After the rise of China’s power in Africa, are we on the verge of seeing a Chinese Arctic?
With global warming affecting the poles more rapidly than the rest of the planet, ice is melting at an accelerated rate. Over the past decade, Shanghai has invested more than five billion euros to protect itself from rising waters. But with the melting ice comes new opportunities. New shipping routes, mining provinces and fishing grounds are opening up.
In January 2018, China outlined its ambitions to develop shipping lanes opened up by global warming. The project, which would extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic, has been dubbed ‘the Polar Silk Road’. It’s a policy that China has been quietly developing for several decades now. Despite being a non-Arctic state, China is increasingly active in the polar region. It has invested in gas fields in Arctic Russia, developed a research outpost in Svalbard, made new allies in Norwegian Lapland and created the first domestically built icebreaker, the Xuelong.
China also became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013 and now refers to itself as a “Near Arctic state.” But traditional security challenges remain. There are concerns over its long-term strategic objectives, including possible military deployment. What does China want in the Arctic? And how do the traditional Artcic powers view China’s actions?
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