Continuing – and adding to – the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, China is planning to build a science station 10,000ft below its surface.
Calling it a “deep-sea space station”, the plans are vague at the moment, with China claiming its primary role will be civil use.
“But we can’t rule out [that] it will carry some military functions,” said Xu Liping, a senior researcher of south-east Asia affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“Many countries in the world have been researching these kinds of deep-water projects and China is just one of those nations,” he is quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
According to a Chinese science ministry report that Bloomberg claims to have seen, the project is listed as No 2 in the top 100 science and technology priorities for the current regime.
The station will play host to dozens of crew if completed, with monthly stays below the surface the order of the day.
Marine studies are booming around the world at the moment. In Ireland, for example, the SEAI has announced that 15 Irish projects are to receive $4.3m worth of funding under the Prototype Development Fund.
Elsewhere, four Irish organisations – University College Cork, DP Energy, EireComposites and TFI – have received a total of €1.5m in EU funding for the development of a floating tidal energy device.
Microsoft is looking at building a data centre under water, as a way of reducing the electricity costs that dog such facilities on land.
However, when China sets its sights on projects, it is often incomparable. Between 2011 and 2013, China used more concrete than the US did in the entire 20th century.
If an underwater facility is what China wants, it’s going to pour endless reserves into getting it.
South China Sea rig workers image, via corlaffra/Shutterstock