Zhang Gaoli: Adhere to the Principle and Spirit of the Antarctic Treaty to Better Understand, Protect and Utilize the Antarctica

Zhang Gaoli Stresses to Adhere to the Principle and Spirit of the Antarctic Treaty to Better Understand, Protect and Utilize the Antarctica on the Opening Ceremony of the 40th ATCM.

On May 23, 2017, the 40th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) was convened in Beijing. Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli attended and addressed the opening ceremony.

Zhang Gaoli expressed that China attaches great importance to Antarctic governance and development. President Xi Jinping has pointed out that as a lofty cause that benefits mankind, Antarctic expedition is of great significance. China is willing to, together with the international community, better understand, protect and utilize the Antarctica. Premier Li Keqiang pointed out that all parties should further push forward the development of Antarctic expedition towards a deeper degree, wider range and higher level. With extremely special geographical location and ecological environment, the Antarctic region has great influences on global climate change and the survival and development of mankind. The Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 established the basic legal framework for Antarctic governance, and initiated a new era for mankind to cooperate and negotiate on Antarctic affairs. The ATCM is a major platform for consulting and deciding Antarctic affairs, and is the most important multilateral mechanism on Antarctic governance. Relevant parties should continue to make good use of this platform to carry forward the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty and explore the bright future of the Antarctica and the whole world at large.

Zhang Gaoli pointed out that China is an important participant in Antarctic international governance, a robust promoter of Antarctic scientific exploration, and an active supporter of Antarctic environmental protection. Since China joined the Antarctic Treaty, the country has insisted on safeguarding the purposes and principles of the Treaty as well as the overall interests of the international community, actively fulfilled the rights and obligations vested by the Treaty, steadily advanced the development of Antarctic cause, and contributed its own wisdom and strength for mankind to understand, protect and utilize the Antarctica.

Zhang Gaoli stressed that a peaceful, stable, green and sustainable Antarctica conforms to the common interests of all mankind, and is our commitment to our offspring. Zhang Gaoli put forward five proposals: First, insist on utilizing the Antarctica through peaceful means, enhancing political mutual trust and shared responsibility, and striving to build a community of common destiny for all mankind. Second, insist on abiding by the Antarctic Treaty system, making full use of the ATCM’s role in decision-making, planning and coordination, and improving the principle-based Antarctic governance pattern. Third, insist on equality, consultation, mutual benefit and win-win results, expanding the fields and range of Antarctic cooperation, and promoting the long-term development, stabilization and institutionalization of international cooperation, in a bid to make the Antarctica become a new area of international cooperation. Fourth, insist on the freedom of Antarctic scientific exploration, enhancing the understanding of Antarctica’s changes and rules of development, and further consolidating the scientific foundation of protecting and utilizing the Antarctica. Fifth, insist on protecting the natural environment of the Antarctica, and well balancing the protection and utilization of the Antarctica, so as to maintain the ecological balance and realize the sustainable development of the Antarctica.

It is the first time for China to assume as the ATCM host since it joined the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and became a consultative member of it in 1985. The major topics of the ATCM are the operation of the Antarctic Treaty system, Antarctic inspection, Antarctic tourism, Antarctic ecology, environmental impact assessment, climate change effects, Antarctic special conservation and management areas, and future works. About 400 delegates from 44 contracting countries of Antarctic Treaty and 10 international organizations attended the meeting.