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Chinese arctic path

24.06.2019 17:39

Growing industry requires expanding resource and energy base, and opening of new markets. In this regard, the Arctic vector seems to be a promising direction for the People's Republic of China, since it allows Beijing to not only solve some tactical tasks, but also significantly strengthen its role in global politics.

China’s interest in the Far North considering a certain shortage of raw materials and resources is quite understandable. First, there are about 30% of unexplored gas reserves and 13% of oil in this region. At the same time need in natural gas in China is increasing and it is expected that by 2020 it will reach 300 billion cubic meters. However, China can produce only 200 billion cubic meters. In this context, the Arctic with great resource potential and relatively broad freedom of action acquired strategic importance for the PRC. Secondly, the equally important goal of modern Beijing is to enter new markets and increase exports. To build maritime communications with Europe, China decided to take advantage of the transit potential of the Arctic, instead of relying on existing routes through the Suez or Panama canals. China considers the Northern Sea Route to be the most preferred option for creating the Arctic transport corridor, since Russia, like China, is seeking to pursue an independent policy in the Arctic and shows willingness to invest in the region large funds.

The Arctic policy in China is implemented by the Arctic and Antarctic Administration  - an organization under the patronage of the Ministry of Natural Resources, which manages the scientific expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as strategic planning and ensuring international cooperation in the regions.

Beijing's ambitions in the Northern latitudes are proved by the fact that China recognizes itself as a state that makes a significant contribution in the development of the region, since its activities in the Arctic cover all key aspects. China spends about $ 60 million annually for research in the Arctic alone. Beijing is building the Arctic Research and Development Center in Shanghai and plans to increase in five times the staff of scientists working on the Far North theme – to one thousand.

In the “Policy of China in the Arctic” published by the Information Bureau of the State Council of the People's Republic of China at the end of January 2018, Beijing proclaims itself as a near-arctic state. Geographical position does not allow it to be a permanent member of the Arctic Council. China along with a number of other countries is an observer in this organization, which gives it the right to monitor its activities. However, Beijing cannot participate in the decision making of the Arctic Council, so it is trying to influence its activities through allies.

Beijing’s ambitions in the Far North are shown in the interest in all projects related to the Arctic. In particular, China is negotiating with Finland about laying fiber-optic cable under the Arctic Ocean, which will help improve communication between the financial centers of the PRC and European information hubs. It is expected that, thanks to the implementation of these plans, the digital traffic between Europe and Asia will double in the near future.

At the same time, according to a specialist in China, East Asia and the Arctic at New Zealand University M. Lanten, Beijing understands that Russia is a Chinese’s key partner in the Arctic. Moscow and Beijing consider promising interaction in the economic development of the Arctic. Both countries realize great potential in cooperation and, naturally, want to use it.

Thus, although with a number of restrictions, but, nevertheless, China is becoming an integral part of the system of international relations in the Arctic. Despite the outlying location from the Arctic, in the long run, Beijing is likely to achieve its goal and become one of the main participants in the development of Arctic's natural resources. In this context it should be borne in mind that the inclusion of China in the Arctic dialogue creates a different political reality that encourages regional players to cooperate more closely both bilateral and multilateral basis. That will ultimately contribute to the development of a more capacious and balanced mechanism for exploration and preservation of a unique arctic region.