China’s ambitions in the North America Arctic

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COMMENTARY

by Lindsay Rodman

Diplomat & International Canada
July 2, 2018

When China released its Arctic policy this past January, a flurry of news articles emerged. Most attention was paid to China’s growing ties to Russia, and its significant investment in the Northern Sea Route — the seaway that is opening up as the ice melts along Russia’s northern coast. China has not constrained its interest to the Eastern Hemisphere, however. There are no caveats in China’s Arctic Policy that limit its application — the growing economic giant’s ambitions reach right across to North America as well.

Chinese investment in the Arctic, including in North America, is growing significantly. According to the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) in the United States, from 2012-2017, China invested $47.3 billion US in Canada, which amounted to 2.4 per cent of Canada’s entire GDP during that timeframe. Due to incredible work from Université Laval and Pierre-Louis Têtu at the University of Ottawa, one can see the extent of China’s pan-North American-Arctic interest, specifically in the mining sector, in the form of direct investment.

Canada is now in the throes of developing its own new Arctic policy framework, which will produce a new domestic and international strategy. The government is tackling existential questions with Canadian Northerners, including how to address food insecurity, lack of infrastructure and the problematic history of colonialism. While the government will do its best to address these important domestic matters, the new policy must also wrestle with international dilemmas, such as what to do about China’s ambitions for the North American Arctic.

Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard

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