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China Playing a Long Game in Polar Governance

Anne-Marie Brady Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014

China’s Antarctic program has captured international attention in recent weeks amid the dramatic rescue of the trapped Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy. China's successful participation in the rescue, in which a Chinese icebreaker played a key role before itself getting trapped in Antarctic ice, made global headlines and brought a windfall of positive public relations for a country whose growing polar interests tend to arouse anxiety among traditional players in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 10, China quietly released the draft environmental assessment report of its planned fifth Antarctic research station to the other consultative states in the Antarctic Treaty, the international instrument governing Antarctic affairs. China’s new base would be located at Terra Nova Bay in the strategically important Ross Sea region, where the U.S., New Zealand, South Korea, Germany and France also have research stations. Since the new base will be a permanent station, it requires the approval of other Antarctic consultative states before it can be built. ...

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