China which is planning to build its fifth science station in the resource-rich Antarctica will step up investments in research at world’s coldest continent. China signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1983. The treaty designates the continent as a natural reserve and prohibits commercial resource extraction. Since then China has established four Antarctic research stations, Changcheng, Zhongshan, Kunlun and Taishan, and is planning to build its fifth. The US has six stations, followed by China which has four and Australia has three. In the first white paper released on its Antarctic activities China vowed to increase investment in Antarctic research and safeguard the Antarctic Treaty System, which prohibits commercial resource extraction on the ice-capped continent. The white paper was released by the State Oceanic Administration ahead of the 40th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting being held here from today to June 1.
Lin Shanqing, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration, said China has no plans to extract mineral resources on the continent. “China is willing to join hands with the rest of the international community … to facilitate the establishment of a more equitable and rational international Antarctic order, and forging the Antarctic ‘community of human destiny,'” the white paper said. The white paper also said China is actively pushing for legislation on Antarctica. “China is one of the few countries in the world that has signed the Antarctic Treaty but failed to enact a compatible domestic law,” Lin told state-run Global Times. He said the National People’s Congress is currently researching the legislation, which will mainly focus on the environmental protection of Antarctica, but did not give a timetable.
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The law is expected to regulate commercial activities in waters near Antarctica as China’s fishing of Antarctic krill – small crustaceans that are a critical food for the continent’s penguins and other creatures – has in the past raised some concerns in the Western media. China currently harvests about 30,000 tonnes of Antarctic krill annually, and the largest harvester in the world takes around 140,000 tonnes annually, Lin said, without naming which country he was referring to. He emphasised that any Chinese company trying to do business in Antarctica must abide by relevant international rules. Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Beijing meeting will address climate change and tourism in Antarctica, as well as special protected areas. China will also sign agreements of cooperation with the US, Russia and Germany about Antarctica. Qin Weijia, director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, said there are divergent opinions on some issues related to Dome Argus, which is the highest point on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and one of the coldest places on earth. China built its Kunlun station on Dome A in 2009.