In Context: China Unveils New Antarctic Base

In Context: China Unveils New Antarctic Base

China’s unveiling of its fourth research base in Antarctica this weekend has produced a flurry of interest in the Chinese polar program. The broad consensus among analysts is that Beijing's intent is more about gaining sway over long-term rule-making than furthering science. As Lily Kuo writes in Quartz, “China’s Antarctic aspirations are likely for status and more importantly, leverage over a distant future when the region opens up.”

In a briefing for WPR last month, Anne-Marie Brady, editor-in-chief of the Polar Journal, outlines the impact of China’s Antarctic expansion, which also includes a newly announced fifth station. She writes:

The proposed new station, expected to be completed in 2016, will consolidate China's Antarctic interests and help make China a leading contender in polar affairs; less than 10 years ago the country was only a minor player in the polar regions. Although China's annual polar operation budget of around $60 million has in the past limited it to being only a medium polar power, China now has more money to spend on new infrastructure such as bases, planes and icebreakers than any other state.

But Brady stresses that this competition is not purely zero-sum. All this new infrastructure spending could benefit other countries’ operations on the continent as well as China’s:

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