China is building its third research station in Antarctica, shoring up its presence just weeks after the UK and Chile made renewed territorial claims.
Claims can be made up to 350 nautical miles off existing territories
Almost 200 construction workers are heading for the southern continent, the state-run Xinhua news agency says.
They will build facilities including a space observatory, radar station and sewage discharge system.
Mineral mining is banned in Antarctica, but analysts say this is not stopping countries from jockeying for position.
Countries have until May 2009 to ask the United Nations to consider their right to the seabed.
Quoting unnamed sources, Xinhua said the building project was aimed at meeting the demands of scientific research and environmental conservation.
It would take up 3,880sq metres and be completed in two to three years, according to the news agency.
"It is the first time for China to conduct large-scale construction there with modern building materials," one source told Xinhua.
Last month Chile and the UK renewed their claims to sovereignty over tracts of the frozen continent.
Argentina has also said it intends to present a claim to the UN.
Competition for territorial and economic rights has heated up as melting polar ice caps have introduced the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed.