Today’s Planet Earth Report –“China Sees ‘Fierce’ Struggle Underway for Antarctica and Outer Space”

 

An ice sheet with a mean depth of 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) has protected Antarctica’s resources from exploration. Below the surface is an estimated 500 billion tons of coal, as much as 100 billion barrels of oil, and 5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Despite a 1959 treaty which freezes all territorial claims, at least for now, China sees a “fierce” geopolitical struggle underway.

“President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized that China must participate more actively into rule-settings in new areas, including deep sea, polar regions, outer space and the Internet.”

What struck Wang Wen about Antarctica, beyond the brutality of the December cold, continues Mark Champion in Economic Times, was the scale of U.S. operations in such an inhospitable environment and the American flag fluttering by the sign that marks the geographic South Pole. Observing the academic mission of hundreds of U.S. scientists in a region rich in resource potential, he was determined that China must catch up.

The report Wang wrote this summer for the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, where he’s executive dean, reflects China’s growing dilemma as it muscles its way into an international system it didn’t create.

For the first time in its long history, China has in President Xi Jinping a leader with a truly global vision. So, inevitably, Beijing looks to the U.S., the sole superpower, for a yardstick as to what that requires—be it a blue water navy or more research stations in Antarctica.

Yet Communist Party leaders also recoil at being seen as the next global hegemon and are reluctant to shoulder the expense that goes with it. They studiously avoid the word “superpower” and see the American version of it as ideologically unacceptable and spent.

Whether China does become a superpower and whether it could sustain the costs involved are questions that will impact the world for decades. They will shape terms of trade, a changing global order, and issues of war and peace. “We don’t know,” Wang said over dinner a few floors below his institute, when asked what Chinese great power will look like. “Anything but America” …

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