Officials from Beijing and Moscow fumed at a planned marine park intended to preserve natural habitats and prohibit exploitation deep-water reefs near Australia’s territory on the continent. The sanctuary would be almost twice the size of France and would aim to protect three large areas of the Southern Ocean where penguins, seals, whales and birds rely on fish in the waters as a feeding ground that forms a central part of the ecosystem. The high population of krill in the area feeds various predators, but will see the region’s wildlife become depleted if industrial-scale fishing by China and Russia continues.
The environmental concern has left Moscow and Beijing enraged with France and Australia, who have led the efforts to put a halt to large-scale fishing ventures in the Antarctic waters.
China began fishing in the Southern Ocean in 2016 while the Kremlin has expressed an interest in returning to the waters.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rivalry with Australia has culminated in the Antarctica dispute, with Canberra opposing Beijing plans to take control of the Dome A region, seen as a prime location for space observation due to the clear skies for visibility and elevation.
Australia currently control 5.9 million sq km of Antarctica – over 40 percent of the entire continent.
The two countries are also at odds over the equally tense South China Sea, where Beijing is aggravating many of its Asian neighbours as Xi Jinping tries to assert its dominance over the waters.
The South China Sea is home to various waters rich in natural resources such as oil and minerals, ans also provide lucrative shipping routes as China looks to establish its economic dominance across the seven continents.
Businessmen linked to Beijing have even attempted to alter Australian foreign policy from inside Canberra.
Investigative journalist Nick McKenzie discovered one of these businessmen – Huang Xiangmo – a property tycoon from Guangdong who arrived in Australia in 2011.
An avid supporter of Xi Jinping’s presidency and head of a diplomatic organisation working in Australia on behalf of Beijing, Xiangmo began using his wealth to gain access to Australia’s most important people.
One of those people was the Labor Party’s Sam Dastyari, a frontbencher in Australia’s main opposition party, who played a key role in fundraising.
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Small favours led to a huge donation of $400,000 in 2016 that was given to the party by Xiangmo, Dastyari was eventually found out and subsequently resigned, but experts in Australia fear this issue is yet to gone away.
Meanwhile, Russia’s aims to explore natural resources have resulted in a tense coexistence in the Arctic with the US, as Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump battle for control of natural oil reserves being unveiled by melting ice.
As Russia and China’s ambitions grow, Western nations will likely see more resistance coming out of the persistent super powers.
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