Land use and land cover (LULC) classification is the important foundation for research on global changes, while establishing a scientific LULC classification system is the fundamental question for research on LULC changes, which is in need of being solved at first. It can influence the expressive methods of classification results, determine the research purposes and application areas of classification product. The existing LULC classification systems on regional or global scales place emphasis on monitoring and research in land areas, while several coastal LULC classification systems on national scale show specific pertinence and teleonomy. It is lack of universality of LULC categories in the global coastal zone, especially in the classification of coastal wetlands. In view of the significant diversity of LULC categories and a lack of LULC classification systems in the global coastal zone, the main research works are as follows: a detailed overview of global coastal zone was presented; the Ramsar Convention was of particular concern, as were several wetland classification systems on regional or global scales; the classification rules and classification principles were defined and followed strictly. As a result of this study, we established one kind of LULC classification system for global coastal zone considering fine classification of wetlands. More specifically, this classification system, which covers most types of land resources comprehensively, includes six primary categories and 20 secondary categories as well as 43 tertiary categories. It is worth mentioning that primary categories mainly include cropland, vegetation, wetland, built-up area, bare area and permanent ice and snow; furthermore, tertiary categories emphasize the division of coastal wetland resources adequately and accurately, including coastal saltwater and inland freshwater, which hold a total of 16 basic categories. This classification system has clear hierarchy and strict classification, as compared with the traditional classification systems. The advantages of this system are as follows: 1) it meets the need of remote sensing monitoring research on LULC classifications and changes in coastal zones on regional or global scales; 2) it attaches importance to the rich and diverse wetland resources in the global coastal areas; 3) it emphasizes the attribution and classification of tundra in the high latitudes of the world; 4) it takes into account the advantages of low, medium and high spatial resolution satellite data. Overall, such a classification system can provide support for establishing the multi-temporal datasets of LULC changes in the global or regional coastal zones, which is not restricted by the source data types; it can also provide service for scientific research on coastal zones on different scales by adding and deleting categories, which is applicable to different researchers.