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Ocean Remote Sensing in China:

A Status Report, circa Mid-1997


February 1998

 John R. Apel

 Global Ocean Associates, P. O. Box 12131, Silver Spring, MD.

Tel.: 1-301-460-7018 (V); 1-301-460-9775 (F)


 Table of Contents



Conference Reports......................................3

I. Introduction..........................................4

II. List of Institutes......................................4

1. China Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station............................4

2. National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center.........................6

3. Institute of Remote Sensing Applications.............................6

4. National Marine Data and Information Service.............................9

5. Institute of Ocean Technology.................................10

6. First Institute of Oceanography................................11

7. Institute of Oceanology...................................13

8. Ocean University of Qingdao...................................15

9. Second Institute of Oceanography.................................18

III. Summary and Conclusions..................................20

IV. Attachments 1--9..................................Appendix

This report was prepared by Global Ocean Associates under contract with the Office of Naval Research, Asia. The views presented do not necessarily represent those of the Office of Naval Research or the United States Government.



Ocean Remote Sensing in China:

A Status Report, Circa Mid-1997


John R. Apel, Ph.D.



An assessment is given, circa mid-1997, of the state and practice of remote sensing of the ocean in the Peoples Republic of China as described by Chinese scientists and engineers. The assessment is derived from (1) participation in a three-day conference in Beijing between 11-14 August 1997: The First China-U.S. Marine Remote Sensing Conference; and (2) a one-and-one-half week tour of major oceanographic and technologic institutions following the conference. The tour was made by Prof. Hassan Ali of ONR Asia and the author; the logistics had been arranged by Chinese scientists in accordance with Prof. Ali's request. We are grateful for their help and hospitality. Dr. Apel had earlier been invited by the conference organizers to give a review paper on remote sensing of the ocean and so was available in China.

The report clearly cannot cover all aspects of the Chinese program, but it is believed to come close to establishing the centroids and the breadths of activities at the institutions surveyed-at least those which Chinese technologists were willing to discuss. In addition to information obtained directly from individual interviews, I have provided syntheses and interpretations of items where I felt confident enough to do so. As an expert in the field of ocean remote sensing, I could usually discern the approach to some problem of remote measurement, in spite of language barriers and time constraints. The cross-cutting analysis most often derived from hearing and seeing similar information at several places during the tour. In these interpretations, I have attempted to avoid reading more (or less) into the factual information than clearly warranted. However, the identification of some technological capability very often implies possibilities beyond those presented and I have tried to point these out where appropriate.

The sections of the report are arranged according institute, with each section having a Mission Statement, a Discussion, and an Analysis. This last attempts a summary that synthesizes information of seeming importance. Mission statements (which appear in quotes, with only small changes in English usage) come from institutional brochures, copies of which (where available) are appended at the end of the report (Attachments 1 to 9). Business cards of major players met along the way are available upon request.


Conference Reports

A secondary report giving short abstracts and interpretations of the 20 technical papers delivered at the First China-U.S. Marine Remote Sensing Conference has been prepared separately. At present it is expected that the proceedings of the conference will be published within the year. The proceedings will be edited by Prof. Zheng Quanan and Dr. Pan Jaiyi of China, and Dr. John Apel and Prof. Hassan Ali of the U.S. They will be copy-edited and rendered into camera-ready format by the U.S. participants, reviewed by authors, and published (probably in China) in mid-1998.

Another conference of importance, The Pacific Ocean Remote Sensing Conference, PORSEC 98, will be held in Qingdao, China, 28-31 July 1998 (Attachment 10). It is being organized by the Ocean University of Qingdao, Ocean Remote Sensing Institute and co-sponsored by several institutions, including ONR Asia. Participation will presumably come from most major Pacific Rim countries, including the U.S. I have also been invited to deliver a paper there. Reports from this conference will undoubtedly be published.


I. Introduction

In what follows, the information is presented chronologically by the date of visit to the various institutes. Individuals identified are usually senior leaders of the institutes or presenters of extended material during the visits. Material at the beginning of each section is excerpted from the mission statements published in brochures obtained from the institutes. Some attempt has been made to render these into correct English usage, although in almost all cases, the meaning in the original is perfectly clear. "SOA" means State Oceanic Administration, which strongly parallels the U.S. NOAA; "CAS" is the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which appears to parallel the Russian Academy of Science in that it has operational arms, institutes, ships, laboratories, etc. It is also reported to conduct military research programs.


II. List of Institutes

The following are the institutes that are reported upon herein. The Attachments are copies of institutional brochures found at the end of this report (these are not included in this electronic version of the report).


Chinese Oceanographic/Remote Sensing Institutes

Visit of 11--24 August 1997


1. China Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station, CAS (Beijing)....................Att.1

2. National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center, SOA (Beijing)....................Att.2

3. Institute of Remote Sensing Applications, CAS (Beijing)........................Att.3

4. National Marine Data & Information Service, SOA (Tianjin)....................Att.4

5. Institute of Ocean Technology, SOA (Tianjin)...........................Att.5

6. First Institute of Oceanography, SOA (Qingdao)..........................Att.6

7. Institute of Oceanology, CAS (Qingdao).............................Att.7

8. Ocean University of Qingdao, SCE (Qingdao)..............................Att.8a

Ship Dong Fang Hong 2 (Qingdao)..............................Att.8b

9. Second Institute of Oceanography, SOA (Hangzhou).........................Att.9


1. China Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station, CAS (Beijing)



"The China Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station (China RSGS, Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences) was inaugurated and became operational in December, 1986. It is the fruit of a Sino-American science and technology cooperative project signed during Deng Xiaoping's visit to the USA. The main mission of this station is to receive, process, distribute, and archive Earth resources satellite remote sensing data. Up to now it is China's only Earth resources/environmental space remote sensing operational data system, and it is technically advanced compared with similar stations internationally.

"China RSGS has provided large numbers of satellite remote sensing products to more than 400 users, domestic and overseas. The application of information of this kind has resulted in large positive economic and social benefits in a wide range of fields of the national economy, including monitoring, prevention and control of natural disasters, scientific research of macroscopic decision in economic construction, etc.

"Besides the receiving and processing of Landsat TM data, China RSGS has the capability of receiving other Earth resources satellite remote sensing data, such as JERS-1 and ERS-I SAR data. Improved service in providing space remote sensing data for applications is guaranteed. Together with our users, China RSGS will make its duty-bound contribution to the modernization of China."


Professor Li Chuanrong, senior engineer, presented the information on the Station.

This station, located in northwest Beijing, was established in December 1986 under a joint Sino-American agreement. The director general is Dr. Pan Xizhe. Its mission is to receive, process, distribute, and archive many types of Earth resources satellite data. The receiving antenna, a large X-band system, is in a shallow valley in MiYun about 100 km from Beijing. It can acquire Landsat, ERS 1 & 2, JERS-1, SPOT, and RadarSat data and covers about 80% of China. Data are recorded on HDDT media and transported to Beijing daily by car in protected containers. It supports many customers, including the State Science and Technology Commission, coastal industries, SPC, the Ministry of Finance, and others. They have over 600 users/organizations utilizing the data. Two additional receiving stations are planned in the west and south of China in the near future. An applications Research Division and a SAR Processing Division are newly established. A cooperative program between China and Brazil, CBERS-1, was mentioned in passing.

The Optical-Chemical Laboratory produces very high quality color imagery up to 1.2 m in width. Beautiful images of Shanghai and all of China were on display.

The center has a MacDonald-Detweiler (MDD) SAR processor running on VAX systems in-house and producing ERS-1/2 imagery. An upgraded version of the MDD processor, modified by the staff, will be brought up on a new Silicon Graphics computer and will be used for RadarSat imagery in the immediate future.

A 1996 Chinese document on SAR processing edited by Prof. Li was purchased. The articles are technical/mathematical and include short abstracts and references in English. It is a substantial document.



This is a first-class operation, one of the best seen on the tour. The receiving and processing systems are close to but not quite at the global state of the art. In the case of SAR, the choice of the Canadian MDD processor is quite logical given the emphasis on RadarSat and the good relationships between China and Canada.

Little could be told about value-added processing of the imagery. It appears likely that other institutes with specialties in the various earth sciences are the ones doing such processing. A few such value-added cases will be cited ahead.



Fax: 86-10-6-256-1215


2. National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center, SOA (Beijing)



We have no printed material from this center.


The Center, an arm of SOA, provides marine environmental forecasts to maritime interests in China, presumably including the Chinese Navy. Its director is Prof. Yu Zhouwen. They are concerned with marine aspects of typhoons (although the meteorological forecasts are made by the Chinese Weather Bureau), winds, waves, sea surface temperature (SST), sea ice (including Bo Hai, Arctic and Antarctic analyses) and forecasts/nowcasts of air/sea interaction. No fisheries environmental forecasts seem to be produced. In addition, there are technical departments for remote sensing, telecommunications, and data and information management.

The Center issues its forecasts through television, newspapers, and directly to government agencies in the coastal provinces and to offshore oil companies. It also produces specialized products for other paying customers. Approximately 320 people are employed, including 20 at the full professor level and 50 associate professors. Research in waves, physical oceanography, air/sea interaction and marine meteorology is conducted.

The remote sensing effort is significant and makes use of real-time data flowing from the Japanese Geosynchronous Meteorological Satellite and the NOAA/AVHRR sensors. Mention was made of a Chinese geostationary satellite two to three years hence. A 3-m receiving antenna is in the parking lot in full military camouflage. Personal computers and workstations abound, with the top-of-the line facilities being a DEC Alpha super-minicomputer with either 256 or 512 MB of memory.



This is a large operation. There is no equivalent in NOAA in the U.S., although the Naval Oceanographic Office and Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center collectively fill similar functions for the U.S. Navy.



E-mail to director: yuzw@sun.ihep.ac.cn


3. Institute of Remote Sensing Applications, CAS (Beijing)



"The Laboratory of Remote Sensing Information Sciences (LARSIS) conducts research on the imaging mechanisms and interactions of electromagnetic information in visible, infrared and microwave with the objects of earth surface, and on the methodologies, theories and applications for the study of resources and environment. The goals and research aspects of LARSIS are as follows:

"Spectral, spatial, and temporal characteristics and geo-biosciences laws of remote sensing information in:

  • The imaging mechanisms and methodology for information extraction of high spectral resolution remote sensing;
  • The imaging mechanisms and methodology of radar remote sensing for earth observation;
  • The laws of the transmission and inversion of remote sensing information;
  • Methodology and application models of advanced remote sensing information for earth observation."



This large institute is located in north central Beijing and is one of 122 institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The director-general of the institute is Prof. Guo Huadong, and the acting director of LARSIS is Prof. Shao Yun. It is 17 years old and is an "open laboratory," i.e., one that accommodates foreign visitors. In fact, I received an invitation to stay for a day to a month for academic exchange. Its staff of 240 has recently declined from the 300-person level it had at its start. (The other decrement in staffing noted during the two-week tour was also in a CAS unit, the Institute of Oceanology in Qingdao - see ahead.) There are 18 professors and 60 associate professors.

The program has four major elements:

1. Fundamentals of remote sensing science in microwave and optical frequencies;

2. In the Laboratory of Remote Sensing Information Sciences (LARSIS) are found remote sensing applications to (a) nonrenewable resources, (b) solid earth processes, and (c) global change processes, including oceanography;

3. National Engineering Center for Geomatics, with work in (a) sensor development, (b) geographical information systems, and (c) networking;

4. Technical services and aircraft operation.

During its 17 years, the Institute has carried out some 93 projects, of which a number were exhibited on large posters in Chinese and English. These included:

1. Atmospheric corrections for AVHRR;

2. Soil moisture studies combining AVHRR and airborne SAR at L-and X- bands;

3. Drought monitoring in northwest China;

4. Spectral signatures of rocks under varying conditions of temperature and pressure;

5. Use of GPS with remote sensing techniques, e.g. GPS and airborne lidar;

6. Hyperspectral imagery for resource detection, using 71+ channels in the visible, near-IR and thermal IR. Also absorption spectra of rocks are used for mineral identification. Tin, gold, and copper have been discovered in barren regions, and oil and gas via identification of oil seeps. These have won the institute First and Third prizes from the CAS;

7. High-resolution spectrometer in the infrared;

8. Radar remote sensing with Japan, European Space Agency, Russia, and Canada. They apparently will use the receiving stations of the China RSGS above. They have also received data from the Russian SAR on Almaz-1;

9. Multispectral and multipolarization SAR, using Stokes parameter analysis.

10. Geological studies with NASA SIR-C/X;

11. A "global SAR" program with Canada (perhaps the one cited in Section 1);

12. Global vegetation change using AVHRR;

13. Changes in water storage and glacier flow in Tibet and land formations in the Yellow River Delta, using Landsat MSS and TM;

14. Desertification in Yulin, using AVHRR;

15. Monitoring of Urban Growth using Landsat TM;

16. Development of a high-resolution CCD array with more than 2000 elements;

17. Development of a multisensor IR scanner;

18. Supervised computer classification of topographic maps and land use;

19. Geometric and radiometric image corrections;

20. Geographical Information System for PC's;

21. Interactive mapping and interpretation;

22. Overlays of meteorological satellite data on GIS;

23. Water resource assessment and urban planning using SPOT;

24. Land use in Tibet -- usage, changes, farming (a first-prize winner);

25. Geology -- engineering and disaster assessment using aircraft sensors;

26. Operation of a Cessna Citation S-II, with INS, GPS, vertical gyro, aerial cameras, multispectral images, microwave radiometers, SAR with on-board optical processing, and data transmission to the ground.

Other projects underway in the Radar Remote Sensing Laboratory, (LARSIS) included:

1. Analysis of SIR-C/X for rice and other vegetation;

2. The Canadian Convair 580 with multifrequency, multipolarization SAR was flown in China in 1993 for crop classification. Using a neural-net, supervised classifier and training fields to identify such signatures, a 90% correct classification is claimed;

3. With ERS-1/2, multitemporal change detection of rice crops was done. Also, a world map made by the SAR on ERS-1 has been constructed;

4. Erosion of the Great Wall, as well as the discovery of large volcanoes in isolated areas, which were observed with SIR-C/X. Wetland delineation and potential for drainage were carried out using L-band SAR;

5. Construction of maps of ground displacement using interferometric SAR, displayed as fringe-shift maps. Full Stokes matrix information was used;

6. Ocean observations, including shoals, areas of air/sea instability, ships and ship wakes, internal waves, and oil in the Bo Hai.

Much use appears to have been made of SIR-C data.

In the Hyperspectral Laboratory, a Modular Aircraft Imaging Spectrometer, MAIS, developed at the Shanghai Institute of Science and Technology, is being used for mineral resource detection. (Many other institutes also seem to have made use of this instrument, which may be considered a national resource.) Both gold and uranium have been discovered with it. The imager has 32 bands in the visible, 32 in the near-IR, and 7 in the thermal IR. Bandwidth is 10 nm in the visible. At 2000-m altitude, it has a 300-m swath and 2- to 3-m pixels. Automatic search routines are used to identify geographical regions showing spectra of the desired material.


Communication with the Director

e-mail: guohd@bepc 2.ihep.ac.cn


4. National Marine Data and Information Service, SOA (Tianjin)



"The National Marine Data and Information Service (NMDIS) of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), which was set up in 1958, is a national comprehensive sector for research on marine information technologies and service for public benefit. It is composed of four operational systems, i.e., the National Oceanographic Data Center of China (CNODC), the Institute of Marine Scientific and Technological Information (IMSTI) including the National Marine Archives Center (NMAC), the China Operational Center of the International Ocean Institute (IOI-China) and the National Marine Space Information Research and Development Center (MSIRDC). The major tasks of the Service are to organize and coordinate the national work on marine data and scientific and technological information; take charge of the collection, processing, storage and service of various kinds of marine information; establish a variety of marine databases; and provide different marine information products and service. The World Data Center-D, Oceanography is housed at and operated by NMDIS, which is the third world data center for oceanography, following the establishment of WDC-A, Oceanography, in the United States and WDC-B Oceanography in Russia. NMDIS acts also as the national partner participating in the Aquatic Science and Fisheries Information System (ASFIS) of the United Nations and the ASFA National Input Center in China, the national representative and coordinator for the IOC Committee on International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE), the Documents Depository Center of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the West Pacific Secretariat of the World Ocean Commission and a member of the Global Marine Education Network."



This Center is apparently modeled to a considerable degree after the NOAA Environmental Data Service (a part of NESDIS). However, its functions are considerably broader than data archiving and retrieval; it has operational responsibilities in tidal analysis and dissemination, serves as the focal point in China for interaction with a myriad of international and national marine science and technology centers, and has an active remote sensing operation with a satellite receiver on its campus. It also has a marine chart production capability, a marine information research function, and a large library with significant holdings of foreign and Chinese journals, reports, and books. In addition, a special section on marine economics provides statistics, analysis and research in that area. The customers are marine fisheries, marine traffic, offshore oil and gas, shipbuilding, sea salt industry, and seashore tourism.

The director is Prof. Hou Wengfeng, the deputy director is Dr. Wang Hong, and the head of the remote GIS activity is Dr. Huang Longsheng. Remote sensing is headed by Dr. Wang Hua. The staff level is 400 to 500. Customers include central and local governments (including the military).

The heart of its information processing and retrieval system is the National Marine Information System, a computer network of considerable power. It is managed by two Sun 1000E systems and is linked by a Token Ring with an Ethernet LAN internal to that. It goes out to China Net and the Internet via a WAN with a firewall. The Internet connection is apparently only a few months old. Some data are apparently available via FTP. One can leave an e-mail address with the Registrar and presumably receive assistance with file transfer.

The scientists are interested in using remotely sensed data from a variety of sources. China has signed an agreement with Canada to use RadarSat SAR data. They are interested in SeaWIFS imagery when it becomes available. They also expressed willingness to fill my data requests for AVHRR data taken in China seas.



The NMDIS is an impressive operation. Its computer system is, on the face of it, a powerful facility. The services provided between it and its sister institute in Beijing, the National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center, cover the waterfront on marine services (with the exception of fisheries resource management). It has clearly been fashioned after the U.S. and World Data Centers and forms a valuable adjunct to WDC A, B, and D.





5. Institute of Ocean Technology, SOA (Tianjin)



"The Institute of Ocean Technology (IOT) is the only institute in the country engaging in ocean technology research with emphasis on ocean environmental monitoring. It was created in 1965 and is administrated by State Oceanic Administration (SOA). There are 600 staff members in IOT, among whom more than 350 are scientific and technical personnel, including 9 research professors and 95 senior engineers. Specialized in mechanical, electronic, optical, acoustic, chemical, computer and ocean engineering sciences, they are experienced in conducting ocean technology research work. At present, the institute owns a number of laboratories in such areas as electronics, remote sensing, acoustics, opto-acoustics, computer application, metal protection, and ocean environment simulation, as well as standard meteorological equipment. In addition, a factory with building area of around 10,000 m2 is affiliated with the institute."


The IOT provides engineering services to SOA and other ocean interests in China. The range of disciplines served includes physical oceanography and ocean engineering, as well as research and survey facilities for marine resource systems. The Institute was originally a navy facility but was apparently transferred to SOA in 1965. They have been responsible for marine data buoys, deep-sea moorings, airborne remote sensing systems for sea ice, automated oceanographic/meteorologic observation systems, data-processing systems, and shipboard computer systems. Water and bottom sampling, continuous-flow salinometers, current meters, acoustic positioning systems, conductivity-temperature-depth instruments, and bottom trawls are found among its repertory. An interesting application is the use of low-frequency hydrophones for monitoring wind-induced ocean noise. They also claim to have developed in-house an airborne expendable conductivity-temperature-depth (AXCTD) device. Remote sensing is prominent, with interest (but not much experience) in SAR evidenced; there is also significant interest in underwater radiance measurements, with cooperative activity on the NASA SeaWIFS ocean color sensor cited. They have used the Chinese 71-channel hyperspectral imager, probably the same one cited by several other institutes visited. A shipborne spectral radiance meter allows measurement of upwelling and downwelling radiance and diffuse attenuation coefficient of water masses and is elegant in its simplicity.

Prof. Zhang Dao Ping is the chief engineer. They are organized into eight departments, generally in accordance with technical tasks. The staff numbers about 700, of whom 300 are professionals, with nine professors and 95 senior engineers. Since 1979 more than 200 scientific and technical projects have been carried out, and three state-level and 30 ministerial-level awards have been received.

The Institute is greatly interested in cooperative projects with both Chinese and foreign organizations and has participated in numbers of international and foreign programs: the NASA SIMBIOS project on multisensor studies (perhaps using their underwater radiance meter), SIR-C image analysis of Hong Kong, optical programs with NOAA, and what appears to be open-ocean measurements in support of the World Climate Research Program.

We mentioned three areas of possible cooperation: (1) the tentative China Sea acoustic/internal wave experiment; (2) calibration of the hyperspectral imager in the Yellow Sea; and (3) further participation in the Global Climate Change Program via maintenance of deep-ocean moorings on 165 E longitude. Discussions along these lines led to the development of a certain amount of rapport with the staff at the meeting.



There is apparently a preference among working ocean technologists elsewhere in China for instrumentation produced in the West. It is not clear how the capabilities of IOT are being used by the Chinese community.



e-mail: iotsoa@V7610.tisti.ac.cn


6. First Institute of Oceanography, SOA (Qingdao)



"The First Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration (SOA) is a comprehensive oceanographic research institute rendering public welfare services. Its main tasks are to accomplish marine scientific research projects assigned by SOA in accordance with its administrative functions, carry out basic marine scientific and applied research, explore the mysteries of the ocean, serve the national economy and create still more economic and social benefits.

"In the approximately 40 years since its founding, the First Institute of Oceanography has developed into a marine science research organization that is well-known at home and abroad. It is equipped with modern survey equipment, experimental installations and auxiliary facilities for scientific research and has nearly 230 senior researchers. The accomplished projects entrusted by domestic and foreign institutions have demonstrated the international level of its prime work. As an international cooperation window of SOA, the First Institute of Oceanography has taken charge of many large-scale international cooperative projects, such as the Sino-USA western tropical Pacific investigation and Sino-Japan investigation on the Kuroshio and so on, thus enabling her to enjoy an elevated reputation at home and abroad.

"Marine science is a science of the 21st century that requires mutual efforts, close cooperation and creative work on the part of enterprising scientific and technological circles and the whole human society. It is hoped that this brief introduction can be of help to personalities of various circles to further understand the First Institute of Oceanography and jointly promote its development and allow it to make still greater contributions to the development of marine sciences."



This institute was created in 1958 from an existing Navy laboratory. In 1963 its management was assigned to the newly established SOA. The institute has a broad range of responsibilities in (a) applied basic research, (b) marine engineering, mapping and environmental assessment, and (c) marine biology. The director is Prof. Yuan Yeli, who is a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and who has spent time at Johns Hopkins as a visiting scientist; he was also the chief organizer of the First China-U.S. Marine Remote Sensing Conference. The staff numbers about 450, with 15 doctoral-level scientists, 55 at the master's level and 221 at the undergraduate level. In terms of scientific discipline, Prof. Yuan leads the Physical Oceanography effort, Prof. Zheng Quanan (currently in the U.S. at the University of Delaware as a visiting scientist) the Environmental Oceanography, and Prof. Wu Baoling the Marine Biology program.

International cooperation has occurred with the U.S., Russia, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, and Canada. They participated in the TOGA/COARE experiment, maintaining moorings along the meridian at 165 east; conducted a six-year study of the Kuroshio with Japan; and a four-year study of the Yellow Sea with the KORDI of South Korea. Together with their sister Polar Institute, they stage an annual cruise to Antarctica. They also have strong domestic programs with the Chinese Science Foundation in basic research (FIO is second only to the Institute of Oceanology in funding from this source), with the National Science and Technical Committee for unspecified work, and from oil and marine industries for marine transportation studies and similar concerns.

The institute appears to have a significant marine instrumentation development program, thus partially obviating the need for services from the Institute of Ocean Technology, for example. Computer facilities are plentiful, with top-of-the-line machines including DEC Alphas and a Silicon Graphics Indigo. The library has over 50,000 books, making it next to the Ocean University of Qingdao in size.

Ship services are provided by SOA, with the available ship days being split between the North, East, and South branches of SOA. Ships are staged from Qingdao.

The Applied Marine Remote Sensing Division has a staff of 45, including 28 senior professionals. Its five laboratories are in microwave remote sensing, optical remote sensing, applied optics, data processing, and electronic techniques. Some of the work in microwaves presented at the Beijing conference was quite sophisticated and advanced. Work in underwater lasers has also been carried out.



This is the premier laboratory of SOA. Professor Yuan has an international reputation, is a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and has apparently moved his institute to the forefront of Chinese applied ocean science. It is difficult to say how it ranks against the CAS Institute of Oceanology (see ahead) but the differences cannot be great.

As in most other Chinese marine institutes, remote sensing here is strong. There is no U.S. organization having a staff of 45 addressing ocean remote sensing as this one does--indeed, in many American institutes, remote sensing is considered to be scientifically an inferior kind of activity. If the use of SAR is a measure of advanced remote measurement practice, FIO is at the forefront of Chinese marine institutes.


e-mail: ylyuan@ns.qd.sd.cn


7. Institute of Oceanology, CAS (Qingdao)



"The Institute of Oceanology of the Academy of Sciences (IOCAS) was first established as a Marine Biology Laboratory in 1950 and expanded into a large oceanographic institute with comprehensive and multiple disciplines covering:

  • Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
  • Physical Oceanography
  • Marine Geology and Geophysics
  • Marine Chemistry
  • Multidisciplinary Studies

Since its establishment, the institute has conducted 400 science and technology projects of high academic level and economic value. The institute has now a work force of 600, of which approximately 400 are scientific and technical staff, including:

  • One Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • One Fellow of the Third World Academy of Sciences
  • 61 research professors
  • 168 associate research professors

The institute was also authorized to confer Master's degrees in nine disciplines and Ph. D. degrees in three disciplines, and to host visiting post-doctoral associates in marine sciences."



  • August 1950. The Marine Biology Laboratory under the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was established.
  • January 1954. The Laboratory was renamed as the Marine Biology Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (MBLCAS, under CAS directly).
  • September 1957. MBLCAS was enlarged to the Institute of Marine Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMBCAS).
  • January 1959. IMBCAS was further expanded into a multidisciplinary institute, the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS)."



We were hosted by Prof. Zhao Jinping, head of the Marine Remote Sensing Laboratory at the Institute (whose name reflects the Soviet-inspired difference between "oceanology" and "oceanography," i.e., the difference between the study and the geography of the ocean). The origins of IOCAS in marine biology and biological oceanography are also reflected in the staff, about half of whom are biologists, as well as the interests in remote sensing as related to chlorophyl, marine ecology, and Arctic/Antarctic studies. Physical oceanography, while strong, is not the central focus of the organization. Nevertheless they have participated in the major global physics experiments such as TOGA, WOCE and CLIVAR. They also have a significant numerical modeling effort that apparently works with the remote sensing program as well as with other observational programs. Other areas include marine geology and geophysics, marine chemistry, ocean stock cultures, and marine pharmacology. In environmental oceanography there are interests in sediment transport, coastal currents, and oil spill forecasting; use is made of numerical models in these coastal studies.

As with many of the Chinese institutes, degree-granting authority has been given by the State Commission of Education. Some 92 Ph.D. and 229 M.S. degrees have been awarded. Foreign exchange programs with the West have been supported since the 1970's. IOCAS publishes a quarterly journal in English, Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology, as well as three other regular journals in Chinese.

IOCAS operates three major research vessels, Science I, Science II, and Venus II. The largest is Science I, a 3300-ton ocean-going ship of order 100-m length that can hold 60 scientists.

Their interests in remote sensing include use of the NASA CZCS ocean color scanner, SeaWIFS, the wind scatterometer, SAR, and the radar altimeter. The Landsat Thematic Mapper is used for coastal studies. Some studies of internal waves in the South China Sea have been conducted by Prof. Zhuang Guowen in support of oil companies. He expects to use SAR in the future to support these researches.

The Institute seems to have had considerable staff reductions in recent years, decreasing from near 1000 to about 600 people at present, apparently because of funding losses.



This is a high-quality research organization. As an element of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it enjoys freedom to address fundamental problems in ocean science across a wide range of subjects and has had the resources to work on them effectively. Its educational activities are second only to the Ocean University of Qingdao (see next). However, in spite of this, the staffing levels are down significantly (a fate also shared by another element of the Academy, the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications in Beijing). The decreases are occurring while staffing (and presumably funding) levels in the SOA institutes are increasing. No opinions on these shifts were shared by any scientists during our tour.



Fax: 86-532-287-0882


8. Ocean University of Qingdao, SCE (Qingdao)



"General Survey of the University

Ocean University of Qingdao (OUQ), especially renowned for its oceanography and fisheries programs, is a key university under the direct jurisdiction of the State Commission of Education. It is a comprehensive university with disciplines of science, engineering, agronomy (fishery), medical science (pharmaceutics), liberal arts, philosophy and economics.

"OUQ, with the main campus in Yushan Road and the subcampus in Maidao district, has eight Colleges of Marine Environment, Fishery, Engineering, Economy & Trade, Technical Sciences, Foreign Languages, Marine Life Sciences and Adult Education, and four Departments: Marine Chemistry, Marine Geology, Social Sciences, and Physical Education. It offers 32 four-year and over 20 two-year programs. In addition, there are over 30 four-year and two-year programs of evening schools and correspondence courses. As one of the universities authorized earliest to confer all degrees by the State Council 's Academic degrees Committee, OUQ has 16 majors to confer the master's degree, eight majors the doctoral degree, and a postdoctoral program. As a result of the establishment of branches of learning it has set up two key disciplines on the national list, five on the provincial list and a base on the national list for training the talents to be engaged in teaching and scientific research in natural sciences.

"There are 21 research institutes (offices) attached to the University equipped with advanced teaching and scientific research equipment, such as a key lab on the national list, two open labs on the list of the State Commission of Education, four key labs on the provincial list, an audio-visual center, a computer center, a testing center, over 90 labs for different subjects, a research vessel, Dong Fang Hong 2, of 2500 tons displacement, and another research vessel of 3500 tons displacement under construction. The library has a collection of 650,000 volumes and more that 2000 kinds of Chinese and foreign periodicals. Two Journals of Ocean University of Qingdao (natural and social sciences), Forum of Higher Education and a four-page semimonthly newspaper of OUQ are published in the University.

"There are now altogether over 7000 students, including some dozens of foreign students, over 370 graduate students, 4220 students of four-year or two-year programs and 2430 students of evening schools and correspondence courses. There are over 1000 teachers, scientific researchers and experimental and technical personnel, embracing 140 professors, 340 associate professors and other senior-post holders.

"With the further carrying out of the open policy, the University has already established exchange and cooperative relations with over 50 universities and scientific research units in 21 countries and areas.

"OUQ advocates setting up a 'united, diligent, realistic and creative' approach in both teaching and learning to nurture good ideology and moral integrity and guides students towards a better understanding of society and the world, and a firm resolution to study hard for China's reconstruction.

"In the course of its development over seven decades, the university has trained numbers of qualified scientists and technicians. Since the founding of Shandong College of Oceanology in March, 1959, the quality of teaching and scientific research has been improved year by year via revising educational programs, building up the ranks of teaching staff, compiling more teaching materials, equipping labs with advanced facilities and improving administration in the university.

"The staff of the university are determined to seize every opportunity to further reforms, speed up development and strive to make OUQ a comprehensive university with famous disciplines of oceanography and fishery, first rate at home, renowned abroad."


"Introduction of Dong Fang Hong 2"

"Dong Fang Hong 2 is an integrated oceanology training and research vessel belonging to the Ocean University of Qingdao. The vessel is fully capable of the type of integrated investigation and systematic research in several disciplines of marine science including hydrology, meteorology, physics, chemistry, biology, geology and geophysics, both in the continental shelf region and oceans all over the world. She can also be used as a field-training vessel for the would-be oceanologists. She has an advanced scientific design, multi-purpose features, and economical running and reliable safety. She is the most advanced floating laboratory on the sea in China.


"Ship's Particulars


LOA: 96 m"



The Ocean University of Qingdao is the premier educational institution for marine sciences in China. It was founded in 1924 and has approximately 7000 students and 1000 faculty. It is actually a broader-range university than its name implies, since in addition to curricula in ocean subjects (encompassing about half of the personnel), it has majors in physics, chemistry, economics, engineering, computer science, and languages. Within marine science and technology, the subject matter is quite diverse.

At the undergraduate level, the major divisions are:

  • Marine Environmental College
  • Technical Sciences College
  • Marine Chemistry Department
  • Marine Life Sciences College
  • Marine Geology Department
  • Fishery College
  • Economy and Trade College
  • Engineering College
  • Foreign Languages College

Three additional functions served are in Social Sciences (Principles of Marxism), Physical Education, and Adult Education, this last being a surprisingly large and important function.

The Technical Sciences College was established in 1993, growing out of the Physics and Computer Sciences departments. It includes Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Marine Remote Sensing. There is a doctoral program, three MS programs in marine physics, and seven undergraduate and three junior college programs. Some of the programs are "key" activities of Shandong Province. The college has 80 teachers (43 at the professorial level) and over 680 students--about 10% of the university student population. The research areas include marine acoustics, marine optics, marine satellite remote sensing, underwater robot 3-D vision, noise and its control, laser applications, and special light sources. Over 400 papers have been published and several research awards at national, provincial, and ministerial levels have been received.

At the graduate/research level, research laboratories/institutions are:

  • The National Key Laboratory of Physical Oceanography
  • The Open Laboratory of Aquaculture
  • Marine Remote Sensing Information Processing Laboratory
  • Institute of Physical Oceanography
  • Institute of Marine Proliferation and Culture
  • Marine Drug and Foodstuff Institute
  • Estuary and Seacoast Institute
  • Ocean Remote Sensing Institute
  • Institute of Marine Chemistry
  • Institute of Marine Biotechnology
  • Research Center of Marine Environmental Protection
  • Institute of Bio-Material Development
  • Institute of New Fine Chemicals Development
  • Institute of Industrial Waste Water Processing
  • Institute of Mineral Resources

Three "open laboratories" combine facilities for both teaching and research and are sponsored by the Commission of Education as organizations that can accommodate both Chinese and foreign scholars. These are:

  • The Open Laboratory of Physical Oceanography
  • The Open Laboratory of Aquaculture
  • The Open Laboratory of Ocean Remote Sensing

It is in this last laboratory that the main ocean remote sensing research takes place. Principal professors include Prof. He Mingxia, Prof. Liu Zhi Shen, and Prof. Chen Ge (who speaks essentially flawless English). Supporting them is also the Marine Remote Sensing Processing Laboratory. The Remote Sensing faculty are the organizing group for the upcoming Pacific Ocean Remote Sensing Conference (PORSEC) at Qingdao, 28--31 July 1998; ONR Asia is also a co-sponsor. (It is worth noting that the conference will be preceded by the Western Pacific Regional Conference of the American Geophysical Union in Taipei, Taiwan, 20--24 July 1998. There will be a strong ocean science component to this AGU meeting.)

Professor He is the director of the laboratory and is primarily interested in remote sensing of ocean color. She has recently competed successfully for data support from NASA under the SYMBIOS program via a competitive proposal procedure, and is the principal organizer of the PORSEC conference.

Professor Liu is an optical physicist with strong interests in the uses of lasers in the ocean. While a member of Prof. He's laboratory, he is also dean of the Technical Sciences College. His optics lab is extremely well equipped with high-quality lasers and optical accessories; a Ne-YAG laser system is being developed for measurement of Doppler spectra in water and air using iodine absorption cells as detectors.

Professor Chen, who was our main host, is also a physicist. His research specialties were not ascertained. I had previously met both He and Chen in Florence, Italy during March 1996 at the European Space Agency's ERS-1 -2 Conference.


Ship Resources

The main research vessel belonging to the University is the Dong Fang Hong 2, whose characteristics are described above and in the accompanying brochure (Att.8b). A new 3500-ton marine research ship is under construction.




The University is clearly China's main intellectual resource in ocean science, technology, and associated activities. Its faculty and its programs appear to be of good-to-excellent quality and are internationally competitive and recognized. Of the approximately 3000 "oceanographers" in the country, most are products of its educational system. Funding appears to come from several sources, including the State Commission on Education, the China Foundation for Science and Technology, and the Chinese Military.

Prof. Liu's laser laboratory was the best-equipped and maintained lab we encountered during the tour. His equipment appeared to be of first-class quality and the level of research very advanced.

In remote sensing, the emphasis is clearly on optical characteristics of the sea. Little activity in microwave/radar observations was evident in the areas we were shown.




e-mail: mxhe@ns.qd.sd.cn


9. Second Institute of Oceanography, SOA (Hangzhou)




"The Second Institute of Oceanography was founded in 1966. As a comprehensive oceanographic institute, it is mainly engaged in surveying, prospecting, forecasting and applying the environment and resources of China sea, ocean and polar regions. It has played an important role in the general management services of seas and oceans, in exploiting oceanic mineral resources, in the construction of coastal engineering, and in taking precautions against calamities and the protection of oceanic environment.

"Consisting of a strong group of researchers, the institute covers a wide range of research fields with advanced equipment and facilities. Among 351 scientific and technical workers in the institute, there is one academician of Academia Sinica, 45 professors, two post-doctors, and 109 advanced engineers and associate professors. In recent years, a new young team has grown up, which is taking up the nation's "863 Sophisticated Items." The institute is admitted by the state education commission to conferring master's degree of four majors: physical oceanography, marine geology, marine chemistry and marine biology, as well as two doctor's degrees: physical oceanography and marine geology. Now it has three doctoral tutors and 22 master's tutors. The institute has established 12 specialized organizations: marine geology and geophysics, oceanic mineral resources, marine hydrometeorology, marine chemistry, marine biology, oceanic remote sensing techniques, marine engineering prospecting and designing, and oceanic dynamic numerical simulation. It has carried out numbers of special national projects, national key scientific research projects, national natural science fund projects, and provincial key scientific projects; in addition, there have been many marine services to industrial development and technique services. As one of the main windows of international exchange, it has successfully cooperated with almost 20 countries--U.S.A., Germany, France, Japan, Australia and Netherlands, etc., in physical oceanography, marine geology, geophysics, biogeochemistry, remote sensing and numerical simulation. Because of this it has many research achievements, especially in exploring the Antarctic via expeditions to the Antarctic Ocean and taking part in the research on polymetallic nodules, thereby making China the fifth pioneer in the world to develop these oceanic resources. Over 30 years, the institute has won 129 scientific progress prizes from the nation, department and province, including six "A"and "B" prizes from the nation, and nine "A" prizes from the department and province."



This institute is directed by Prof. Su Jilan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Science. It is "committed to marine remote sensing," according to the young deputy director of the organization, Prof. Zhang Hai Sheng. It has an HRPT receiver for acquiring NOAA data, which it provides to members of the Chinese marine science community. (They indicated a willingness to provide such NOAA data to us for joint projects.) It also has received data from the 1988 Chinese satellite, Fung Yung, the 1-B version, which apparently flew as late as June 1991. It is said to have had color and temperature sensors on board. They will (and perhaps currently are) receiving SeaWIFS data, for which they have prepared a SeaWIFS laboratory, writing their own receiving and processing software. NASA has apparently also provided SEADAS software to it for such use. They have no X-band receiving capability such as is required to acquire Landsat or ERS data. When reviewing their processing facility, we were required to remove our shoes and don slippers; this practice was not encountered elsewhere. The computer displays were first-class. One output was a simulated image of ROCSAT coverage.(The ROCSAT satellite is of Taiwanese origin.) Another was a color Landsat scene of Hangzhou and a third a SIR-C image of the South China Sea near a small unidentified island.

Their main scientific interests in remote sensing seemed focused on its use in deriving ocean-color-related data. For example, they use NOAA 14/ Channel 1 to study suspended sediment motions. With SeaWIFS, they will be able to derive the usual information on near-surface chlorophyl concentration, suspended sediment load, and diffuse attenuation coefficient for water clarity studies. To do this quantitatively requires the full range of atmospheric corrections, including aerosol and clear-air Rayleigh scattering corrections using software developed by Dr. Pan Jiayi of the First Institute of Oceanography. Their experience to date in this area apparently derived from the 71-channel airborne scanning radiometer developed by the Shanghai Institute of Technology; we had heard about this instrument several times during the tour of Chinese institutes. It has also been used to monitor pollution from Shanghai entering into the Yangtze River. Another use of AVHRR was in a series of images to study changes in patterns in the sea, a "patch-match" approach using two methods: (1) a maximum correlation function, and (2) a maximum entropy method; they consider that these can yield reasonable current drifts.

Their ships are government vessels operated out of Shanghai, presumably engaged via the same procedures used by their sister laboratory, the First Institute of Oceanography.

During lectures by Prof. Ali and myself, interpreters were used; it was the only time this practice was encountered. They evidenced considerable interest in cooperating with the U.S. on a China Sea experiment in the future.

Our main hosts were Prof. Zhou Changbao, head of the Division of Marine Remote Sensing, and Prof. Huang Weigen, Chief of that division. Mr. Chu Beo Kang heads the International Office and as usual with those serving in this function, speaks excellent English. He rapidly and efficiently rearranged travel back to Beijing for me when a typhoon near Hong Kong prevented my visit to the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (CAS) in Guangzhou.



My overall impression of this institute is that it is a notch below the First Institute in quality and staffing level. This is based on the general appearance of the facilities, the size of the audience at our lectures, the lack of a polished brochure, and the fact that translation of our talks was required; no firm evidence is available to support such a position, however. As with all of the other laboratories visited, it used remote data routinely and prominently in its work. Within that sphere, the quality of the results presented seemed high and the work competent and even original. Our hosts were stimulating and professional and thoroughly engaged in their work.



Fax: 86-571-807-1539


III. Summary and Conclusions


Overall, the marine remote sensing activity in these institutes is impressive. The use of such data in an extended range of research activities appears widespread, with little of the disdain for remote measurement existing at some prominent U.S. ocean research institutions. Almost all organizations are making routine use of AVHRR imagery--which sensor, being a 25-year-old device, has provided ample time for Chinese institutes to develop competency. Ocean color instruments appear particularly popular, which makes good sense given the wide coastal shelf seas that the nation possesses, along with all of the associated resource and defense implications. As an example, faculty members at the Ocean University of Qingdao (Prof. He et al.) have successfully competed in an international NASA Announcement of Opportunity for SeaWIFS data. I had an opportunity to skim the proposal, which appeared quite good.

The best measure of their remote sensing sophistication, however, is probably found in the processing and use of SAR imagery of the ocean. These data require an order-of-magnitude larger computer and software capability and much more sophisticated, physics-based algorithms than needed by the passive sensors. Here the Chinese scientists appear to be near par with western colleagues as regards the level of understanding, but they also appear to have very little data with which to work. I often received expressions of interest from them in sharing data. For example, Prof. Yuan Yeli, director of the First Institute of Oceanography, gave a paper entitled "How Beautiful the SAR Images" at the Beijing marine remote sensing conference. His student, Dr. Meibing Jin, delivered an exceedingly advanced and interesting paper on the physics of backscatter from the sea. The knowledge and level of skill demonstrated by these two scientists were exceedingly high.

In the next several years we can expect to see Chinese oceanographers become increasingly well recognized for their contributions to understanding such issues as the role of the ocean in global climate change, ocean resource assessment, and coastal pollution. Expertise in these topics implies concomitant skill in marine military matters, since the same physical, chemical, and biological processes that establish oceanic conditions that are relevant to civilian interests are also relevant to the navies of the world because of their impact on military operations.

At the same time, in evolving nations, advanced scientific and technical expertise in some particular topic (such as remote sensing) does not carry with it the implication that similar expertise is available in all other topics. This was true in the former Soviet Union, where, in subjects considered worthy of national investment, the level of accomplishment in some relatively narrow area could readily match and sometimes exceed that in the U.S. However, the USSR was unable to challenge the U.S. across the entire range of scientific and technical activity, with the very important exception of the full breadth of theoretical physics--where they were simply without peer. Nevertheless, this did not lessen their accomplishments in their areas of choice.

Similar considerations apply to the Peoples Republic of China. Scientifically they can probably do whatever they want to do with significant skill--but they will not be able to it all in the near future. In addition, the lack of true scientific freedom (for example, in restrictions on such simple activities as e-mail) will surely hinder the stunning accomplishments seen in the West. Only with freedom and democracy can China ever approach the breadth of U.S. science and technology. However, this lack of broad accomplishment need not deter them from attempting to match it in a few chosen areas. Remote sensing of the sea is probably one of those topics, for good, sufficient, and obvious reasons.

The tour made by Prof. Ali and Dr. Apel was truncated by weather and time. A second set of visits to additional research institutes may well prove to be quite productive. In particular, the Shanghai Institute of Science and Technology, the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, and the Third Institute of Oceanography are all of interest. Another opportunity to conduct these reviews will present itself in August 1998, after the PORSEC Conference.

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