China, an Arctic power UPDATEAugust 20, 2012
Last winter, I wrote about China’s attempt to seek entry into the Arctic Council. Although obviously not contiguous with the Arctic Ocean, China would certainly have great interest in the growing commercial prospects in the region. In addition to the presumed energy and mineral wealth on the sea bed, a warming climate has opened the prospect of commercial navigation across the Arctic, which would revolutionize world trade and also geopolitical and geostrategic considerations. Not only can the opening of the Arctic lead to shorter transit routes for trade, but it would open the northern boundary of Russia to naval threat for the first time in history.
Chinese interests in the Arctic would include all three of these dimensions. Last week, history was made as the Chinese ice breaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) completed a trans-polar journey from the Western Pacific to Iceland via Russia’s Northern Sea Route. The Xuelong was the first Chinese ship to complete such a journey. Coincidentally, Malte Humpert and Andreas Raspotnik published a piece on Chinese geostrategy in the Arctic on the same day that the Xuelong docked in Iceland. Download their pdf and read their analysis here.