China is making progress in building its fifth research facility in Antarctica after resuming construction for the first time since 2018. China plans to expand its research in Antarctica and develop new shipping routes in the Arctic. The country’s new station, on Inexpressible Island near the Ross Sea, will include an observatory with a satellite ground station and is expected to help China ‘fill in a major gap’ in its ability to access the continent. The station’s position may enable China to collect signals intelligence from US-allied Australia and New Zealand and collect telemetry data on rockets launching from newly established space facilities in both countries.
Several other countries including the US, the UK and South Korea operate research stations in Antarctica. However, there are concerns about China’s assertive foreign policy and surveillance capabilities. The 5,000-square-meter station is expected to include a scientific research and observation area, an energy facility, a main building, a logistics facility and a wharf for China’s Xuelong icebreakers. Scientific research at the station would focus on physical and biological oceanography, glaciology, marine ecology, zoology, atmospheric and space physics and geology.
China has established four scientific research bases in Antarctica since 1984, while the US maintains a larger research presence in Antarctica. The new station is expected to be 320 km from the McMurdo station, the biggest US facility in the continent.