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China in Antarctica: a history.

Xuelong to the Rescue

On January 2, 2014, the Chinese ice breaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) carried out a successful mission to rescue fifty-two passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian-flagged scientific research vessel that had become trapped in pack ice off the coast of Antarctica. An Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis, tried for days to reach the passengers but it was the Xuelong, a Chinese icebreaking ship, that ultimately transported the passengers to safety via helicopter (Cowell and Wong 2014). After the rescue, the Xuelong, itself, became lodged in the ice for almost one week before breaking free (Jha 2014). This rescue mission was a multinational effort, including participants from New Zealand, the United States, Russia and France (China Daily 1/7/14). Later that year, the Xuelong also engaged in a multinational search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Australia (China Daily, 3/21/14).

The exploits of the Xuelong serve as an important indicator of the rise of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Antarctica (Einhorn 2014). In 30 short years, the PRC has become one of the more influential powers on the continent. However, few English-language works detail its activities. While press coverage in China documenting the exploits of Chinese scientists and explorers is almost universally positive, the opposite is true in the Western media. Many journalists as well as some academics, especially in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, are suspicious of China's real intentions. A common refrain from these observers is that the PRC is a rising power bent on challenging the status quo in Antarctica (Brady 2012; Beng 2013; Robson 2013; Campbell-Dollaghan 2014). Yet, as the subsequent analysis demonstrates, PRC policymakers have slowly moved to embrace status quo conventions and institutions, as well as promote scientific research on the continent.

China's Antarctic policy should be viewed within the context of the state's overall environmental foreign policy and international organization (IO) engagement strategy (Harrington 2014). Since its first contact with global environmental institutions in 1972, China has accrued numerous economic, scientific, political and social benefits from its foreign environmental policies. Now, it is one of the world's biggest contributors of environmental science and technology and its participation in various organizations and negotiations on the international stage provides legal and institutional models for its own domestic environmental management (Economy 2007; Harrington 2005). While these efforts do not always lead to constructive, environmentally-friendly outcomes, they do signify that China is a full participant in global environmental governance (Lewis 2013). This transition from newcomer to leader over the past 30 years is quite apparent in Antarctica, where environmental research is now the primary focus of most actors on the continent.

The PRC's historical experience in Antarctica can be broken down into four major periods (Zhou 1994; Brady 2010). First, during the Pre-Reform Period (1950s-78), PRC efforts to join the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) were thwarted by a combination of domestic challenges and Cold War geopolitics, best exemplified by the acceptance of the Republic of China (ROC) as the legitimate representative of the Chinese nation in the UN. Also, the PRC neither had an active presence nor did it make an attempt to establish operations on the continent. The main focus of the Fight for Legitimacy Period (1979-89) was China's pursuit of full membership in the ATS. During the Consolidation, Capacity Building and Cooperation Period (1990-2005), China's main objectives were to deepen its footprint on the continent, expand its scientific agenda, and learn from scholars and engineers from ATS countries about how to conduct world-class research. As a result, PRC policymakers adopted an accommodative approach to participation in Antarctic institutions. Finally, during the current Quest for Leadership Period (2005-present), the PRC has significantly increased its funding and manpower on the continent, engaging in ambitious infrastructure projects and asserting its role in Antarctic governance.

The Conquest of Antarctica: A Very Short History

Most historians attribute the initial discovery of the Antarctic continent to British navigator Captain James Cook, who circumnavigated the land mass between 1772 and 1775. His reports detailing abundant populations of whales, seals, and other wildlife drew the attention of a slew of explorers and profiteers. American Nathaniel Palmer, along with British and Russian sailors, first set eyes on the Sandwich Islands in the 1820s. A series of naval and private expeditions from the United States, Australia, Norway, Germany and France followed. These visits culminated in intensity during the so-called Heroic Period (1890s to 1914), during which mostly privately-funded adventurers competed to reach the South Pole (Larson 2011). Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first to achieve this milestone, planting the flag of his nation into Antarctic ice on December 14, 1911 (Belanger 2006).

By 1943, seven nations--Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France and Norway--had claimed large swaths of the continent. While the United States did not make a formal claim, it eventually became the dominant actor in the region and the Cold War rivalry between it and the Soviet Union spilled onto the continent. This struggle reached its highest intensity during the Third International Geophysical Year (IGY) which ran from July 1957 to December 1958 (Moore 2004; Joyner 1998). Ultimately, both superpowers, along with several other states, conducted a series of negotiations that led to the creation of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty (Antonello 2013; Stokke and Vidas 1996).

The Pre-Reform Period: 1950s-78

As the Republic of China was the official representative of the Chinese nation in the United Nations (UN), the PRC was effectively kept from participating in many IOs; the Soviet Union was the only communist country represented at the Antarctic Treaty negotiations. Mao Zedong did express interest in joining the treaty negotiations and Soviet leaders briefly took up his cause, but strong opposition from the United States stymied their efforts (Belanger 2006). Many of the participating states were hesitant to allow signatories to the treaty that did not already possess an established physical presence on the continent.

The Antarctic Treaty included six key elements:

* Preservation and conservation of living resources

* Suspension of national enforcement of jurisdictional claims to a later date (2048)

* Facilitation of the right to inspection of national facilities

* Promotion of scientific cooperation

* Promotion of scientific research

* Restriction of the use of Antarctica to peaceful activities (no militarization) (Joyner 1998)

For China, the obstacles to joining the treaty proved daunting. The PRC, as a developing country, was not thought to be capable of conducting "significant research activities" on the continent. In addition, PRC policymakers argued that it was irrelevant whether or not a nation had a physical presence in Antarctica to warrant inclusion, as international space not legitimately occupied by any state should be managed by all as a "common heritage of mankind." They rejected outright all territorial ambitions made by the seven claimants (Chen 2013).

During the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, the PRC limited its participation in IOs. However, the PRC replaced the ROC as the legal representative of the Chinese nation in the UN in 1971, a pivotal point on the path to its eventual rise in Antarctica (Song 2013). Chinese scientists were now able to venture out beyond China's borders to connect with their international colleagues as part of "conference diplomacy" (Harrington 2005). These actions were a necessary part of the knowledge-building process; while Chinese scientists engaged in cold climate research on the Himalayan Plateau, they did not have any experience in Antarctica (Yao et. al. 2012).

Additionally, as more countries developed the capacity to engage in on-the-ground operations, and as Cold War competition waned, new members began to join the ATS. Member states were able to expand their activities as long as they observed basic environmental protocols (Stokke and Vidas 1996). Also, with military operations are banned on the continent, scientific achievement grew in importance as a reflection of interstate competition, a trend that has only strengthened with the adoption of the Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protocol in 1991 (Dudeny and Walton 2012). These characteristics have created favorable conditions for China to pursue its national interests without major hindrance in Antarctica.

The Fight for Legitimacy Period: 1979-90

The rise of Deng Xiaoping and his embracing of the Four Modernizations (agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology) heralded a new era of international scientific engagement and cooperation which eventually included research in both Antarctica and the Arctic. Baum (1980) notes that the "Four Modernizations ... represented an unprecedented commitment to the wholesale upgrading of China's economic and technical capabilities" (Baum 1980, 5). Of central importance was an expanded engagement with the industrialized world in education, investment, science, and trade. Corporate and political leaders from around the world responded by welcoming Chinese delegations with open arms (Kent 2007). The PRC transitioned "from alienation to integration" as it quickly moved to cement its official status as the legal representative of the Chinese nation in the UN and with other intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) (Kent 2007, 33). Between 1978 and 1983, it joined more than 300 international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) (Kent 2007).

China's environmental scientists were among the first to venture abroad as part of these efforts. In 1972, the PRC sent a delegation to the landmark United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and it joined the United Nations Environment Programme in 1973. The PRC, driven by a desire for both greater international engagement and new technology in the emerging field of environmental science, pursued partnerships with environmental INGOS and IGOs. Contact with global environmental epistemic communities served as a catalyst to domestic epistemic community development in a wide range of scientific fields, including the polar sciences (Economy 2007).

China eventually sought to establish a physical presence in Antarctica. In 1979, journalist Jin Renbo charted the PRC's first inroad into the continent when he accompanied a scientific research team on a trip to one of Chile's bases on the Antarctic Peninsula. As most bases were constructed in close proximity to one another, he had an opportunity to meet with scientists from seven countries, including the United States and Japan. The following year, another journalist was invited to visit Australia-administered Casey Station in East Antarctica (Meng 2014). In 1981 Li Huamei, the PRC's first female scientist to travel to the continent, visited New Zealand-controlled Scott Station. During her time there she had a chance meeting with a U.S.-based Taiwanese scientist. She also visited McMurdo Station, the main U.S. base of operations and home to more than 1,000 scientists and support personnel during the peak summer months (Sun 1984).

While these isolated visits proved fruitful, PRC officials desired greater recognition from other countries and once again lobbied for full membership in the ATS. In 1983, Chinese scientists attended their first Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) as a Non-Consultative Party (NCP) delegation; NCPs could participate in meetings but were not allowed to cast a vote. According to Meng (2014), China had not been accepted as a full member in the ATS because of its lack of significant research activity in the region and its delegation was asked to leave the room before important topics were put before full members of the ATS for a vote.

China's exclusion from decision-making in the ATS drew the ire of PRC leadership in Zhongnanhai. It responded by mobilizing a major research expedition the following year that included 591 participants, two vessels, and representatives from more than 60 organizations (Shi and Ren 1989; Meng 2014). The primary objective of this mobilization of individuals and resources was to establish China's first base on King George Island, near the Antarctic Peninsula. With the opening of Changcheng (Great Wall) Station in February 1985 China demonstrated its commitment to "significant research" and, consequently, became a full voting member of the Antarctic Treaty later that year (Li 1985).

China's activities in Antarctica quickly drew the attention of many Chinese scholars. While the great majority of their research projects addressed scientific questions, some of these scholars discussed the political context of the ATS and the prospects for Chinese participation in Antarctic governance. Most echoed previous themes that critiqued U.S. dominance in Antarctica and called for a greater role for the United Nations on the continent (Lan 1980; Mu and Li 1985; Yu 1982). Wu (1991), for example, noted that the greatest threat to stability on the continent would be the potential for competition among the original seven claimants to Antarctic territory. As a result, he advocated for PRC leaders to support collective governance over interstate competition on the continent. He also predicted that U.S. domination would falter and international laws and institutions would fill the security void in Antarctica and around the world (Wu 1991). Wu's claims proved prophetic as China increasingly embraced collective governance while consistently opposing territorial claims by other states.

China's desire to join the ATS was motivated by other factors. Some scholars observed the potential benefits of Antarctica's living and nonliving resources to the PRC (Lan 1980). In 1982, the United States proposed creation of the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA) which would allow states to conduct mining and drilling operations (Crockett and Clarksen 1987). China was a strong supporter of this initiative, which provided further incentive for it to join the ATS.

Ultimately, domestic politics in France, Australia and the United States doomed the CRAMRA. New scientific evidence about human-related damage to the global climate and the ozone layer, in addition to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, engendered strong domestic support for global environmental initiatives and led to the negotiation among ATS countries of the 1991 Environmental Protocol (Rothwell 2000). It banned all mining activities and made environmental protection a central focus of the ATS (Joyner 1997; Beck 1991; Bergin 1991). Chinese policymakers, aware of the decline of international support for CRAMRA, agreed to the protocol, which was formally ratified by China in 1996 (Meng 2013).

These policymakers realized that further efforts were required to cement China's status as a major player on the continent. The PRC, for example, lacked a mainland base and had no physical presence in eastern Antarctica. To remedy this, Chinese scientists proposed construction of a second station in the Larsemann Hills at Prydz Bay, which also hosted detachments from Russia and India. Zhongshan Zhan (Sun Yat-sen Station), formally dedicated in 1989, quickly proved useful as the PRC could now mount independent expeditions to interior regions of the continent (Xu 2004).

Consolidation, Capacity Building and Cooperation Period: 1991-2004

By the early 1990s, China had bolstered its reputation as a respected member of the ATS. However, with infrastructure projects largely completed, the PRC turned to more robust scientific research. Its activities on the continent became more tightly connected to its increasing engagement in global eco-politics. There are many examples of this focus on the environment: Premier Li Peng's high-profile speech at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the PRC's signings of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Forest Principles agreement, and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. As a result, climate change research has become a major focus of Chinese scientists in Antarctica (Kent 2007).

China's engagement with the issues of global climate change proved particularly useful in its relations with developing countries as its support for climate change science contrasted sharply with that of the United States. As a developing nation, China, itself, was not bound by agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels required of developed countries, such as the United States (Buckingham 2013). Consequently, climate change policy proved a wedge issue, isolating the United States while providing China an opportunity to improve relations with other developed countries (Harrington 2005) and enhance its reputation as the leader of the developing world (Chen 2012). The reputational value of China's climate policy was highlighted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. U.S. President George W. Bush publically expressed doubts about the link between human activities and global warming and officially quashed any hope that the United States would ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Not surprisingly, attendees booed the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, during his address at the meeting. In contrast, the PRC's keynote speaker, Premier Zhu Rongji was commended for strengthening China's commitment to global climate change governance institutions (Harrington 2005; Nielson and Ho 2013).

As it took a more significant role in the worldwide debate over climate change, the PRC simultaneously bolstered the capacity of its scientists to conduct research in Antarctica. Most of these activities were supported by the Guojia Haiyangju (State Oceanic Administration). In 1989, China upgraded its activities on both poles through the establishment of the Zhongguo Jidi Yanjiu Zhongxin (Polar Research Institute) in Shanghai. An additional coordination body, the National Expedition Committee was upgraded and renamed the Guojia Haijjangju Jidi Kaocha Banggongshi (China Arctic and Antarctic Administration) to oversee its polar initiatives (Brady 2010). China purchased its first dedicated icebreaker, the Xuelong, in 1994.

The PRC's status as a relative newcomer to the continent limited its initial output of research during this period. Chinese scientists not only needed the time to develop the experience and expertise required of these new research programs but also the contacts and relationships necessary to develop collaborative projects with researchers from other countries. Indeed, few of these scientists had international experience prior to 1978. Further complicating these efforts was the language barrier; much of the research that was produced was published in Chinese, making it less accessible to foreign scholars.

However, Chinese scientists quickly developed an ability to collaborate with other scholars. Aksnes and Hessen (2009) find that between 1981 and 2007, their proportion of the total number of articles written by researchers on the continent increased from 0.22 percent to 3.07 percent. Zhang and Hua (2014) note that the number of Chinese-language articles on Antarctica more than doubled during the first decade of the twenty-first century (Zhang and Hua 2014). Furthermore, half of the Chinese-authored publications in English featured a co-author from a different country, the same proportion found for scholars from the United States (Aksnes and Hessen 2009).

These efforts to produce research reinforced China's commitment to the Environmental Protocol. This support also signaled its tacit acceptance of status quo norms, particularly those that emphasized environmental protection. Chinese policymakers did continue to harbor lingering concerns about U.S. domination of the ATS, but they did not aggressively challenge its role (Shi 2013), consistently voting in favor of ATS decisions, measures, protocols, and recommendations (Harrington 2014).

During this period, Chinese policymakers also observed with great interest the claims on territory and questions of sovereignty on the continent. Wu (1991) notes that countries often treat their Antarctic bases as de facto sovereign spaces. Specially Protected Areas (SPAs), sponsored by ATS states, are also subject to this influence. Officially, SPAs are established to encourage environmental protection. However, sponsor countries manage these areas around their bases, which allow them to expand administrative management functions well beyond base boundaries (Haward and Cooper 2014). In the last few years, China has sponsored Specially Protected Areas in close proximity to its own bases (Chen, Zhou, and Qin 2012).

The PRC has consistently rejected land claims made by states like Australia while simultaneously working with them to exercise administrative authority over these territories, as in the case of Zhongshan Station, located in the center of Australia's Antarctic claim. However, China's accession to the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1996 upset this balance. UNCLOS works with member states to define exclusive rights to coastlines and waterways, including undersea continental shelves (Hemmings 2010). These member states have used UNCLOS to reinforce their claims over marine assets and sea beds hundreds of miles off the Antarctic coast (Vidas 2000; Xu, Sun and Wang 2010). Australia, which initiated the first Antarctic continental shelf claim in 2004, has simultaneously voiced support for the ATS while also protecting its territorial ambitions given its proximity to and long presence on the continent. China, without the proximity to make a territorial claim, has championed the collective leadership structure of the ATS (Yang and Cai 2013). At the same time, China has used UNCLOS to reinforce its claims to most of the South China Sea where both proximity and history have provided the justification for a more assertive posture (Dodds 2011).

Ultimately, the PRC did not build any bases during the 1990s. Chinese scientists did greatly expand their inland operations, however. The decade opened with China's first land crossing of the continent (Xinhua 1990). Scientists were especially interested in conducting research in areas that had not yet been mapped or explored by other nations and Zhongshan Station proved an effective launch point for these activities. During the 1999-2000 summer season, scientists travelled deep into the Antarctic mainland and traversed multiple 4,000-meter-high peaks, including a failed attempt to cross Dome A, the highest ice dome in East Antarctica.

Quest for Leadership Period: 2005-present

The eventual summit of Dome A by a Chinese team in early 2005 turned out to be a pivotal moment in China's Antarctic enterprise. It was later revealed that Chinese scientists had an audacious plan to establish a new station at that location (Zhang 2011). China was slated to join Russia and Japan, along with a cooperative effort between France and Italy, as the only countries with bases atop ice domes. This goal was later approved as part of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), in which funding for Antarctic operations doubled to more than USD 40 million per year and included appropriations for the new station (Brady 2010). These expenditures exceeded USD 55 million in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15).

China's station atop the dome, Kunlun, was completed in 2009. Its location possessed unique qualities that would allow Chinese scholars to conduct impactful research in two areas: climate change and astronomy (Li 2012). Kunlun sits atop more than 3,000 meters of ice which also makes it a perfect location for deep ice core drilling. One goal of China's scientists is to recover the longest ice core in history, which could reveal one million or more years of climatic history and greatly advance climate change research (Zhang 2011).

Dome A is also an ideal location for astronomers (Li 2012). It receives virtually no precipitation. It also experiences long uninterrupted periods of darkness during the winter months (Burton 2012). These conditions are especially suited to searching for planets and supernovae (Yock 2007; Moore, Fu and Ashley 2013). The station already hosts three major multinational astronomy projects.

Not surprisingly, given its location, the researchers at Kunlun Station faced a number of difficulties. The station is subject to dangerous weather conditions and is farther from the coastline than any base on the continent, which makes logistical support exceedingly difficult; until 2014, the only way to reach Kunlun Station was overland. In 2013, a second summer logistical base, Taishan was built half-way between Zhongshan and Kunlun Stations to better utilize the facilities in both winter and summer (China Daily 12/27/13). China is also scheduled to put a new icebreaker in service in 2015 (China Daily 1/5/14).

The construction of Kunlun Station provides strong evidence that China is serious about conducting "significant" research and not simply competing for resources or engaging in interstate competition. Kunlun Station is not suitable for mining or extractive activity. Its remote location and poor weather severely limits its use as a transport hub or human settlement. Aside from research, the only other possible use for the station could be as a launch point for deeper exploration into East Antarctica, as it is located hundreds of miles from the nearest inland base in unexplored territory (Zhang 2011). In addition, China's fifth base, planned for the Terra Nova area along the Ross Sea coast near McMurdo Station, is intended to support the study of bio-ecology and satellite remote sensing, as well as provide opportunities for further international collaboration.

China, through its actions on the continent, has been motivated by a desire to conduct scientific research but also to serve the needs of its citizens, while supporting the status quo of Antarctic governance. One can see these goals at work in the recent debate over the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). In 2006, China officially joined the Convention on the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a function of rising living standards and increased domestic demand for living resources, such as fish. Membership in CCAMLR also allowed the PRC to take the Chinese seat in the organization in place of the ROC, which has a large fishing industry (Brady 2010).

Coastal East Antarctica and the Ross Sea region have served as the backdrop for disputes between the PRC and other CCAMLR members. In 2005, the United States and New Zealand began serious discussions to establish a large MPA between the Ross Sea coastline and New Zealand. After lengthy negotiations, the two states proposed the creation of a 2.2 million [km.sup.2] protected area that would restrict fishing across significant swaths of territory and would remain in place for 30 years (Lee 2013). Both states, along with a host of nongovernmental environmental organizations, insisted these restrictions were necessary to preserve the last pristine marine ecosystem in the world (Weller 2013; Osterblom and Sumaila 2011). In addition, the European Union and Australia proposed an MPA along the coast of East Antarctica.

Disagreements among the parties came to a head in October 2012, when both proposals for these protected areas were submitted for review and approval, by consensus, at the 31st CCAMLR meeting. Russia and the Ukraine, two active fishing nations, were the most vocal opponents of the proposals. Russia questioned the legitimacy of the body to create such a large protected area. China was less vocal in its objections but still supported the position of the fishing countries, noting that there was little evidence to support a no-take policy over such a large area. Ultimately, the MPA proposals were withdrawn from consideration. Subsequent, less-restrictive versions of these proposals were rejected again in July 2013. Russia, the Ukraine, and China maintained their objections to the MPAs (Morton 2013), opposing them again in September 2013 and October 2014. Only the Ukraine eventually changed its position.

Given China's long-standing objections to territorial claims made by some ATS members, its opposition to the MPAs was not surprising. However, China has paid a public relations price for siding with Russia against the proposals. In fact, Western negotiators had high hopes that China might change its position in the weeks leading up to the October 2014 meeting. Ultimately, China continued to stand firmly with Russia in opposition.

This author believes that China's objections to the MPAs have more to do with its own freedom of action and less to do with fishing. The Australia-EU MPA, for example, includes the coastline around Zhongshan Station. If fully implemented, it could limit the PRC's operations within its de facto sphere of influence. PRC officials surely recalled Australia's actions in 2004, when it became the first ATS member to formally file an UNCLOS outer-continental shelf sovereignty claim along its East Antarctic coastline (Dodds 2011; Xu, Sun and Wang 2010; Jabour and Hemmings 2007). This claim, perceived as a land grab, set off a potentially serious confrontation with China and other states that have bases on the territory claimed by Australia. In a similar vein, the U.S.-New Zealand MPA could allow both countries to expand their spheres of influence over China's planned Terra Nova base.

Additionally, member countries will need to monitor both of the proposed MPAs for compliance. Unlike more proximate countries with significant resources invested in Antarctica, like Australia and New Zealand, China is not yet able to take a policing role on the continent. As a consequence, it fears that active enforcement of MPA regulations could give monitoring countries an advantage in claiming territory in the future.

It is still possible that China will acquiesce to a dramatically weakened version of the MPAs. In June 2015, the United States and China jointly declared their desire to resolve the Ross Sea MPA issue (U.S. Department of State, June 24, 2015). The topic will again come up for discussion at the Annual CCAMLR meeting in Hobart, Australia in late-2015. While China has offered resistance to these MPAs, it supports the status quo in Antarctica and opposes the potential for another country to threaten the stability of relations on the continent.

The Future

Over the past few decades, the PRC has built a considerable presence in Antarctica. In some ways, it is fitting that scientists and engineers engaged in two search-and-rescue missions during their 30th scientific expedition to the frozen continent. In 1984, China could never have carried out a helicopter airlift of dozens of tourists and scientists in ice pack thousands of miles from its coastline. Yet, the Xuelong's successful recovery of the passengers of the Akademik Shokalskiy is a testament to its growing capabilities.

On balance, Chinese activities have had a positive effect on Antarctic research and governance. Chinese polar scientists are well integrated into global epistemic communities. Scientists are making unique contributions, especially in the areas of astronomy, climate change, and fisheries management (Guo and Shi 2009). Chinese investment in infrastructure and bases support a long-term commitment to scientific research on the continent. China is also a defender of collective governance and opposes territorial encroachment by claimant countries.

The current governance regime presents few barriers to future Chinese expansion as long as the PRC continues to honor environmental norms. After it builds its fifth station in the Ross Sea region, China will rank among the top five countries in terms of bases on and investment in Antarctica (Harrington 2014). The collaboration of Chinese scientists with scientific teams from around the world has greatly enhanced China's capability and influence in the production of meaningful scholarship, especially as it relates to climate change. China receives reputational benefits at home and abroad for both its scientific achievements and willingness to collaborate in the collective governance of the continent. At present, embracing the status quo seems to offer the best route for China to pursue its national interests (Harrington 2014).

Of course, the PRC may take a different path as conditions change. Russia's aggression in Europe and the tensions it has caused may damage the potential for cooperative management of living marine resources in the Southern Ocean. As demands grows for aquatic resources, pressure on fisheries will continue to mount; the same is true for Antarctica's mineral wealth (Zhu, Yan, and Ling 2005). As glaciers melt and seas warm, more of the continent will become accessible to human activity and may prompt states to make more aggressive claims on wider swaths of territory. There is no way of knowing how China might react to these challenges to collective governance and the status quo. However, China's role in Antarctica as a proponent of scientific research and collective governance will increase in importance as its stature on the international stage grows.


Troy University


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Author:Harrington, Jonathan
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Date:Jan 1, 2015
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