On Tuesday, November 18th, Pesident Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia met to oversee the signing of an agreement of collaboration between the two nations in Antarctic exploration.

“Today, we are already standing at the starting point of a brand-new historical era, of striding toward becoming a polar-region power,” wrote Liu Cigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration. In an overview of China’s work in the polar region, Mr. Liu points out that China’s first scientists to explore the arctic traveled with an Australian expedition. China has shown growing interest in arctic exploration since the early 2000’s, with a focus on augmenting it’s involvement with Antarctic governance. 

As part of their agreement on the 18th, China and Australia agreed to join heads on matters concerning diplomacy, science, logistics and operations in their arctic endeavors together, and plan to establish a committee to meet each two years to discuss cooperative efforts and exchange ideas and information. The agreement included a reexamination and affirmation of the Antarctic Treaty System, which prohibits the exploitation of minerals and other natural resources, among other things.

As part of the agreement signing event, President Xi and Prime Minister Abbott teleconferenced with scientists stationed at their respective bases in the South Pole. China has four established research bases in the South Pole, with a fifth underway, and Australia has three.

After the conclusion of the signing, President Xi ventured out to see China’s icebreaker, Xuelong, or “snowdragon,” docked in Tasmania on the way to it’s 31st Chinese exploration in Antarctica.

“some major countries” are resolved to bolster their influence in Antarctica, explains Mr. Liu,  emphasizing that China must not be left behind. “Based on national needs and the forefront of international polar science, we should further strengthen our strategic research, clearly identify strategic objectives, formulate a national polar policy and a long-term development plan, strengthen legislation and improve and perfect institutional mechanisms.”