Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Why is China so Interested & West Disturbed by China’s Arctic Policy?

China’s Arctic Policy seems to have perturbed the Western Nations. What is China’s Arctic Policy and why are they suddenly showing a sudden interest in the Arctic Region? What does the Arctic Region house that is driving China? 

Apart from the current interest in the Arctic Region, Beijing, in late January, also revealed its first-ever Arctic White Book.

The Chinese are known to express interest in everything that has even a touch of minerals.

The USGS of 2008 (U.S. Geological Survey) revealed that 30 percent of undiscovered gas reserves and over 13 percent of oil resources of the world are located in the Arctic Region. With the advancement in technology, extracting oil and gas from the Arctic Region has now become possible with a lot of ease. Clearly then, the area has become a topic of high interest for China despite the fact of it not being an Arctic state.

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The White Paper, the Arctic Policy of China, gives out a detailed list of the plan of action designed by the Chinese government including the expansion of Silk Route to the Polar Silk Route. During the summer of last year, the Norwegian Public Radio also expressed concerns over the Chinese ship ‘Snow Dragon’ that brought with it over a hundred scientists who studied climate change in the northern region. The Arctic ambitions of China have now become a matter of serious concern for the eight members of the Arctic Council.

China’s Arctic Policy: China Spends USD 60 Million A Year On Arctic Region Research

While the Chinese Deputy FM Kun Xuanwu has denied any participation in the developments in the Arctic, analysts and explorers of the country sing a different tune. A polar explorer from Shanghai said Beijing sees its future in the polar regions. Another professor from the country said that China aims to be at the forefront of the developing rules in the new areas. Currently, China is working on the building of an Arctic Research Centre in Shanghai.

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The country reportedly spends almost USD 60 million on scientific research in the polar region. Beijing, along with India, South Korea, and Italy, is currently only an observer to the Arctic Council and can thus not be involved in its decision-making process. The White Paper, however, states that China is geographically a near-Arctic state and thus tries to understand, develop, protect, and participate in its management.

Driving Factors behind China’s Arctic Policy

  • Firstly, China’s Arctic Policy aims to participate in the development of Arctic routes for the NWP and NSP.
  • Secondly, it is looking forward to exploiting the natural resources and the development of alternative energy resources in the Arctic Region.
  • The third interest of China in the Arctic Region is the extraction of the living resources.
  • Lastly, China’s Arctic Policy agenda is the development of Arctic tourism

What concerns the United States is the sudden emergence of China, a country which has no territorial claim to the Arctic and a growing superpower which has the both the economic and military might to compete for influence in the region. China has commenced funding the Arctic development plans (despite lack of territorial claims), highlighting the region’s rising global significance. China is not alone. Russia (considered the leader), Finland, the United States and Canada have also planned extensive financing and development of Arctic zones.

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