China took a long time to get to Antarctica, but the country is now boosting its presence there at a rate that some experts find alarming, according to the New York Times. The country has now opened a fourth research station on the frozen continent and knows where it will construct a fifth, part of a buildup of Antarctic spending and capabilities that the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute tells the Times appears to be part of a longer-term strategy to secure resources that is driven by President Xi Jinping, not by China's scientists. "This is part of a broader pattern of a mercantilist approach all around the world," he says. "A big driver of Chinese policy is to secure long-term energy supply and food supply."
In Antarctica, research bases and scientific achievements strengthen claims to the continent, the Times notes—and with five bases, China is closing in on the USA, which has six. One Chinese endeavor in the area that has especially alarmed conservationists is a plan to massively increase the harvest of krill, a shrimp-like creature that's a vital food source for Antarctica's whales and penguins but is also used for fish farms, livestock feed, and dietary supplements. A spokeswoman for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition tells Discovery that large krill-fishing factory ships, of which China already has more than any other country, "could deplete all the krill in a local area," causing big problems for larger animals. (Read more China stories.)