China signals it wants in on future decisions on the Arctic
by Marc Montgomery (feat. Rob Huebert)
January 31, 2018
This month China took what may be called an unusual step of releasing a public policy paper on the Arctic, and did so in English.
Calling itself a “near Arctic state” it indicates China intends to take an important role in both policy and development of the Arctic.
Robert Huebert(PhD) is an expert in military and Arctic affairs as a professor in the University of Calgary Political Science Department and as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies also at the University of Calgary.
China’s announcement about its Arctic intentions-set forth in the publicly released “white paper”, includes an astounding financial investment to build or improve ports, ships, rail links, and international agreements.
Somewhat surprisingly, some would say, are repeated references to “respect”.
This includes repeated reference to respect in a variety of ways, harmony with nature, and sustainability, although China’s record domestically and internationally doesn’t seem to portray the same message.
“Sustainability is the fundamental goal of China’s participation in Arctic affairs. This means promoting the sustainable development of the Arctic by ensuring the sustainability of environmental protection, resource utilisation and human activities in the area. It means realising harmonious coexistence between man and nature” (Chinese government white paper)
China’s document also declares that the Arctic “situation” should not be limited to mere Arctic nations stating:
“The Arctic situation now goes beyond its original inter-Arctic States or regional nature, having a vital bearing on the interests of States outside the region”.
As Professor Heubert points out, even with the many references to respect, including international law, the Chinese are rapidly building a first class naval force along with plans for a second large ice-breaker.
He says it’s a signal China wants to work with other nations in the Arctic, but other nations including Canada have to decide “at what price”.