Antarctica as a Chinese Political Monopoly: Guest Opinion Piece By Filip Đukić

The world’s only uninhabited continent could play a role in the political scene in the coming years. Due to the growing influence and role of environmental activists, Antarctica is becoming increasingly important. In the 1950s, Antarctica was perceived as a sterile, cold continent that was inhospitable for living. With constant reference to climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, the status of Antarctica has changed. Political situations are geopolitical in most cases. In Antarctica’s case, it is in full form. It is thus predictable that national interests involving the continent will strengthen.

Already is the strongest national interest in it noticeable – the Chinese one. While other countries have begun to delay and cut funding for Antarctic exploration, the Chinese have decided to embark on building the largest Antarctic krill-fishing boat in the world, which will be completed by 2023.

The economic potential of Antarctica is also increasingly coming to light. Minerals, commercial fishing and tourism are just some of the reasons that are increasingly attracting countries around the world to take an even stronger position in the race for Antarctica.

Antarctica is known for its extreme preservation, as ironic as it may sound due to climate change increasing. We can say that geopolitics is only partly going in the direction that the Nazis once had, that of the doctrine of Karl Haushofer – a form of geopolitics that focuses on militaristic goals. For today’s geopolitics and its attention turning towards Antarctica, it is an opportunity for manipulation. In other words, whoever has primacy over Antarctica will be able to dictate real and imaginary problems as far as global warming is concerned. This is not fictitious or utopian thinking, as climate change creates the emergence of various treaties and agreements between states on the issue of greenhouse gases.

Yes, national interests can go so far that non-national Antarctica can be nationalized. If scientists of specific states are in the field (and state and politics have their fingers in science as well, which is not something new) the same country can dictate pieces of information related to global warming. WikiLeaks shows that.

The result would be a change in agreements such as the Paris Agreement. Although there are seven states – New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina in Antarctica as part of a research team – I expect China to take a step forward and claim the right to the territory. The Antarctic Treaty and Article IV – which prevent the claim to national sovereignty of any state in the Antarctic continent – are still in force for the time being. China, the biggest polluter on the planet, will surely build even more of its research stations.

The Chinese also have the most isolated station called Kunlun and are even more elusive from international control. Although some experts, such as Professor Brady, claim that the Chinese have a militaristic intention towards Antarctica, my opinion is that they are more interested in the research part. With that, they can more easily come up with the idea of national sovereignty in Antarctica.

Antarctica may still not be a hospitable place to live, but a country that has any domination over it will have a variety of options. With that control, you have a monopoly over the world in various aspects.

Featured image credit: “Mosaic of Antarctica” by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC BY 2.0