China Australia Chill Factor

China pursuit of strategic aims in Snow-covered Antarctica gives chill to Australian government.


Looking back on the history of Antarctica’s exploration, China made its first successful attempt only in 1985 with a foundation of the first research base on the ice continent. As a latecomer to the Antarctic scientific research, it is catching up rapidly and even outpacing other countries with its large-scale exploration campaign.

On the whole, 52 states are involved in the Antarctic race. Last year, China launched the fourth scientific station and chose a site for the fifth one. China’s government is lavish to allocate big funds for a second icebreaker and new ice-capable planes and helicopters.

In case China’s research progresses at such a brisk pace, this year it is quite capable of competing with the United States with its six stations in Antarctica. Importantly, the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 sets out the signatories must guarantee that the continent “shall be used for peaceful purposes only. There shall be prohibited, inter alia, any measure of a military nature.”

However, Beijing using the guise of research to gain a strategic upper hand in case the region opens to commercial drilling in the future. “This is part of a broader pattern of a mercantilist approach all around the world,” Peter Jennings, director of Australian Strategic Policy Institute, made a comment. “A big driver of Chinese policy is to secure a long-term energy supply and food supply.”

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