has held the post of president of the Rongcheng Fisheries Association. The elderly man, still hale and hearty, is a legendary local figure. He is also one of the few founders and witnesses of the "Rongcheng’s fishery model" that are still around and kicking.

"When I first took over the fishing team of the Qiu family, all I got was 25 broken houses and 26 old wooden fishing boats, altogether producing less than 900 horsepower." In 1978, Tang began to seek development opportunities for this poor fishing village. The wheel of history brought him, a leader among fishermen, to the crossroads of reform.

After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, all kinds of production responsibility systems, with the household contract responsibility system at the core, began to be implemented nationwide. As the winds of reform reached Rongcheng, the easternmost county in Shandong Province, reform of its fishery became a challenge that had to be faced.

"Since the ‘big-pot’ distribution system was canceled, we adopted a new type of fishery system with ‘collective ownership, unified management, graded contracting, and revenue sharing'," Tang told the reporter with Outlook Weekly.

Whenever you go to the sea, you can always return fully loaded. To put it in the locals’ word, "money seems to be flowing out of the sea." Beginning in 1983, China gradually liberalized the prices and markets of aquatic products. As a result, the Rongcheng fishery quickly accumulated its initial capital.

Between 1982 and 1992, the total number of fishing boats in Rongcheng increased by a factor of nearly five, the total amount of aquatic products by one of nearly four, and the total revenue of the fishery economy by one of nearly 30. The reform and opening up has benefited a group of township and village enterprises based on the fishery economy in the city.

After "transforming from agriculture to fishing then to manufacturing", the national economic system reform in the 1990s brought about another self-revolution of the Rongcheng fishery.

Traditional fishery companies here began to establish a modern enterprise system. In the end, 23 professional fishery companies, 10 township-run fishery companies, and 20 township-run aquatic farms were successfully restructured. From 1998 to 2009, the total assets of fishery companies in Rongcheng soared from 5.49 billion yuan to 40.2 billion yuan, with an average annual increase of 20.2 percent.

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