China: An Arctic Power? UPDATE

April 22, 2013

about a year and a half ago I posted a story about China’s desire to join the Arctic Council and its aggressive pursuit of a large fleet of icebreakers.  This is the second update on that story (the first was last August, on the completion of the first Chinese transpolar navigation of the Northern Sea Route).  By the end of the decade, the Arctic is expected to become regularly ice free for summer navigation, and the shipping routes from Asia to Europe and the East Coast of North America would be much shorter (and safer, due to the increase in piracy in the southern chokepoints).  Strategically, a seasonally ice free Arctic changes geostrategic calculations that have been in place since Mackinder, explaining China’s interest.

Recently, we read that some other other important Asian nations might join alongside China, as India and Singapore are both mentioned as observer candidates as well.   This is a good thing, as together they would help to weaken Chinese influence (India will be a strategic rival of China for the rest of the century, and Singapore is a deep and trusted ally of the United States).   Naval power will be critical in the 21st century, as the Indian and Arctic Oceans join the Atlantic and Pacific as theaters of power politics.


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