China Seeks to Secure Economic Interests in Melting Arctic


Human Wrongs Watch

Aware of the suspicions some countries have about its intentions in the Arctic, China is adopting a deliberately low-key public stance that avoids talk about minerals, oil and gas and focuses on climate change and shipping routes, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)*. 

**Location of the Arctic | By Heraldry| Wikimedia Commons.

**Location of the Arctic | By Heraldry| Wikimedia Commons.

Nevertheless, China is determined not to be sidelined in decisions that it believes will directly affect its economic interests, says SIPRI. China wants to be part of the Arctic order and, as a rising power, emphasizes the global implications of the Arctic’s melting ice.

Comprehensive Mapping

Although several non-Chinese observers have described China’s actions in the Arctic as ‘more assertive’, and the Chinese Government has taken steps to protect what it perceives as its key interests in the region, China’s Arctic policies are still in a nascent stage of formulation, it adds.

SIPRI’s Policy Paper represents the first comprehensive mapping of the agencies and individuals involved in the formulation of Arctic policies and an assessment of the motives underlying China’s Arctic activities.

The authors show that, while China recognizes that it is an ‘Arctic outsider’— without sovereign rights in the Arctic—it nevertheless sees numerous economic opportunities opening up in there.

It consequently seeks to influence discussions and decisions on how the Arctic should be governed.

No Aggressive Claims to Arctic Wealth

The report, ‘China’s Arctic Aspirations’, highlights a conscious shift among Chinese officials and commentators to downplay China’s interest in the Arctic’s anticipated mineral wealth.

It argues that because of China’s firm line on national sovereignty in a range of issues, especially ongoing territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas, China will not question the sovereign mineral and territorial rights of the Arctic states.

Thus, while China is undoubtedly keen to get a share of the region’s resources, it is unlikely to try to do this through threats or force.

China will presumably try instead to secure access to the resources through diplomacy and joint projects with Arctic states, the report argues.

China Demands a Say in Arctic Decisions

China is determined to have greater influence in Arctic affairs. Positioning itself as a key Arctic stakeholder, China is emphasizing the potentially catastrophic economic impacts of Arctic climate change for China.

‘China is making it clear that, as a rising global power, it expects to have a say in Arctic affairs, on the basis that the future of the Arctic is a global, not regional, issue’, says Linda Jakobson, the report’s lead author and East Asia Programme Director at the Lowy Institute.

Shipping

Furthermore, China wants to ensure that decisions relating to newly accessible Arctic shipping routes, which potentially offer substantial economic benefits to China’s export industries, support the interests of Chinese shipping, the report says.

In September 2012 the Xuelong, China’s first icebreaker, returned from a voyage that included its first transit through the Northern Sea Route.

China’s current approach to the Arctic is based on the premise that the more the Arctic states act to maximize their interests in the region as the ice melts, the more China needs to safeguard its own interests and what it perceives as its rights’, says Jakobson, who is a member of SIPRI’s Arctic research team.

China’s Arctic Aspirations, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 34, by Linda Jakobson and Jingchao Peng, was published on 27 November.

Linda Jakobson (Finland) is the East Asia Programme Director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. She was previously Director of SIPRI’s China and Global Security Programme. Before moving to Sydney, Jakobson has lived and worked in China for 20 years.

Jingchao Peng (China) holds a bachelors degree from the University of International Relations in China. He was previously Research Assistant within SIPRI’s China and Global Security Programme. His main research interests include the Arctic policies of East Asian states and China’s maritime security issues.

*Source: SIPRI releaseRead more and download the report.

**Location of the Arctic | By Heraldry| Wikimedia Commons.

Read also:

World’s Heart in Melting Arctic

Arctic – The Catastrophic Impact of Drilling, Oil Spills, Accidents

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low – Report

Ice in Arctic Disappearing Far Greater Than Predicted

Greenland’s Mineral Rush ‘Could Lead to Independence’ from Denmark

Criminal Gangs Steel Ice from Glaciers

World Bank and Giant Corporations Allied to Privatize Water Worldwide

2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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