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Remarks by H.E. Zhang Gaoli Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China At the Opening Session of the 40th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting


Uphold the Principles of the Antarctic Treaty

And Seek Sustainable Development of Mankind






Ladies and Gentlemen,



Good morning. May is a time of vigor and vitality in Beijing. Several days ago, we held a successful Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Now we are here for the 40th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the 20th Meeting of the Antarctic Committee for Environmental Protection. China attaches great importance to the governance and development of Antarctica. President Xi Jinping noted that Antarctic scientific expedition, a lofty cause that advances human well-being, is of great significance. China stands ready to work with the international community for better knowledge, protection and use of Antarctica. Premier Li Keqiang emphasized that expeditions in polar areas should go deeper, wider and progress at higher levels. This is the first time for China to host the consultative meeting since it acceded to the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and became a Consultative Party in 1985. On behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to offer warm congratulations on the opening of the meeting and extend a sincere welcome to all the distinguished guests present here.


Given its unique geographical location and ecological environment, Antarctica has high importance for global climate change and human survival and development. The Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 established a legal framework for Antarctic governance and opened a new chapter of cooperation in this area. The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings then formulated the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty and other conventions and protocols, and adopted relevant decisions and measures. In the past 58 years, the legal system concerning Antarctic governance has been continuously improved. A better governance mechanism has provided a solid legal basis for human knowledge, protection and use of Antarctica. Under the regulation and guidance of the Antarctic Treaty System and following the basic principles, namely Antarctica for peaceful purposes only, freedom of scientific investigation and international cooperation, countries have worked together and produced fruitful results on scientific investigation, environmental protection, logistical support and Antarctic inspections.


The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting is a major platform for discussion and decision-making on Antarctic affairs and the most important multilateral mechanism for Antarctic governance. We should continue to make good use of it, carry forward the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty and make unremitting efforts to create a better future for the development of Antarctica and the world at large.


Ladies and Gentlemen,



As a Consultative Party to the Antarctic Treaty, China has been committed to the purposes and principles of the Treaty and the overall interest of the international community, actively fulfilling its rights and obligations under the Treaty, steadily promoting the cause of Antarctica and contributing wisdom and strength to the human knowledge, protection and use of Antarctica.


China is an important participant in Antarctic governance. Following its accession to the Treaty in 1983, China has taken an active part in Antarctic affairs and contributed to the building of a peaceful, stable and green Antarctic order. China has acceded to almost all important international conventions and instruments in this area. Having joined major international mechanisms on Antarctica, including the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and its Committee for Environmental Protection and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, China has participated in projects and cooperation within relevant frameworks. China advocates equal-footed consultation and joint decision-making on the basis of the Antarctic Treaty System and calls for a more inclusive, rational and cooperative Antarctic governance system. China attaches importance to Antarctica inspections. We have carried out inspections on our own and given support to inspections by other countries in an effort to ensure effective implementation of the purposes and objectives of the Antarctic Treaty.


China is a strong contributor to exploration of Antarctica. In order to explore the unknown, acquire knowledge and push for peaceful use of Antarctica, China has pursued research on frontier issues of science and environment in Antarctica for its protection and use. Since 1984, China has successfully conducted 33 scientific expeditions, with more than 5,000 entries made to the Antarctic region, further expanding exploration activities. Chinese scientists have carried out systematic geographical, climatic, glaciological, geological, ecological and oceanographic studies and made important findings. China has also made significant headway in scientific expedition, capacity building and scientific research and application, carried out bilateral and multilateral research cooperation and made due contribution to the exploration of Antarctica and the progress of Antarctic sciences.


China is an active force for Antarctic environmental protection. Protection of Antarctica is one of the principles upheld by the Chinese government. Since 1997, as required by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, China has submitted 69 assessment reports on the environmental impact of activities in Antarctica, which cover multiple areas such as Antarctic field activities, facility construction and scientific studies. China gives great importance to the protection and management of Antarctica and has proposed on its own or with other countries three special protected areas, one special managed area and two historical sites, and taken a constructive part in the discussions on marine protected areas of Antarctica. To further promote environmental protection in Antarctica, China, the United States and Australia, among others, jointly made the "green expedition" initiative to the Committee for Environmental Protection for promoting cleaner and more environment-friendly expeditions in the future.


Ladies and Gentlemen,



"All good principles should adapt to changing times." The future of Antarctica bears on the survival and development of mankind. A peaceful, stable, green and sustainable Antarctica is in the interest of everyone on our planet. And it is what we promise our children and grandchildren. In the spirit of peace, cooperation and rule of law enshrined in the Antarctic Treaty, we should make concerted efforts to create a bright future in the development of Antarctica and promote world peace and prosperity. To that end, I would like to make a five-point proposal.


First, we should insist on the peaceful use of Antarctica and work to build a community of shared future for mankind in the region. Peace and stability in Antarctica is a fundamental prerequisite for all human activities in the region. We must bear in mind at all times and abide by the principle stipulated in the Antarctic Treaty that "Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes", and maintain and promote lasting peace, security and stability in the region, which is in the overall interest of all countries and the international community. We need to further enhance political mutual trust and assume a stronger sense of shared responsibility. In the spirit of inclusiveness and mutual learning, we should step up dialogue and consultation and work out joint plans and solutions to tackle the issues and challenges facing the region, and ensure the sound and inclusive development of Antarctica.


Second, we should uphold the Antarctic Treaty System and improve the rules-based mode of governance of Antarctica. Since the current governance mechanism based on the Antarctic Treaty System functions well, we parties should continue to advance governance of Antarctica within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System. The principle of consensus should be upheld and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings should fully play its role in decision making and coordination. In view of changing circumstances in Antarctica, improvements are needed in the formulation of international rules in all fields related to the region. Attention should also be directed to the formulation of such rules beyond the Antarctic Treaty System, in order to enhance the coordination and interaction between the Antarctic governance institutions and other relevant international mechanisms.


Third, we should stress equal-footed consultation and mutual benefit and turn Antarctica into a new arena for international cooperation. The Antarctic Treaty was founded upon cooperation and developed through cooperation. In future governance of Antarctica, we should continue to pursue equal-footed consultation and cooperative governance, make use of the existing bilateral and multilateral institutions and platforms, and further expand the area and scope of Antarctic cooperation. We need to promote long-term, steady, and institutionalized international cooperation through concrete cooperation projects. The level of cooperation should be uplifted and cooperation outcomes should be well implemented in order to deliver needed services and support. This is meant to ensure effective governance of Antarctica and to bring benefits of the protection and utilization of Antarctica to all mankind.


Fourth, we should uphold freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and further consolidate the scientific foundation for its protection and utilization. Man's knowledge about Antarctica is still very limited. Scientific investigation in Antarctica is an important field in which we can uncover the secrets of nature and search for new space of development. Today's efforts in this field will have a far-reaching impact on the future. We should continue to adhere to the principle of freedom of scientific investigation stipulated in the Antarctic Treaty. We need to focus our efforts on making better plans for scientific research and building stronger capacity of investigation and learning. Our priority should be the research on the impact of global climate and environmental change and in the emerging and frontier fields. We need to learn more about the law of change and development in Antarctica, base our decision making on scientific grounds while making right decisions to promote scientific advancement, thus cementing scientific foundation for the protection and utilization of Antarctica.


Fifth, we should protect the natural environment of Antarctica and ensure the ecological balance and sustainable development in the region. With its unique climate and geography, Antarctica has a delicate natural environment and ecological system that is vulnerable to external impacts. While exploring and utilizing Antarctica, we should seek appropriate and coordinated methods to address issues in all areas of Antarctica and pay great attention to the protection of its ecological system. There needs to be a proper balance between the protection and utilization of Antarctica, in order to achieve green and sustainable development of the continent and unleash its potential and value in promoting scientific progress, economic growth and cultural sustainability for mankind.


To conclude, I wish the 40th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the 20th Meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection a full success. I hope all the guests will have a pleasant stay in Beijing.


Thank you.


  Beijing, 23 May 2017  )