China to launch 8 Antarctic, Arctic expeditions

China plans to launch five Antarctic research expeditions and another three to the Arctic from 2011 to 2015, said an official with the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA) on Sunday.

In a warming and changing Arctic, China is stepping up its activities in the Arctic Ocean Basin. While China’s interests and policy objectives in the Arctic Ocean Basin remain unclear, Beijing is increasingly active and vocal on the international stage on issues that concern the region. To that end, China is actively seeking to develop relationships with Arctic states and participate in Arctic multilateral organizations such as the Arctic Council. The region includes a rich basket of natural resources: The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon resources are found in the Arctic region along with 9 percent of the world’s coal along with other economically critical minerals.

With the world’s largest non-nuclear research icebreaker, Xue Long (Snow Dragon) China has embarked on four Arctic research expeditions in recent years into Arctic waters. This is part of China’s larger polar scientific research effort which has seen 26 expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic since 1984. This past summer the vessel made it on a research voyage to 88 degrees North latitude which is only 120 nautical miles from the North Pole. Chinese research scientists from the fourth research expedition traveled to the North Pole via the vessel’s helicopter to conduct research, arriving at the North Pole on 15:38 p.m. (0738 GMT) Friday August 20, 2010 (China Daily, August 21, 2010). It was another first for China and clearly highlights a changing Arctic, which is seeing decreasing and thinning sea-ice year after year. A few years ago this would have been impossible with this ice-breaking research vessel because of the difficult sea-ice conditions and the thick multi-year ice.

Now China will launch the 28th Antarctic research expedition in early November and the fifth to the Arctic in early July 2012, said Qu Tanzhou, director of the CAA, at the annual seminar on China's polar region expedition and research in Shanghai.

In the 2011-2015 period, Chinese researchers will focus on monitoring the weather and environment changes in the polar regions, Qu said.

Qu said climate change in the polar region, particularly that in the Arctic, will inevitably influence China, and the research would benefit the nation's adaptation to climate change.

China plans to build a new icebreaker before 2015 (hopefully (2013), which will form an Arctic-Antarctic maritime research team with Xuelong ("Snow Dragon"), an icebreaker that operated in Antarctica, said Qin Weijia, head of the CAA's committee of the Communist Party of China.

Qin said the plan to build the new icebreaker has already been approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, the nation's top economic planner.

China will have two icebreakers concurrently operating at both the north and south poles, Qin said.


Source:
China Daily,"China to launch 8 Antarctic, Arctic expeditions", accessed September 27, 2011
Arctic Progress, "China's Snow Dragon Sweeps into Arctic Ocean", accessed September 27, 2011

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