China and the Madrid Protocol, Past, Present and Future

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China’s increasing presence in Antarctica and its more assertive approach in Antarctic Treaty processes has caused suspicion on its intentions, including its objectives in engaging the Madrid Protocol. This paper reviewed China’s engagement, discourse and interest in mineral resources to understand the basis of China’s position and the rationale of its more assertive stance. After reviewing the record of China’s participation in the ATCMs, this paper argues that China position in the ATCMs has been consistent and its practice does not contradict the fundamental values and rules of the Antarctic Treaty or the Protocol so far. Its domestic political discourses suggests that China’s anthropocentric and technocratic view of the environment is the basis for its “balancing protection and use” narrative. However, such a narrative does not challenge the core values of the ATS either. It is more relevant to China’s political ambition than to its demand for minerals in the future. This paper suggests that a strategy document with openly and clearly defined interests, principles, and approaches from China would be helpful in facilitating policy collaboration in the ATS.

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