Australia’s Antarctica plan stems from its hostility toward China
Published: Feb 22, 2022 07:05 PM
Australia's Antarctica plan stems from its hostility toward China. Illustration:Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration:Tang Tengfei/GT

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced a $804 million funding plan to expand the country's presence in the Antarctic. As Morrison continues to whine about "threat of China" ahead of a looming federal election at the country, he seemed to have directly tied the Antarctic plan to Australia's national security, according to Sky News Australia.

As the relationship between China and Australia continues to spiral down due to Morrison's fiery and provocative rhetoric and actions, the Western media outlets widely view Australia's Antarctica funding announcement as "a big move by Canberra to counter China's growing influence in Antarctica."

A week before Australia decided to increase funding commitment to strengthen its Antarctic presence, the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank, published a report named "Eyes on the prize: Australia, China, and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)," claiming that China "pushes the boundaries" of the ATS.

In fact, China has always abided by the provisions of the ATS in carrying out scientific expeditions in the Antarctic region. It is not difficult to detect that some Western think tanks such as the Lowy Institute's hype about "China's increasing assertiveness in Antarctica" is full of speculation and conspiracy. 

Such false conjecture may provide material support for the Morrison government's anti-China agenda, but it is actually paranoia originating from their hostility toward China.

Given the mutually beneficial and complementary economic and trade relations and friendly people-to-people exchanges between China and Australia in the past many years, it is really difficult to understand where the hostility of the anti-China forces in Australia came from. 

Yet, the Morrison government has embraced serving as the pawn of the US government's anti-China geopolitical game in recent years. From the South China Sea to the Taiwan question, Canberra constantly jeopardizes China's core interests, driving the bilateral relations toward a dead end.

The sad reality is that the Australian government is pleasing the US at the expense of the Australian business community. According to a report by the Australia-China Relations Institute of the University of Technology Sydney in December, the value of Australian exports to China affected by China-Australia dispute fell by $17.3billion in the first nine months of 2021 from the corresponding period of 2019.

Australian politicians know well that China's legitimate scientific expeditions in the Antarctic region are not challenging its national security by any means. Using the so-called geostrategic panic as an excuse, they are actually pushing their own self-serving agenda. 

An article published on the Financial Review on Monday said that Australia is using the $800 million injection to fight a Cold War against China and Russia in the Antarctic region. The $804.4 million promised by Morrison includes $35.5 million for four helicopters, each with a range of 550 kms, $44.5 million in support to expand the range of RSV Nuyina - Australia's Antarctic icebreaker, and $60.6 million to fund drone fleets and other autonomous vehicles to map inaccessible and fragile areas of the continent.

Bringing the outdated Cold War mentality to Antarctica, Australia will only fall into another confrontation trap of its own making. However, it must be pointed out that as China's economic strength continues to grow, China will fully protect its legitimate scientific expeditions in the Antarctic region and cooperate closely with other countries. Australia's hostility will ultimately backfire on itself. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.