China and the 21st Century Arctic: Opportunities and Limitations
Keywords:China, Artic, Shipping, Energy, Polar Silk Road
In 2018 The People’s Republic of China (PRC) released its Arctic policy and articulated its position, principles, and goals as a “near-Arctic state.” In the years since, China has become a central focus of the growing academic and professional discourse surrounding the emerging Arctic and has positioned itself as a consequential actor in regional affairs. This article examines the opportunities and limitations for China in the High North by focusing on its four key drivers for Arctic engagement: resource extraction, international shipping, scientific pursuits, and international prestige. This article finds that while China’s involvement in Arctic affairs is growing, there are still significant roadblocks to its ambitions which it will need to overcome in order to reach its goal of being recognized as an Arctic power.
Aksenov, Yevgeny, Ekaterina E. Popova, Andrew Yool, A.J. G. Nurser, Timothy D. Williams, Laurent Bertino, and Jon Bergh. 2017. "On the future navigability of Arctic sea routes: High-resolution projections of the Arctic Ocean and sea ice." Marine Policy 75 (01): 300-317. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2015.12.027.
Alexeeva, Olga, and Frederic Lasserre. 2012. "China and the Arctic." Arctic Yearbook 2012, (08), 80-90. https://doi.org/10.4000/chinaperspectives.5958
Alexeeva, Olga, and Frederic Lasserre. 2018. "An analysis on Sino-Russian cooperation in the Arctic in the BRI era." Advances in Polar Sciences 29 (4): 269-282. 10.13679/j.advps.2018.4.00269.
Andersson, Patrik S., Jesper W. Zeuthen, and Per Kalvig. 2021. "Chinese Mining in Greenland: Arctic Access or Access to Minerals?" In China's Arctic Engagement, 114-135. Akureyri, Iceland: Northern Research Forum.
The Arctic Institute. 2020. "China." The Arctic Institute. https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/countries/china/.
Bhumann, Karin. 2018. "Chinese Mineral Sourcing Interests & Greenland's Potential as a Source of 'Conflict-Free' Minerals." In Arctic Yearbook 2018: Special Section: China & the Arctic, 84-101.
Bluejay Mining PLC. 2022. "Disko-Nuussuaq." Bluejay Mining. https://bluejaymining.com/projects/greenland/disco-nuussuaq/.
Bowman, Liz, and Qinchao Xu. 2020. China in the Arctic: Policies, Strategies, and Opportunities for Alaska. Fairbanks, Alaska: Center for Arctic Policy Studies, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Bryant, Dennis. 2013. "Yong Sheng Traverses NSR." Maritime Logistics Professional. https://www.maritimeprofessional.com/blogs/post/yong-sheng-traverses-nsr-14026.
Bykova, Alina. 2022. "Bezos and Gates-Backed Mining Company Prepares to Drill in Greenland." High North News. https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/bezos-and-gates-backed-mining-company-prepares-drill-greenland.
Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2022. "How Is China's Energy Footprint Changing? | ChinaPower Project." ChinaPower Project. https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/.
Congressional Research Service. 2021. Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress. Feb 1, 2021. N.p.: Congressional Research Service.
Conley, Heather A., and Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen. 2018. "Arctic Temperatures and Greenland Politics Heat Up | Center for Strategic and International Studies." Center for Strategic and International Studies |. https://www.csis.org/analysis/arctic-temperatures-and-greenland-politics-heat.
Dickie, Gloria, and Dasha Afanasieva. 2022. "Ukraine conflict hurts Russian science, as West pulls funding." Arctic Today. https://www.arctictoday.com/ukraine-conflict-hurts-russian-science-as-west-pulls-funding/.
Doshi, Rush, Alexis Dale-Huang, and Gaoqi Zhang. 2021. "Northern expedition: China's Arctic Activities and Ambitions." Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/research/northern-expedition-chinas-arctic-activities-and-ambitions/.
Downs, Erica. 2022. "SIPA Center on Global Energy Policy | Q&A | Europe's Dependence on Russian Gas with Anne-Sophie Corbeau." Columbia Energy Exchange. https://www.energypolicy.columbia.edu/research/qa/qa-china-russia-energy-relations-will-new-oil-and-natural-gas-deals-help-russia-weather-economic.
Gilpin, Robert. 1981. War and Change in World Politics. N.p.: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511664267
Grieger, Gisela. 2018. "China's Arctic Policy- How China aligns rights and interests." European Parliamentary Research Service. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document/EPRS_BRI(2018)620231.
Gronholt-Pedersen, Jacob, and Eric Onstad. 2021. "Geopolitics is making two rare earths mining projects in Greenland more complicated." Arctic Today. https://www.arctictoday.com/how-geopolitics-is-complicating-two-greenland-rare-earths-mining-projects/.
Humpert, Malte. 2021. "Early Winter Freeze Traps Ships in Arctic Ice, Highlighting Weak Safety Regime." High North News. https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/early-winter-freeze-traps-ships-arctic-ice-highlighting-weak-safety-regime.
Iden, Mark. 2022. "Power of Siberia 2 Pipeline Puts Ever More Pressure on Europe." Pipeline Technology Journal. https://www.pipeline-journal.net/news/power-siberia-2-pipeline-puts-ever-more-pressure-europe.
International Trade Administration. 2021. "Denmark - Other Areas in the Kingdom of Denmark." International Trade Administration. https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/denmark-other-areas-kingdom-denmark.
Jiang, Yang. 2018. "China in Greenland." DIIS. https://www.diis.dk/en/research/china-in-greenland.
Jiang, Yang. 2021. Chinese Investments in Greenland: Origins, Progress and Actors. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies.
Kalvig, Per, and Hans Lucht. 2021. "Greenland's minerals to consolidate China's rare earth dominance?" DIIS. https://www.diis.dk/en/research/greenlands-minerals-to-consolidate-chinas-rare-earth-dominance.
Kobzeva, Mariia. 2020. "Strategic partnership setting for Sino-Russian cooperation in Arctic shipping." The Polar Journal 10, no. 2 (08): 334-352. https://doi.org/10.1080/2154896X.2020.1810956.
Kopra, Sanna. 2018. "Climate change and China's rise to great power status." In The GlobalArctic Handbook, 125-139. N.p.: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91995-9_8
Kopra, Sanna. 2020. "China and its Arctic Trajectories: The Arctic Institute's China Series 2020." The Arctic Institute. https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/china-arctic-trajectories-the-arctic-institute-china-series-2020/.
Kossa, Martin. 2019. "China's Arctic engagement: domestic actors and foreign policy." Global Change, Peace & Security 32, no. 1 (July): 19-38. https://doi.org/10.1080/14781158.2019.1648406.
Langley, William. 2021. "China rejects Pompeo's challenge to its 'near-Arctic nation' claim." South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3116633/china-rejects-mike-pompeos-challenge-its-near-arctic-nation.
Lavengood, Zachary. 2021. "The Evolving Arctic in the World-System." Journal of World-Systems Research 27, no. 2 (08): 468-493. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2021.1042.
Liu, Nengye. 2021. "China and one hundred years of the Svalbard treaty: Past, present and future." Marine Policy 124 (12). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2020.104354.
Melia, N., K. Haines, and E. Hawkins. 2016. "Sea Ice Decline and 21st Century trans-Arctic Shipping Routes." Geophysical Research Letters, no. 43 (09), 9720-9728. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL069315
Moe, Arild. 2020. "A New Russian Policy for the Northern Sea Route? State Interests, Key Stakeholders, and economic opportunities in Changing Times." The Polar Journal 10, no. 2 (08): 209-227. https://doi.org/10.1080/2154896X.2020.1799611.
National Snow & Ice Data Center. 2022. "Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis | Sea ice data updated daily with one-day lag." National Snow and Ice Data Center |. http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/.
Nikulin, Maksim. 2020. "The Arctic as a potential space for Great Power Competition." IOP Conference Series Earth and Environmental Science, (09).
Nilsen, Thomas. 2019. "China seeks a more active role in the Arctic." Barents Observer. https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2019/05/china-seeks-more-active-role-arctic.
Pincus, Rebecca. 2019. China and Russia in the Arctic, Testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Comission. N.p.: Center for Naval Warfare Studies.
Reuters. 2022. "Finland, Sweden could join NATO this summer - ArcticToday." Arctic Today. https://www.arctictoday.com/finland-sweden-could-join-nato-this-summer/.
Ridgewell, Henry. 2022. "'Power of Siberia 2' Pipeline Could See Europe, China Compete for Russian Gas." Voice of America. https://www.voanews.com/a/power-of-siberia-2-pipeline-could-see-europe-china-compete-for-russian-gas-/6402242.html.
Rochat, Matthew, and Sebastian Strangio. 2021. "China's Growing Dominance in Maritime Shipping - The Diplomat." The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/chinas-growing-dominance-in-maritime-shipping/.
Shambaugh, David. 2015. "China's Soft-Power Push: The Search for Respect." Foreign Affairs 94, no. 4 (08): 99-107.
Staalesen, Atle. 2019. "Russia sets out stringent new rules for foreign ships on the Northern Sea Route - ArcticToday." Arctic Today. https://www.arctictoday.com/russia-sets-out-stringent-new-rules-for-foreign-ships-on-the-northern-sea-route/?wallit_nosession=1.
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China. 2018. "China's Arctic Policy." Full text: China's Arctic Policy. http://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2018/01/26/content_281476026660336.htm.
Stronski, Paul, and Nicole Ng. 2018. Cooperation and Competition, Russia and China in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Su, Ping, and Maximilian Mayer. 2018. "Science Diplomacy and Trust Building: 'Science China' in the Arctic." Global Policy 9, no. 3 (11): 23-28. https://doi.org/10.1111/1758-5899.12576.
Sun, Kai. 2014. "Beyond the Dragon and the Panda: Understanding China's Engagement in the Arctic." Asia Policy 18 (July): 46-51. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/24905275. https://doi.org/10.1353/asp.2014.0023
Sun, Kai. July. "Beyond the Dragon and the Panda:: Understanding China's Engagement in the Arctic." Asia Policy, no. 18 (2014), 46-51. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24905275. https://doi.org/10.1353/asp.2014.0023
Sun, Yun. 2018. "The Intricacy of China's Arctic Policy." Stimson. https://www.stimson.org/2018/intricacy-chinas-arctic-policy/.
"Svalbard Treaty," Article 2. 1920. Paris, France. https://www.jus.uio.no/english/services/library/treaties/01/1-11/svalbard-treaty.xml.
Van Gosen, Bradley S., Philip L. Verplanck, Keith R. Long, Joseph Gambogi, and Robert R. Seal II. 2014. "The Rare-Earth Elements- Vital to Modern Technologies and Lifestyles." USGS Publications Repository. https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2014/3078/pdf/fs2014-3078.pdf. https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20143078
Warsaw Institute. 2020. "Russia's Economy Is Becoming Heavily Dependent on Hydrocarbons." Warsaw Institute. https://warsawinstitute.org/russias-economy-becoming-heavily-dependent-hydrocarbons/.
Wishnick, Elizabeth. 2017. China's Interests and Goals inthe Arctic: Implications for the United States. Carslile Barracks, PA: United States Army War College Press.
Yan, Xuetong. 2014. "From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement." The Chinese Journal of International Politics 7, no. 2 (04): 153-184. https://doi.org/10.1093/cjip/pou027.
YLE. 2021. "Defence Ministry blocked Chinese plans for research airbase in Lapland." YLE. https://yle.fi/news/3-11820411.
Zhen, Liu. 2021. "China to develop new heavy icebreaker for 'Polar Silk Road.'" South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3155860/china-develop-new-heavy-icebreaker-polar-silk-road.
Zheng, Qingcheng, Tingyu Lu, Kun-Chin Lin, Kum Fai Yuen, and Kevin X. Li. 2019. "The Competitiveness of Arctic Shipping over Suez Canal and China-Europe Railway." Transport Policy 86 (11): 34-43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2019.11.005
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Zachary Lavengood
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.