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China Artic Policy

The Arctic region is standing at an important historical turning point, facing various new challenges in governance, which concerns sustainable development of the human society and the ocean. China is a near-Arctic country. It is not a courtesy extended by Arctic countries but a right endorsed by the international law that allows China to take part in regional affairs. China's deepening cooperation with regional countries is a combination of these countries' development need and China's strength in production capacity. The China-proposed Ice Silk Road has been welcomed and made big achievements.

In January 2018, the Chinese government issued a white paper on China's Arctic Policy, which officially stated that it is willing to rely on the development and utilization of the Arctic Channel and build the "Ice Silk Road" with all parties. Political leaders and experts from Finland, Norway, Russia and other countries have expressed their support.

Nomenclature is important to understand Chinese diplomacy at both poles. Polar is translated in Chinese as the compound word jidi; the two characters in the word being j duan ('extreme') and d-qi ('earth'), or in other words, "the extremes of the earth". Thus, in Chinese, the Arctic is the "Northern Extreme" (Beiji); the Antarctic is the "Southern Extreme" (Nanji); while the Tibetan Plateau, which contains the world's highest mountains, is the "Third Extreme" (Disanji) or Third Pole, the Himalaya region.

While global warming has brought many negative effects, including the melting of Arctic glaciers, the melting of Arctic glaciers has enabled the development and utilization of resources such as waterways and energy in the Arctic, and the strategic position of the Arctic is not common. The "Tian En" freighter of COSCO Shipping also successfully completed the first "ice on the road" sailing.

Although China does not currently own the territory of the Arctic Circle or the countries along the Arctic Ocean, China's national interests are also closely related to the Arctic region. China has also paid more and more attention to the Arctic region and actively participated in the Arctic region. In May 2013, it became an observer of the Arctic Council. Development projects have also been included in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative initiative in the Arctic, such as the Russian Yamal Peninsula oil and gas field project.

Since 2014, the US has been showing increasing interest in terms of national security in the region. Particularly after US President Donald Trump took office, he changed his predecessor Barack Obama's policy that underlined cooperation and environmental protection in the Arctic to one that underscores great power competition and the importance of development. The keynote of US policy in the Arctic is to maintain its leadership and position of rule maker while preventing China and Russia, its long-term competitors, from injecting influence in the Arctic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton have publicly accused China of being present in the Arctic region. They condemned Beijing for adopting "debt diplomacy" with investment in countries in the region and called for pushback against China's near-Arctic status.

In the eyes of foreign media, Chinas self-built icebreaker is far from being as simple as a scientific test. "After the moon, China is looking for new fulcrums." The German Science Network commented in 2012 that China wanted to reach all corners of the Earth and the Moon. When the French "Viewpoint" questioned "is it better to pay attention to some of the neglected details behind China's rise, rather than staring at hard weapons like missiles and fighters," it is an example of China's construction of icebreakers. The newspaper said that if China takes the same approach as the South China Sea in the Arctic in the future, the world order will eventually be changed.

The Deutche Welle statement is not so stimulating, but it predicts that the Arctic will have more scientific expeditions from China in the next few years, and the world's second largest economy hopes to play an important role in the development of the Arctic. AFP, who shares the same view, said that Chinas attention to the Arctic had become more apparent from last year. Chinese real estate tycoon Huang Nubo tried to buy Icelandic land and exposed Chinese interest to the spotlight.

"This is not a whim, but a long-term strategy." This "reminder" comes from German TV. The report said that in China, the Arctic is the next Africa. Agence France-Presse said that the melting of the Arctic ice sheet is faintly visible on an oceanic route on the Arctic Ocean. CNN said that for many centuries, this route has buried hundreds of crew members and explorers, but now even private dinghy can sail on this channel in summer. In a word, "The Arctic is being opened." And a Chinese container ship can save about $2 million in fuel costs from Shanghai to New York.

In the eyes of the Globe and Mail, this is why China has applied to become a permanent observer of the Arctic Council. This council includes eight countries with territories in the Arctic: Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland. Discussions on all issues in the Arctic are taking place here. The report said the following data helps to understand the appeal of becoming a member of the board: the US Geological Survey estimates that 13% of crude oil and 30% of natural gas are contained within the Arctic Circle for globally unexplored fossil fuels. The report quoted Chen Gang, a researcher at the National University of Singapore, as saying that China wants to have a bigger say in the Arctic.

Although geographically China is far away from the Arctic and is not an Arctic state, its own power projection is making it an Arctic actor, and a player in Arctic geopolitics. On 20 May 2013, Beijing Review carried an article titled How China became an Arctic State, which contained the assertion that China has ultimately managed to re-shuffle the Arctic balance of power in record time. China now refers to itself as a near Arctic state (jin beiji guojia); an Arctic stakeholder (beiji lihaiguanxguo) with strategic interests to gain, maintain and, if need be, defend.

Chinese official Liu Cigui stressed in an editorial in China Ocean News in November 2014 that Chinas polar policy was intrinsically tied to the national goal of becoming a maritime power (haishang qiangguo). This goal, first unveiled by Chinese former president Hu Jintao in 2012, has remained a foreign policy priority under current president Xi Jinping. Liu also asserted that today, we are already standing at the starting point of a brand-new historical era, of striding toward becoming a polar-region power. President Xi referred to China as a polar great power (jidi daguo) when he visited Australia in November 2014.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 for the first time included a section on a report on so-called Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Arctic region, signaling its intention to spread the Arctic version of the "China threat" theory. Under Section 1260E of the NDAA, the report has broad requirements covering projects that are "directly or indirectly funded by public and private Chinese entities," including public and finance infrastructure, energy, real estate, ship building, and telecommunications. The study shall include an analysis of the Chinese FDI that is being implemented in the US, Russia, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Iceland, with an assessment of the efficacy and transparency of these countries' criteria, methods for monitoring, and public reporting. In addition, the bill also requires a review of China's strategic objectives in the Arctic region from a military, economic, territorial, and political perspective, so as to summarize the model by which China increases its influence in the region.

After getting an overall picture of China's activities in the region, the US could change its strategy from whack-a-mole-style attacks to an all-round and systematic siege. China's economic cooperation projects with Iceland and Greenland, development of new shipping routes, and civil and military infrastructure development will be key projects for the US to obstruct. Washington could further call for the establishment of an economic cooperation order in the Arctic region with monitoring mechanisms to set up a system threshold for non-Arctic countries' economic activities. In addition to an "invisible wall" of ecological protection and aborigines' rights that would be raised, the US would also require other countries to be "one-way transparent" toward it and conform to the rules that limit these countries' rights and allocate their responsibilities.

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Page last modified: 25-12-2019 18:41:58 ZULU