Thursday, January 2nd 2014 - 16:00 UTC

China starts to build its fourth Antarctica base: more planned

Just days after the Chinese rover Jade Rabbit settled down on the moon, China is setting out to bolster its presence in another remote place: Antarctica. Chinese state media said on Thursday that construction workers are en route to the future site of China’s fourth Antarctic research station, after a pit stop at one of its other bases.

“Great Wall” on Antarctica’s King George Island, China's fist Antarctica base

 The new station will be a hub for climate change science – as well as a possible linchpin in China’s effort to ensure for itself a voice in future negotiations about Antarctica’s valuable natural resources, analysts say.

China is a relative latecomer to the coldest continent. It did not put its first base, called Great Wall, on Antarctica’s King George Island until 1985. The US, Russia, Argentina, and the UK had maintained multiple bases there for decades.

But China has since been investing in the continent with a speed not unlike the quickness with which it has sought to match Russia and the US’s accomplishments in the cosmos. Its second Antarctic base, Zhongshan Station, was put on East Antarctica’s Larsemann Hills in 1989, and it added a third base, Kunlun – the state’s first inland station – atop East Antarctica’s hard-to-reach Dome A in 2009. China’s Polar Research Institute has been on something of a hiring spree, advertising some 47 new positions in 2012.

“As a latecomer to Antarctic scientific research, China is catching up,” Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration's Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, told Xinhua, China’s state news agency.

Antarctica is known as a “global common,” in that no one state owns it. The Antarctic Treaty, signed by twelve countries in December 1959, and by China in 1983 (cold war politics delayed China's participation), prohibits countries from claiming “any rights of sovereignty” on the continent, which is thought to be brimful with coal, oil, and various minerals including iron and copper. Under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1991, all mining is prohibited in Antarctica. Just about all that countries are allowed to do there is science.

But the protocol agreement is up for renegotiation in 2048. That has meant that states with prospective interests in the resource-rich region have sought to guarantee a voice in future negotiations by ensuring that they have a literal investment there: a scientific base, the bargaining chip of a region where science is supreme.

“The new base will consolidate China's presence in East Antarctica,” says Anne-Marie Brady, a researcher at the Wilson Center, in Washington DC, who is currently writing a book on China's polar strategy.

“China is playing a long game in Antarctica,” she says, “as are a number of other states such as Korea, India, Russia, who have explicitly stated their interest in Antarctic mineral resources.”

The new station, called Taishan, will be built at East Antarctica’s Princess Elizabeth Land, between the state’s Zhongshan and Kunlan camps. China’s mammoth icebreaker, a bright red ship called The Snow Dragon, had left China for Antarctica last month, bearing the construction materials to put together the new station.

11 comments Feed

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1 Britworker (#) Jan 02nd, 2014 - 04:29 pm Report abuse
I guess Penguins and Seals will be on the menu, in the absence of skinned alive dogs and cats.
2 Captain Poppy (#) Jan 02nd, 2014 - 04:46 pm Report abuse
Apparently donkey as well. I read this morning that Walmart China recalled their “canned donkey” meat because it was tainted with fox.
3 nololly (#) Jan 02nd, 2014 - 04:55 pm Report abuse
Are they putting in a takeaway? I hope its not in Queen. Elizabeth land!
4 GeoffWard2 (#) Jan 02nd, 2014 - 08:27 pm Report abuse
Wherever in the world there are un-sequestered (potential and actual) reserves of ores and other minerals, you will find China arranging matters to gain the larger part of those 'reserves'.
5 HansNiesund (#) Jan 02nd, 2014 - 08:28 pm Report abuse
Oh dear. Has anybody told Tobias?
6 Anglotino (#) Jan 03rd, 2014 - 02:56 am Report abuse
Just what we need, China destroying the Antarctic environment as thoroughly has they have their own.

Penguin gall bladders will be the next great Chinese aphrodisiac.
7 cornelius (#) Jan 03rd, 2014 - 06:09 am Report abuse
keep the chinesse out out out they are despicable !!!!!!
8 Stevie (#) Jan 04th, 2014 - 10:08 am Report abuse
The Chinese presence is very much welcome, regarding the fact that you lot don't have the balls to interfere, disturb, steal, lie or make use of any of your other inhereted attributes while they are presents...

English and Chinese should come in pair...
9 Captain Poppy (#) Jan 04th, 2014 - 01:40 pm Report abuse
Of course stevie everyone is afraid of the Chinese.....and the Americans do not have the balls to fly over the Senkaku Islands when the Chinese declared it a no fly zone. Us military still flys and told the Chinese to STF up. The only ones that stopped flying are civilians.
BTW......the area is not your's for you pinheads to welcome anyone. Some countries make a claim almost no one recognizes them.

BTW.....have the Aussies rescued the rescuers yet? Seems they got stuck.
They say a little knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge. Apparently the Chinese have a little knowledge.
10 Stevie (#) Jan 04th, 2014 - 07:24 pm Report abuse
As they seem to be planning more bases, you should really tell them they aren't welcome, thy they have invited themselves...
11 Captain Poppy (#) Jan 04th, 2014 - 10:27 pm Report abuse
No one has to welcome them nor invite them. No one owns Antarctica,it is an international territory of science. But I still see the Aussies rescuing the rescuers.
I will say this, anyone who puts in at McMurdo Sound has brass balls.....only they don't know it until they return. I am sure the electrical and safety hazards and disasters are all improved these

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