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Guest Post: Understanding China’s Arctic Policies

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Arthur Guschin via The Diplomat,

Within the last seven years 11 countries (Poland (2006), Russia (2008), Finland (2009), France (2009), Sweden (2010), Iceland (2011), Spain (2011), Denmark (2012), Singapore (2012), Canada (2012) and Japan (2013) have realized the need to appoint their own Arctic ambassadors. These ambassadors are used for analysis and situational assessments in the emerging “grand Arctic game,” with the ultimate aim of exploiting mineral resources and using the Arctic route for shipping cargo from Europe to Asia. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey released an assessment revealing that the Arctic accounts for about 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas, and 20 percent of its undiscovered natural gas liquids. In other words, 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of natural gas.

The potential commercial benefits of cargo transportation through the Arctic in comparison to the Suez Canal also seem appealing. In August and September 2009 two German heavy-lift vessels, MV Beluga Foresight and MV Beluga Fraternity carried a cargo of steel pipes from Arkhangelsk (Russia) to Nigeria using the Northern Sea Route. The new passage shortened the distance for 3000 nautical miles and reduced fuel consumption by 200 tons per vessel, resulting in savings of 600 000 U.S. dollars. A year later, the Hong Kong vessel MV Nordic Barents transported iron ore from Kirkenes (Norway) to Shanghai using the same route and cut expenses on $180,000. In 2012, 46 vessels carried more than 1.2 million tonnes of cargo through the Northern Sea Route, up 53 percent compared with 2011. In 2010, only four vessels used the route. Some researchers predict that 30 million tones of cargo will be shipped via the Northern Sea Route to 2020

China is the largest consumer and importer of energy resources in the world but its vast geographical distance from the Arctic limits Beijing’s opportunity – at least in contrast to Arctic Council members (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.) – to set the agenda and form a strategy for taking advantage of new Arctic opportunities. Nevertheless, China was the first Asian state to show interest and it has begun efforts to become a full member of the Arctic Council. Beijing argues that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea the Arctic Ocean is a shipping commons, and that climate change has negative consequences for Chinese food security, particularly with the flooding of its coastal regions.

In the meantime, China has stepped up Arctic and Antarctic research. Between 1985 and 2012, Beijing initiated five Arctic and 28 Antarctic expeditions. It has also built the state-owned Arctic Yellow River Station, and entered into an agreement with Finnish company Aker Arctic Technology to construct a second ice breaker by 2014, joining the MV Xu? Lóng that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1993. Moreover, Chinese representatives take part in the Arctic Science Committee, Arctic Science Summit Week, Ny-Ålesund Science Managers Committee, and the International Polar Year project. However, “scientific” diplomacy alone will not seem to be helping China join the most influential and important Arctic organization ( the Arctic Council) as a permanent member state.

At present, China’s Arctic initiatives suggest that Beijing is eager to camouflage its true interests in the region with environmental monitoring, Arctic life protection and concerns about indigenous peoples. Beijing's rhetoric aims at defining the Arctic as an international zone where changes must make sense for all countries and climate change is a problem for the highest levels of diplomacy. Alongside France and Germany, China sees an oil spill in the Arctic similar to that which occurred in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico would have disastrous outcomes for global security. So it is spending around $60 million annually on polar research, is building a China-Nordic Arctic Research Center in Shanghai, and plans to increase the research staff by a factor of five, to 1000.

At the same time, Beijing is dropping hints that China is not satisfied with the current balance of power in the Arctic region. The most striking issue in the polemic that represents Beijing's ambitions in the Arctic race is the identification of China as a “near-Arctic” state. This concept has already become ingrained in the lexicon of Chinese scientists who are responsible for Arctic research.

In fact, this approach looks rather prudent and far-sighted given the U.S. and Canadian obsession with Russian deeds in the region, such as its announcement of a new Arctic strategy, the presence of Russian air and naval assets in the frontier zone, and the planting of a Russian flag at the North Pole in 2007. Beijing has left it to Moscow to convey the image of dangerous neighbor, while it maintains the pattern of a peaceful state focused on neutral topics: sponsoring expeditions, conducting climate changing surveys, supporting the development of indigenous peoples, preserving local cultures, promoting sustainable development, campaigning against environment pollution, and promoting tourism.? By developing strong positions in these areas, China will not only be able to tap the knowledge of the international scientific community and put forth arguments to support the theory of climate change influence on China; it will also be able to collaborate with six organizations (Arctic Athabaskan Council; Aleut International Association; Gwich’in Council International; Inuit Circumpolar Council; Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North; Saami Council) that represent indigenous peoples and have the status of permanent members of the Arctic Council. Thus, Beijing can lobby its interests in the Council not on a direct basis, but using a special channel that has already shown itself to be effective.

This scientific approach is a path for China to achieve its true goals in the Arctic, which lie in the economic realm. To start with, Beijing seeks a diversification of supply routes. The main route for China – the Strait of Malacca – is susceptible to piracy and terrorism. An Arctic Route would let China, first, reduce transportation expenses, second, diversify and secure its shipments, and third, diminish the risk of a U.S. Navy closure of the Strait in a conflict. Former chairman Hu Jintao was well aware of China’s supply vulnerabilities. According to Chinese analysts, by 2020 between 5 to 15 percent of Chinese foreign trade will be transported through the Northern Sea Route. Experts at the Norwegian transport company Tschudi Shipping Company estimate that the route from Kirkenes or Murmansk to Shanghai will reduce total sailing time by 16 days.

Meanwhile rising consumption is forcing Chinese companies to invest heavily in oil exploration and shipment, for example, from Africa and Brazil. Assumptions about Arctic natural resource deposits are thus attractive to Beijing. China National Petroleum Corporation became the third Rosneft partner (with Eni and Statoil) in the exploration of Zapadno-Prinovozemelsky (the Barents Sea), Yuzhno-Russky and Medynsko-Varandeysky structures (the Pechora Sea). It is evident that China will seek not only to get access to new oil fields but also to acquire modern drilling technology it currently lacks.

The second strategic resource for China is iron ore. Sinosteel and China Communication Corporation are already investors in the Isua project in Greeland, which will mine 15 million tonnes per year of iron ore pellets from 2015.

The third element in the Chinese economic strategy in the Arctic is a share of maritime resources, especially fish.?The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shown the region's potential in this regard. Access to fisheries is crucial for countries like Greenland and Iceland, which depend heavily on maritime resources for export earnings, and China has been very active in establishing bilateral economic contacts with these smaller members of the Arctic Council to ensure support for its permanent membership bid. These same tactics worked well in the Asia-Pacific, where China built strong investment relations with ASEAN members to help conclude a free trade agreement with ASEAN. In 2010, China provided Iceland with a $500 million-plus currency swap to support the struggling Iceland bank system. Also in 2010, Denmark signed deals with China worth $740 million in the areas of power, the green economy, agriculture and food security. In 2011, Denmark’s ambassador in China made a statement in support of a Chinese bid for permanent membership of the Arctic Council. The same position was expressed by the leaders of Greenland and Iceland. In January 2013, Swedish and even Norwegian (the spat of dissident Liu Xiaobo notwithstanding) representatives on the Arctic Council meeting in Tromsø declared a desire to start the process of discussing China's role in the Council.

In addition, China's financial aid to small countries will let Beijing participate in the Arctic infrastructure development that will be crucial for the year-round functioning of the Arctic Route. This encompasses port building, ship repair stations, transport hubs (for example, Ísafjörður in Iceland) and rescue centers.

Chinese international strategy in the Arctic will pursue solely pragmatic goals. Not only is economic prosperity as stake but also China's image as a potential global leader. While it talks up the impact of global warming on Chinese environment and food security, Beijing systematically and purposefully continues to encourage the economic dependence of small Artic states on China (such as the recent free trade agreement with Iceland) to earn support for a permanent member seat on the Arctic Council. Moreover, the high cost of projects to develop new oil infrastructure in the region force states to attract investors. This opens opportunities for China to develop influence and locks in future energy access. Next up, look for Beijing to begin negotiating route transit fees with Moscow.

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Fri, 11/15/2013 - 21:46 | 4159761 DoChenRollingBearing
DoChenRollingBearing's picture

A very interesting article, Tyler(s), thank you for posting this.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 23:11 | 4159919 putaipan
putaipan's picture

ice station zebela.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 10:38 | 4160361 Ignatius
Ignatius's picture

My Arctic Policy:  rather be in Jamaica, mon.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 23:35 | 4159948 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Ancient Chinese texts show that China traditionally owned the Arctic and wants its possession back.  It also owns the Senkakus, Tibet, Mongolia, Siberia, and Hollywood.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 14:08 | 4160636 lotusblue
lotusblue's picture

Good chuckle

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 09:51 | 4160318 Eeyores Enigma
Eeyores Enigma's picture

The patient is in a coma which will make it easier for us to process his credit card for all the purchases that he would be making as an average consumer leveraging his assets, including internal organs, and issuing loans to maintain a steady balance in his account from which we can continue to process his credit card for the purchases he would obviously be making.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 12:21 | 4160493 Svendblaaskaeg
Svendblaaskaeg's picture

".. Chinese bid for permanent membership of the Arctic Council. The same position was expressed by the leaders of Greenland.."

..add to that Greenlands willingness to build whore houses to satisfy any Chinese mine workers needs should they decide to work in Greenland mining
(if we build it, they will cum)


Fri, 11/15/2013 - 21:49 | 4159765 Septicus Maximus
Septicus Maximus's picture

"Peking argues that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea the Arctic Ocean is a shipping commons..." 


And yet the entire South China Sea belongs to them?  The Law of the Sea doesn't apply to the Philippines or to Japan, but it applies to China in this case?  

Fuck China, who cares what they think.  

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 21:59 | 4159796 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

"who cares what they think"

You will, give it a few years bro.


Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:37 | 4159875 Septicus Maximus
Septicus Maximus's picture

I live in China now, buddy.  Buy the hype if it makes you feel special.  This place is on the treadmill to hell.  

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:49 | 4159891 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

I live there also bucko, 4 months out of the year and if that's your perspective then that's where you will end up.

There are more opportunities per square inch in one of the up and coming dynamic entrepreneurial economies than I've ever seen in #1 USSA.

The best part, no sex abuse from scumbag TSA faggots. So when you get that good opportunity you don't have to quit it because your fucking government orders their TSA flunkies to assault you if you refuse their radiation therapy in their 'imaging' machines.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 01:41 | 4160107 Septicus Maximus
Septicus Maximus's picture

Yeah cap'n, that is my perspective.  Let me see if I get this right, the "best part" of China is no TSA....but you're OK with PAP and chengguan assnozzzels everwhere?  Got in good with the commies, did you?  Too lucrative to have principles... I get it...   



Sat, 11/16/2013 - 07:40 | 4160248 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

It's idiots like you who buy the 'Land of Free, Home of Brave' shit, hook line and sinker.

I prefer integrity over deception. .gov says to the slaves 'You're Free!', .cn say to the slaves 'You're ass belongs to us, deal with it'.

IMO, in the long run, it's more advantageous for the slaves to know, with certainty, their lot in life. When the music stops you will see who's more prepared and resilient to the abrupt change that is going to strip all that comfort and safety away.

And these dipshit top 10%'ers think that their confetti or their gold is going to save them. We'll see.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 12:26 | 4160496 IndyPat
IndyPat's picture

You are a raging asshole and nobody likes you.
Bet the chinks even think you're a prick.


So gay.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 14:11 | 4160642 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

I understand that your fellow juice do not like the spotlight on their trickery. They know what a mob can and will do.

Back to Hollyweird for you pat. Huddle with your people and contact your Schindler's. Momentum is building.


Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:52 | 4159882 akak
akak's picture

Excuse me, Middle Kingdom comrades of the Central ToiletBureau and the People's Subjugation Army, but after quickly perusing my handy globe, I can't help but notice that China does NOT border on ANY part of the Arctic region, nor has any territory or legitimate territorial claims within a couple of thousand miles of the Arctic.  That being the case, please fuck yourselves and stop trying to blob-up that which is patently not yours.

The most striking issue in the polemic that represents Beijing's ambitions in the Arctic race is the identification of China as a “near-Arctic” state.

Hmmmm, do I hear echoes of the neocon sentiments and rhetoric that declares that the USA has "vital strategic interests" in the Middle East here?

Sinosteel and China Communication Corporation are already investors in the Isua project in Greeland, which will mine 15 million tonnes per year of iron ore pellets from 2015.

Oh bother, now we're going to have to change the name on all the maps from "Greenland" to "Brownland".


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 00:03 | 4159965 Element
Element's picture

Same for equatorial city-state Singapore, lots of tundra in Singapore - what cheek.

Maybe the Vatican or Chad want a piece of the action too, for their traditional walrus hunt?


RE China iron ore from Greenland, it will not be economic into their market, and if they don't know that yet they soon will (but of course they do know that already, they are not actually dumb, but they think they can leverage on that idea for a bit, but it isn't going to happen).

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 00:32 | 4160031 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Oh bother, now we're going to have to change the name on all the maps from "Greenland" to "Brownland".

That's going to be a rather distressing time for them. Roads are few in Greenland.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 00:43 | 4160044 akak
akak's picture

In a (shitizenism) pinch, tundra and ice work just as well.

Although to be fair, I was thinking of more than just the monolizing of the excretory means when I imagined "Brownland" as the result of the Chinese intrusion into, and blobbing-up of, Greenland.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 00:47 | 4160056 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Pingos of brown baby Maos blobbing up across the tundra...

the horror...the horror...

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 00:52 | 4160059 akak
akak's picture

I pity the poor arctic archeologists of the far future who will have to dig through all the layers of permacrap.

"Hey, where did all these dog and cat bones in this strata come from?"

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 01:02 | 4160068 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Some enterprising Chinese citizenism citizen will open up a JKC franchise there. The house special: baby seal fin soup.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 02:57 | 4160155 prains
prains's picture

it's just not as much fun without AnAnalogous Anus around...I miss the 2012's it was a good year

<---where's my down arrow ChiCom Troll?

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 21:48 | 4159766 orez65
orez65's picture

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... keep believing this bull shit about global warming!

Wait until we get into the next ice age in the next few years and all of this bull shit about arctic transit will make fools out of all the liberal shit heads.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:02 | 4159800 LetThemEatRand
LetThemEatRand's picture

Funny how countries like China deny global warming while they act very much like they believe it.  Don't pay attention to what they say.  Watch what they do.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 03:33 | 4160176 Urban Redneck
Urban Redneck's picture

Subsidies alter behavior. What would China do if there weren't financial incentives provided by other parties? The urban air quality seems to have get to beyond bad before they really complain much less do anything to fix it w/o FDI $$$.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:04 | 4159806 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

It's hard to predict solar cycles, don't you think?


Fri, 11/15/2013 - 21:48 | 4159768 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Hold it, you foreign MFers!  80% of North America's high Arctic is CANADA's! 

The rest (Alaska's North Shore) is America's.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:10 | 4159820 Dagny Taggart
Dagny Taggart's picture

But Canada and China are now bonding. Literally.  http://english.caixin.com/2013-11-06/100600037.html

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 08:28 | 4160271 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

"Mike de Jong, finance minister of Canada's westernmost province".

Chinada. Look out United States of israel, they're closing in.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 13:51 | 4160608 Zwelgje
Zwelgje's picture

De Jong is a Dutch name.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 14:32 | 4160667 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

Thank you. Let me restate the obvious,

Chinada, Chinussia, Chinmexico, Chinpanama, Chinstralia.

Look out United States of israel, they're closing in.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 13:01 | 4160541 orez65
orez65's picture

Little known is that Chinese sailors landed in Canada in the mid 1400's.

Archeological proof of this exists.

As China becomes militarily stronger it won't be long before China claims that Chinese in Western Canada are being abused.

In response they will invade Canada to "protect" their citizens.

Given Canada's "military power" a small troop of Chinese Boy Scouts will be sufficient for the invasion.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 13:02 | 4160543 orez65
orez65's picture

Little known is that Chinese sailors landed in Canada in the mid 1400's.

Archeological proof of this exists.

As China becomes militarily stronger it won't be long before China claims that Chinese in Western Canada are being abused.

In response they will invade Canada to "protect" their citizens.

Given Canada's "military power" a small troop of Chinese Boy Scouts will be sufficient for the invasion.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 18:54 | 4161185 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Vancouver was called Hongcouver by the locals for almost 20 years.  Soon they'll make it official, I suppose. 

Sorry, Captain George Vancouver of HM Royal Navy.  You had your "15 minutes" and then some.  /s

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:11 | 4159822 Jack Burton
Jack Burton's picture

The USA and CHina are both interested in declaring the Arctic seas and sea beds to be international. We may have a good claim in the waters North of Alaska, But Canada and Russia are by far the best situated and to counter their claims of adjacent waters out to vast distances from shore is bound to be the flash point. How far out will the US and CHinese governments accept Canadian and Russian claims? Norway, Denmark and Finland have good claims too. It all comes down to the battle for control over the ice free arctic summer seas in the coming years. The oil and gas could be enormous resources, he who develops them will be ringing the cash registers for decades to come. China has dubious claims in the far north, probably the weakest of any major nation. They will feel left out. Lose face. And generally be all pissed off as the arctic nations drill baby drill.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:42 | 4159880 DeliciousSteak
DeliciousSteak's picture

I don't really understand how the Arctic council is supposed to function, so maybe you can help me out. You say that Finland has a good claim in the arctic, but how exactly? They have 0 shoreline on the Arctic ocean. Same with Sweden. Denmark "owns" Greenland so that's understandable and Norway has that long shoreline too.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 23:44 | 4159958 kito
Sat, 11/16/2013 - 00:29 | 4160005 Element
Element's picture

Exactly. The notion that either, or both China and USSA can decide to just declare what they want, re arctic territorial boundries and control will be met with cruise-missiles, sea mines, torpedoes and Russian marines ... that's just for starters.

And Norway makes several of its own cruise and anti-ship missiles for this reason.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 02:49 | 4160157 prains
prains's picture

....and Canada is prepared to use harsh language, if need be, we may even resort to the F....word


but that's only if you push us to the brink, and it will be a sweaty heartfelt F.....word for sure

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 05:13 | 4160208 Element
Element's picture

Your gov might use the spud-gun if pushed ... could get way out of hand.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 12:10 | 4160479 prains
prains's picture

no....that's our version of a nuclear deterent, we keep the spud gun silo'd

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 15:57 | 4160808 akak
akak's picture

Well, as a last resort, you guys still have that Canadian Doomsday Weapon stored in mothballs that you could release at any time: Celine Dion.

Sun, 11/17/2013 - 09:12 | 4162137 prains
prains's picture

LOFL......that's our finger nails on the chalkboard, last resort 

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 19:00 | 4161202 Kirk2NCC1701
Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:15 | 4159830 RaceToTheBottom
RaceToTheBottom's picture

"environmental monitoring, Arctic life protection and concerns about indigenous peoples."

This will provide China with quite useful information that can be manipulated for their future energy and natural resource raping and abusing needs....

Well done china.  More and more signs of applied "Art of War" thought processes.


Sat, 11/16/2013 - 12:08 | 4160475 IndyPat
IndyPat's picture

By way of comparison, note China's deep concern for the indigenous peoples of Tibet.

Sat, 11/16/2013 - 16:01 | 4160821 akak
akak's picture

Ah, the US 'american' seeking of symmetry between the supposed US 'american' farming of the weak and extorting of the poor, and the Chinese subjugation and genocide of the Tibetans.

Alas, alas, three million burnning Tibetan monks and nuns alas, the duplicitous Chinese Citizenism symmetrical equilateral triangle of scrapegoatery, inability to self-indict, and blobbing-up is the mattering thing, quite crusty and even something.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 22:22 | 4159846 Atomizer
Atomizer's picture

Let’s look at a historic fact.

Ship Travels Arctic From China to Europe

Northern Passage Shaves Two Weeks of Travel Time Off Journey| Aug. 19, 2013 8:12 p.m


Then you have the cunts rivaling global warming

Energy Companies Try Arctic Shipping Shortcut Between Europe and Asia

Northern Sea Route Reduces Costs, Bypasses Fractious Suez Canal Region

>>>>>> Climate Change Is Opening the Door to Arctic Shipping


Can you begin to smell the climate regulations for funding the other persons pockets to sell cheap shit you cannot afford? Imagine going into foreign customs and the guard asks for money to pass through the gate.

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 23:25 | 4159934 Running On Bing...
Running On Bingo Fuel's picture

Horseshit peddled by the regime because The Führer wants to resurrect The Chicago Climate Exchange. Along with Al Gore, Maurice Strong, Goldman Sachs.

Providing generous $$grants for shit like 'beyond penguins and bears'.

Education. OSU is not Brown, is it gang?


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