China will step up its scientific investigations in the polar regions in the next couple of years, Wang Shuguang, director of the State Oceanographic Bureau, said on Friday in Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China's Shandong Province.
Wang was in the city to receive a large donation in support of the investigations, which will be the first of their kind in the country. Altogether 17 enterprises from Shanghai and Shandong donated 3 million yuan (US$362,319) worth of materials for the country's future polar scientific investigations.
According to Wang, the bureau is working on detailed plans to build the country's first permanent scientific investigation center in the Arctic region, whilst Shanghai-based Bao Steel will help to expand and upgrade the two existing ones on the Antarctica.
The Steel group will also construct a state-of-the-art electricity generation station on Antarctica, which will replace the obsolete one next March. The project will cost about 2.2 million yuan (US$265,700).
Wang extended his thanks to all those supporting the country's polar investigations, saying that "care and support" had made the investigations no longer an exclusive business belonging to a small group of scientists and officials, but a common project for the whole of society.
"The Bureau will continue to accept more donations in support of polar scientific investigations," he said. "But unlike before, the bureau will refer to related international practices and attaches importance to encouraging and seeking donations for this cause."
Although the bureau has accepted donations before, this time they came spontaneously.
Sources with the Bureau, who declined to be identified, attributed the change in the bureaus' attitude to financial difficulties that threatened the development of the investigations.
China's first exploration station in the Antarctic, the Great Wall Station, was built in 1984.
During the past decade and a half, the Bureau has accumulated a debt of 6 to 8 million yuan (US$724,638-to-966,184) through carrying out of such investigations.
The 18th expedition to Antarctica will begin in November, and is expected to cost a total of 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million), more than what the central financial allocation can cover.
(China Daily September 24, 2001)