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China Steps up Arctic Study
China, already prominent in the study of the Antarctica, will enhance its arctic studies by setting up its first arctic scientific research station in Longyearbyen, capital of Norway's Svalbard Islands in July.

Gao Dengyi, director of the China Yilite-Mornring Arctic Scientific Expedition and Research Team which is setting up the station, said it will be a temporary station to accommodate Chinese scientists expeditions this and the next.

This year's team will include 15 scientists specializing in aerography, geology, glaciology and botany as well as journalists from the People's Daily, Xinhua, China Central Television and other Chinese media.

Arctic and antarctic study is important for research into global climatic changes, oceanology, glaciology and other sciences,scientists say.

Besides their rich reserves of oil, natural gas, krill and other resources, the two regions are of great value in military and aviation fields.

As a northern hemisphere country, China attaches particular importance to study of the Arctic, as climatic and environmental changes in the Arctic will have a direct impact on China, scientist say.

Since the 1980s, China has sent 17 official scientific expeditions to the Antarctica where it has its own icebreaker. It has set up two Antarctic research stations, namely the Zhongshan and Great Wall research stations.

The country now boasts a large team of scientists specializing in many fields of polar study and leads the world in certain areasof polar research.

China, a late comer to arctic study, has stepped up its efforts in this field over recent years.

Since the 1990s, about 10 groups of Chinese scientists have independently conducted or participated in international arctic research projects.

In 1996, China became the 16th member country of the International Arctic Science Committee.

In 1999, more than 50 Chinese scientists took part in the first government-sponsored arctic research project aboard the "Snow Dragon" icebreaker.

According to senior officials with the polar study office of the State Oceanic Administration, China will conduct its second official arctic expedition and set up its first permanent arctic research station before 2005.

The impending Yilite-Mornring scientific expedition, Gao said, is a three-year mission organized by the China Association for Scientific Expeditions and sponsored by two Chinese enterprises.

A team of scientists visited Svalbard Islands last year, during which they decided on the site of the research station.

In addition to setting up the research station, the scientists will this year focus on a comparative study of the ecological system of the Islands and China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Gao said.

While noting that the coming expedition will gain experience by setting up the first official arctic research station, Gao also hopes it will make more Chinese aware of the Svalbard Pact.

The pact, which China signed in 1925, allows China free access to the Islands and the right to engage in scientific study, mining and other activities not banned by the law of Norway, he said.

It is not until several years ago that Gao, a veteran polar study expert, became aware of the pact while on a research mission to the Islands. Before that, little was known in China about the pact.

(People's Daily June 26, 2002)

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