China in the Antarctic

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China is building its fifth research station on the Antarctic continent at Terra Nova Bay in the resource-rich Ross Sea. Over the last twenty years, China has increased annual spending in the Antarctic  to $55m from $20m.

The most recent Chinese expedition, which left Shanghai with a 256 member team including construction workers is the country’s 30th Antarctic expedition. The expedition crew travels aboard the Xuelong, a $5m Ukrainian-made icebreaker. Their duties will be to restock Chinese research stations, finish Taishan (the country’s fourth station) and choose the site for the Terra Nova Bay station.
Countries have been using research stations as a way of staking claim to bits of Antarctica, which is a continent that has frequent sovereignty disputes. Having five stations will put China at only one fewer than the United States, which has the most with six.
The Antarctic is a vast unexploited continent, with fossil fuel reserves and mineral deposits, however their extent is unknown, and the Protocol on Environmental Protention upholds a mining ban until 2048. That ban may not hold up, however, and how countries position themselves for the inevitable exploitation of the Antarctic’s resources could prove decisive.
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2 Responses to China in the Antarctic

  1. China’s five research stations relative to the US’ six is another reiteration of the inevitable bipolarity of the world. As the largest two economies, much of foreign policy will be dictated by the two countries. Similarly, both will desire to remain or become at the top of the list for potential opportunities for human capital to migrate too. Having all these research centers is just a basic demonstration of that desire. Moreover, the potential to realize significant natural resource deposits and reserves is a large part of both energy independence and potential exports, which is often interpreted as a signal of economic prowess globally.

  2. This is a cool blog post. It’s nice to get “outside” of China with our blogging. Antartica is still a bit of mystery in terms of how to best utilize what it has to offer but there is no denying how important it is for countries to establish their presence on the frozen continent. China clearly has something they are after in Antarctica as illustrated by the increase in spending over the last five years.