The Dragon and Great Power Rivalry at the Top of the World: China’s Hawkish, Revisionist Voices Within Mainstream Discourse on Arctic Affairs

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Image credit: Xinhua

POLICY PAPER

by David Curtis Wright
CGAI Fellow
September 2018

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Table of Contents


Introduction

If our navy can effectively take advantage of the space and strategic passageways of the Arctic, then in the future it can pivot around [from the Arctic Ocean towards] the great oceans and deal with threats coming from any direction…if our navy were free to roam the waters of the Arctic, in the future it would constitute a very large restraining check on potential strategic rivals and effectively enable expansion of our country’s strategic space.

– YANG Zhirong1

On Jan. 26, 2018, Beijing promulgated its long-awaited Arctic policy white paper.2 This was highly significant not only as pertaining to China’s new and burgeoning involvement in Arctic affairs, but also because, as Anne-Marie Brady presciently observed a year or two prior to its issuance, “Beijing has never before issued an official foreign policy strategy in an area outside its geographic region. To do so will mark a real breakthrough in Chinese foreign policymaking, indicating that the CCP government is adopting a proactive and confident global grand strategy.”3 The publication of the white paper was the culmination of a sustained, decade-long public relations and international propaganda campaign, one that was well planned, coordinated, orchestrated, and executed in China and abroad. As Finnish Arctic scholar Linda Jakobson of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute predicted back in 2010, “The notion that China has rights in the Arctic can be expected to be repeated in articles by Chinese academics and in comments by Chinese officials until it gradually begins to be perceived as an accepted state of affairs.”4

The white paper should be reassuring to Arctic states, particularly the A5, because it holds that “… all States [sic] should…respect the sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction enjoyed by the Arctic States [sic] in this region …” This assurance was also a long time coming, and not all Chinese who have commented on Arctic affairs will be completely happy with it. In 2012, for example, one particularly strident Chinese commentator even urged the Chinese government not to aspire to permanent observer status on the Arctic Council because this would entail recognizing the territorial sovereignty of A5 countries over the Arctic Ocean littoral and would also reduce China to the status of supplicant or applicant to the council.5 Fortunately, however, the Chinese government was wise and perceptive enough to reject this foolish recommendation.

In China, both scholarly writing and popular commentary on Arctic affairs represent a broad range of perspectives and interests, from the peaceably and responsibly constructive to the hawkish and downright militaristic. The issuance of China’s Arctic policy white paper will likely settle the contours of short- and mid-term policy in the Arctic but not mute speculation and advocacy regarding what China’s long-term strategic and military objectives in the region will or should be. It may well turn out that some Chinese writing on the future role of the Chinese military (in particular the PLAN) in the Arctic that seems strikingly revisionist or outré today could represent longer-term strategic policy recommendations that look and extend beyond the white paper’s short- and mid-term scope. The more strident and militaristic articles are not outliers but very much part of mainstream scholarly writing on China’s Arctic ambitions.

This paper discusses China’s Arctic policy white paper, covers China’s appreciation of the region’s strategic value, and samples scholarly articles across the wide spectrum of opinion and policy recommendation regarding China’s participation in Arctic affairs. It describes the articles, offers translated segments from them, and refers readers who want to read more about the articles and more extensive translated passages from them to the Appendix, where they are included in fuller form. This paper’s main contention and conclusion is that the military and strategic dimensions of China’s interests in the Arctic are part and parcel of mainstream Chinese discourse on the Arctic today. One important motivation behind China’s burgeoning interest and engagement in Arctic affairs is the eventual utilisation of the region as strategic space from which to threaten the security of North America. China’s activities in the Arctic bear close, careful, and continuous scrutiny. It is imperative that Canada not succumb to the siren song of complacency and inaction regarding China’s ambitions in the Arctic region.

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China's Arctic White Paper

The Arctic white paper is as interesting for what it does not say as for what it does say. That the paper makes essentially no mention of military or strategic matters in the Arctic6 is of course significant, but the real question is what this silence and reticence really mean. SUN Yun is Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington D.C. and a specialist in China’s foreign policy and relations. She pointed out in a Chinese-language piece on Feb. 27, 2018 that even though military and security matters did not rate a mention in the white paper, we should still not assume that they are no longer issues. China has invested too much effort, time, and money on Arctic strategy to simply walk away from it all, she argued trenchantly:

What is worth pointing out is that throughout the entire Arctic white paper, the subject of military security goes completely unmentioned. [But] based on China’s past and present research into military (and especially naval) affairs in the Arctic, we should not maintain that the subject of military affairs in the Arctic region is no longer an issue. For example, over the last five years, China’s Naval Command Academy and China’s Naval Research Academy have, with the financial assistance of the National Social Science Fund of China, already completed three research projects relating to the Arctic. One of them is about building a supply base in the Arctic region, and the other two are about shipping navigation routes in the Arctic region. What is certain is that China has possibly already carried out more research financed by the National Social Science Fund of China. What is more, the complete avoidance of this subject in the Arctic white paper very likely hints that China is unwilling to elicit too much attention from the outside world on the strategy that it has just now completed and that is [still] in the incipient stages [of maturation]. At the same time it smacks of [the distinct possibility that] opening the great gate of the Arctic region through investment, cooperation, and other soft approaches is, at the moment, the most important item on China’s agenda.7

In other words, China’s more military strategy in the Arctic can wait until the time is right for it.

Meanwhile, China has something of an international credibility problem regarding its statements on the Arctic because it fears that transparency about its full Arctic agenda (which includes strategic and resource extraction interests) would lead to still more international suspicions about its polar interests.8 Thus, China sometimes states one thing for international consumption and quite something else for domestic consumption:

… in materials aimed at foreign audiences China’s polar officials scrupulously avoid mentioning China’s strong interest in exploiting polar resources, whereas in Chinese-language materials it is continually highlighted as the main reason for China’s investment in polar activities. The assumption is that foreigners will not be able to read Chinese, and so they will not know what Chinese officials and commentators are saying in Chinese about the polar regions – and mostly, they are right … in contrast to the official reluctance to admit China’s strong interest in polar resources to foreign audiences, one of the striking features about Chinese-language information on [the] Antarctic and the Arctic is the high prominence given to the potential resources there.9

China’s differentially targeted and delivered statements on its Arctic interests more generally parallel its tendency to do the same in broader policy statement contexts, and this further exacerbates its credibility deficit:

The CCP has a long-standing policy of giving different messages to different groups, and transparency in policy issues is rare … China’s foreign policy information management has one message for foreign audiences and frequently a significantly different message aimed at domestic audiences. Those who want to understand Chinese foreign policy and interpret its hidden agenda must be able to distinguish between the level of authority of different media outlets and prominent spokespeople.10 Put more bluntly by Lindsay Rodman, who is the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in Canada, a Major in the United States Marine Corps, a former Obama administration official, and a lawyer educated at Harvard Law School, “China has also indicated its willingness to be misleading, and even lie about its intentions.”11

As far as Canadian Arctic sovereignty is concerned, the kicker in the Arctic white paper seems to be I.(3).3.(1):

China respects the legislative, enforcement, and adjudicatory powers of the Arctic States in the waters subject to their jurisdiction. China maintains that the management of the Arctic shipping routes should be conducted in accordance with treaties including the UNCLOS and general international law and that the freedom of navigation enjoyed by all countries in accordance with the law and their rights to use the Arctic shipping routes should be ensured. China maintains that disputes over the Arctic shipping routes should be properly settled in accordance with international law.

The key phrase here seems to be “in the waters subject to their jurisdiction.” This could mean that China holds that jurisdictions over Arctic waters have not yet been fully determined and that China might, outside of the Arctic Council, oppose some extended continental shelf claims made by A5 states.

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Near meaninglessness

The Arctic white paper is the culmination of a decade or more of debate, discussion, and deliberation on what China’s Arctic policies ought to be.12 Way back in 2010, Assistant Foreign Minister LIU Zhenmin attempted to explain China’s interest in the Arctic in terms that come across as clumsy, contrived, and grasping at straws: “The first reason is China’s geographical location. China is separated from [the] Arctic by only one country, Russia. The most northern part of China is around 50 degree[s] of north latitude. As a country located in [the] north[ern] hemisphere, China is seriously affected by climate and weather in the Arctic.”13 (So China is located in the Northern Hemisphere! So are approximately two-thirds of the world’s landmass14 and fully eighty-eight percent of its humanity.15) One of the concepts Beijing later coined and took to deploying internationally in propaganda efforts to legitimize and normalize its interest and participation in Arctic affairs was “near-Arctic state,” a neologistic designation that China up and arrogated to itself in 2012. This was greeted with some skepticism and derision in Europe, for example by the major German-language weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, which noted wryly in January 2013 that Germany’s northernmost point at Sylt (a German island east of the border on the Jutland between Germany and Denmark) is north of China’s northernmost point, yet Germany modestly demurs from being called or thought of as an Arctic state, near or otherwise:

China traditionally upholds the principle of non-interference [in other countries’ affairs]. Nevertheless, in order to give grounds for his country’s interest in the high north, in Tromsø [in northern Norway], Beijing’s ambassador resorted to a trick: northeastern China, [Ambassador] Zhao reasoned, lay at almost fifty degrees16 northing, and thus his country was an “Arctic state,” [one] therefore with interests in the region. [But] of course Sylt, for example, lies more to the north, at 54 degrees, yet Germany would hardly see itself as an “Arctic state.”17

What is more, Germany’s northernmost point of land is also more or less its northernmost shoreline, one that is over twelve degrees of latitude north of any Chinese shoreline. Japan, for that matter, might make a good case for being designated and regarded as a near-Arctic state as well, if only to make a point, because its seaport at Wakkanai on Hokkaido (45°24’56.4” N) is significantly closer in both latitude and by sea route to Arctic waters than any of China’s seaports, the northernmost of which is Jinzhou, Liaoning Province at 41 degrees 07 minutes N. and the closest to Arctic waters of which is the Port of Dandong (an artificial deep-water seaport) in Liaoning Province at 39.90644 N.

But what exactly is a near-Arctic state anyway? Are there any defining parameters, and would they even really matter? If we were to take 53°33’39” N at China’s northernmost tip of Mohe County in Heilongjiang province as the minimally northern and defining latitudinal criterion for status as an NAS, we would end up with what resembled an exclusive club of eighteen18 wealthy and developed Global North countries (perhaps with the exceptions of Belarus and Kazakhstan), in alphabetical order Belarus, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and (last but certainly not least) the United States.19

Starting on May 10, 2012 at the “Chinese and Nordic Cooperation on Arctic Developments” workshop (organized by SIPRI) in Beijing, China began fancying itself an “Arctic stakeholder” as well.20 China’s propaganda and public relations blitz on the Arctic and its putative nearness has not been limited to foreign fora and audiences. Domestically, state-controlled media in China have tirelessly waged a campaign urging the Chinese public to jump on the polar bandwagon. A documentary film entitled “Rediscovering the Arctic” has been shown on Chinese television since at least 2016,21 and recently it has been rebroadcast in English in North America on CGTN (China Global Television Network).22 The film features spectacular scenes of Arctic ice, snow and open sea to the accompaniment of haunting music, all in imitation of the Smithsonian Channel’s style of aerial drone landscape videography. It also includes footage of northern Heilongjiang’s wintertime landscapes, the obvious purpose of which is to drive home the point that China is a near-Arctic country because it too has, at least during part of the year, wintry scenery somewhat reminiscent of the Arctic. As a result of this campaign, curious Chinese tourists are flocking to Russia to see the Russian Arctic National Park and other Arctic areas, even including very pricey trips on Russian icebreakers to the North Pole.23 Antarctica is also now a trendy vacation destination for well-heeled and adventurous Chinese travellers.24

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China's long-standing awareness of the military and strategic value of the Arctic

Over a decade of scholarship in both China and the West predated and anticipated China’s official policy announcement. During this time there were significant disagreements among both Arctic scholars and China scholars over Chinese intentions in the region and the security implications of their burgeoning presence and interest in the Arctic. The major statement of concern over China’s engagement in both Arctic and Antarctic affairs was an outstanding and renowned book published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press.25 Its pallid counterpart, a multi-authored book published by the University of Calgary Press in 2018, argues that if correctly handled, China’s presence and activities in the Arctic will not threaten or endanger anyone and can be harmonious and beneficial to all states involved:

While drawing heavily upon the invaluable translations of Chinese studies and documents by David [Curtis] Wright up to 2011, this study differs substantively in its overall analysis of what the myriad of Chinese statements about the North actually mean when placed into a broader context. Our own assessment of Chinese academic and media articles on the Arctic suggests a growing awareness of potential opportunities associated with emerging shipping routes, resources, and polar science … Accordingly, we arrive at a different assessment than that of the “Conflict School,” which anticipates Chinese activism and even aggression to pursue its Arctic interests. Rather, we feel that if managed properly, the relationship between China and the circumpolar states can be a productive and cordial one, with benefits for every partner over the longer term.26

Glaring by its very absence from the volume is any substantive treatment of the military and geostrategic implications of China’s increasing presence in the Arctic, something its authors dismiss with a blithe half paragraph:

Readers may be surprised that we have not included a chapter on defence or “hard” security issues. After all, the extent to which the Arctic is becoming “militarized” and whether we should expect international conflict or cooperation in the region has been hotly debated in the twenty-first century. Although most experts now downplay the probability of Arctic armed conflict, a few prominent commentators continue to pose questions and frame popular debates that get picked up in non-Arctic states. Thus, when Chinese commentators suggest the Arctic’s potential military value, they tend to simply echo Russian and Western statements. Indeed, it is remarkable how few Chinese officials have made public statements on Arctic defence issues.27

It is? China “simply echoes Russian and Western statements”? First of all, that China understands the military value that Russia and the West attach to the Arctic does not necessarily mean that China’s understanding and appreciation of this value are somehow incomplete or merely derivative. Second, the observation that “most experts now downplay the probability of Arctic armed conflict” comes across as an instance of the logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to authority),28 of argumentum ad populam (appeal to mass opinion),29 or both; majority scholarly opinion does not, ipso facto, establish truth. A generation or two ago, the vast majority of scholarly opinion among historians of China held that the Great Wall of China as we know it today had existed along its present line in one state of (dis)repair or another ever since the Qin dynasty’s unification of China in 221 BCE, but now scholarly opinion is very divided on this question.30

In reality, China has for several decades now well understood the Arctic’s military and strategic value, and its geostrategic interest in the region has only increased with the passage of time.31 (The Arctic is, for instance, intimately connected with China’s nuclear security because the shortest distance for Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles to fly between China and the United States is over the Arctic.32) “A search of Chinese-language, open-source, military-related journals published between 2000 and 2013 identified close to sixty articles discussing various aspects of the Arctic, Antarctic, and polar regions from a military perspective.”33 In fact, China’s interest in the polar regions is part of its justification for ever-increasing military spending over the last few decades, particularly on naval forces,34 and the PLA is “a core driver of China’s polar policies.”35 The visit of five PLAN vessels to American territorial waters off the coast of Alaska on Sept. 2, 2015 was China’s latest indication, as if it were not already abundantly clear, that it had military interests in the Arctic and had a “desire to expand operations into Arctic waters.”36

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A Kaleidoscope of Policy and Strategy Recommendations and Options

In early 2018 the author did his due Google diligence and after not much time managed to come up with eight Chinese-language articles discussing the military and strategic value of the Arctic. These eight articles run the gamut of Arctic strategy from earnest diplomacy for peace to outright militarism:

  • The congenial and constructive good global citizenship of TANG Yao;
  • The concerns of NI Haining and LI Ming over Russian perception of the NATO-ization of the A8;
  • FANG Ming’s straightforward assessment of how the Arctic could emerge as an international flashpoint between Russia on the one hand and other Arctic states on the other;
  • LI Yibo’s sober and clear-eyed analysis of new American militarization in the Arctic and his non-military recommendations for how China should respond to this;
  • The even-handed, statesmanlike analysis by TANG Guoqiang, a former Chinese ambassador to Norway, of the Arctic as the emerging crossroads of the Asian, European, and North American mainlands and as the new Middle East for its vast natural resources; and
  • The strident and muscular military posturing in the Arctic region advocated by YANG Zhirong and LI Zhenfu, who argue that the Arctic will eventually emerge as the focal ground for great power rivalry and clamour for establishing a robust Chinese military presence with strong war-fighting capabilities in the region. YANG even advocates the eventual achievement of Chinese naval domination of the Arctic, thus making it possible for the PLAN to be “free to roam” in the region.

These last two scholars and their confreres are neither online war-gaming keeners and kibitzers nor amateur autodidact cranks, much less Chinese counterparts of American crackpots like Alex Jones or Ted Nugent. They have respectable positions in an elite naval research institute (YANG) and an important Chinese university (LI). They are within the mainstream of Chinese commentary on the topic and on the spectrum of respectable and responsible military discourse regarding it; they are by no means marginally or tangentially relevant to it. It is important that the Canadian government and Ministry of National Defense be well aware of their perspectives, not underestimate their importance, and not be complacent or dismissive about them. China’s announcement in early 2018 of its Arctic policy does not marginalize or render their perspectives and positions inoperative or irrelevant. It may well be that YANG and LI represent significant strains of China’s long-term, far-horizon strategic thinking about the Arctic region.

Just how much real influence and power these and other hawks wield in China is unclear: “Just as America has its camps of hawks and doves, its so-called neoconservatives, interventionists, realists, and isolationists, Chinese elites are divided.” But the difference is, according to a competent American analyst who reads and speaks Chinese well, “that these debates rarely occur in view of the Chinese public and the Western press.”37 It is, however, not difficult to discern, especially under current Chinese strongman XI Jinping, which side seems overall to be prevailing:

There are moderates and hard-liners in China, doves and hawks, who are locked in a fierce debate over the shape of China’s future within the halls of government in Beijing and in frequent conferences. But increasingly, the more hard-line and nationalist worldview is winning out and indeed has far more influences in the inner circle of China’s new president, Xi Jinping. The hawks’ government-sponsored [English-language] newspaper Global Times38 has become the second or third most popular source of news, and its editor, Hu Xijin, makes clear how China’s hawks see the moderate doves: they are “the cancer cells that will lead to the demise of China.”39

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The military and strategic value and importance of the Arctic

As for official Chinese comments on Arctic defence issues, the Arctic’s military value is highlighted in a Chinese-language report by FANG Ming issued in 2014 by China’s Ministry of National Defense, one originally published in the People’s Liberation Army Daily (Jiefangjun Bao). It notes that the Russians are deploying military assets in the Arctic and that the United States, Canada, and other states also continue to throw themselves into the militarization of the Arctic. Motivating this “vying for supremacy,” it speculates, are the extensive natural resources, transportation routes, and military value of the Arctic (all of which Beijing regards as very real). The likelihood of military clashes in the Arctic is increasing daily, and the Arctic has become a potential flashpoint in international military security, the report concludes.40

Another newspaper article, originally from the People’s Liberation Army Daily and reposted on the Ministry of National Defense’s website, this time in early 2016, covers Russian military deployments in the Arctic in circumstantial detail and characterizes them and the other four A5 states’ military activities in the Arctic as worrisome. It does, however, place most of the blame for the militarization on the Arctic democracies and implicitly approves of Putin’s restoration of all Cold-War era Soviet military facilities in the Arctic. It also covers in detail the new weapons systems Russia has deployed in the Arctic region and then gives a brief account of NATO military deployments and plans in the Arctic. The implication of all of this is that Russia’s massive militarization of its Arctic littoral is justified because of NATO provocations:

At present, the Arctic has already become yet another forward position of antagonism between North America and Europe on the one hand and Russia on the other. As the five [Arctic littoral] countries of the United States, Canada, and Northern Europe strengthen the harmonization of their positions and actions, Russia worries that the eight-state Arctic Council will be “NATO-ized” and degenerate into a political and military platform for a North American and European entente to beat up on Russia. In the future, therefore, [Russia] may well take stronger and more powerful action in response, such as dispatching a naval fleet to patrol the Arctic, building more military bases, and so on. Aside from this, disputes over islands and maritime boundaries exist between the United States, Canada, Denmark and other countries. If each party continues travelling forward along the road of strengthening military presences in the Arctic, the possibility of the military confrontation that has emerged in this region producing “a minor incident that sparks a war” will only become greater and greater.41

The military value of the Arctic was also noted in 2013 in an article by TANG Guoqiang (a former Chinese ambassador to Norway) published in the highly prestigious and influential journal China International Studies (Guoji Wenti Yanjiu) by the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) under the tutelage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. (The same issue of this journal also carried articles by YANG Jiechi, who served as Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China between 2007 and 2013, and YAN Xuetong, China’s leading public intellectual in international and geopolitical affairs.) Along with the military value, the article highlights the importance of its rich natural resources, scientific research activities, and transit routes. The article takes more than passing note of the Arctic’s historical and current military value:

The Arctic region controls the strategic crossroads of the Asian, European, and North American mainlands. Military experts hold that domination of the Arctic region will enable the occupation of commanding heights in world military affairs. During the Second World War, some routes on the Arctic Ocean were important navigation routes for Allied attacks on Germany, and a considerably large portion of Western material aid was transported over the Arctic Ocean to the Soviet Union. During the Cold War the Arctic Ocean was transformed into the frontmost of front lines in the standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union … Because global climate warming42 has caused obvious changes in the natural condition of the Arctic, each country in the Arctic region has begun attaching great importance to Arctic development and is regarding the Arctic as a “new Middle East” for energy resources, a “new vital artery” for the global economy, and “new commanding heights” for the world’s military affairs.43

Other Chinese naval analysts comment on the Arctic with robust specificity as far as its strategic importance to China is concerned:

Some Chinese scholars highlight the security rationale for China’s interest in the Arctic. They call attention to the importance of maritime security for China and see Arctic routes as an alternative to the Malacca Strait, which they fear provides an opportunity for the United States and its allies to choke Chinese access to needed energy supplies from the Persian Gulf. Other Chinese analysts highlight that the Arctic is situated at the crossroads between the EU, Eurasia, and the United States, which houses a ballistic missile interceptor capability at Fort Greely, Alaska that could potentially be directed against China. A naval analyst noted that access to the Arctic would enable China to break out from Western pressure and emerge on the world stage.44

In an important article originally published in October 2014 in the scholarly periodical Taiping Xuebao (Pacific Journal), prolific scholar and commentator LI Yibo argued that the Obama administration’s announcement of its Arctic policy portended increasing American military involvement in the region and other attendant difficulties that would be pressing but not insurmountable. This article was later reposted on the website of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In the article, LI sees America as a Johnny-come-lately in Arctic affairs and in the geopolitical competition of the Arctic region in general, and he seems suspicious and even somewhat resentful of the influence that America’s changes in Arctic policy would nonetheless have there. He starts out by describing 2013 as an important year for American policy, a year when the White House, the Pentagon, and the Coast Guard all issued statements on American strategy in the Arctic. He then argues that the Arctic is in a “state of anarchy” and that whether the future will be conflictual or co-operative will be determined by interactions between relevant parties and the way they play their chess pieces. He maintains further that changes in American Arctic policy are certain to significantly influence the security and ecological environment of the Arctic.

LI sees possible American influences in the Arctic as follows: First, America’s strengthening of its military capacity to act in the Arctic might provoke other Arctic littoral states and intensify the arms race there. Second, America’s participation in the founding of Arctic institutions might lead to dual influences (America’s use of institutions to restrict other countries’ freedom of movement while expanding the scope of America’s own and institutional rebalancing leading to the weakening of current institutions). Third, American development in the Arctic might incrementally worsen climate and environmental change. His conclusions are that all is not lost in the Arctic because of America’s strategy adjustments, that prospects for long-term peace and cooperation with the United States are still fairly good, and that in this cause China has its own contributions to make and measures to be taken.45

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Hawkish voices and positions

In 2015 YANG Zhirong, a scholar at the Naval Military Academic Research Institute46 in Beijing, published an article entitled “Research into Changes in World Strategic Layouts After the Year-Long Opening of Arctic Navigation Routes”47 in which he frankly and forthrightly argued for the PLAN to play a central role in China’s involvement in Arctic affairs. He even foresaw and endorsed the eventual achievement of Chinese naval domination of the Arctic, where the PLAN would be “free to roam.” He foresees the Arctic as the next theatre for great power rivalry:

After the year-long opening of the Arctic navigation routes, the geostrategic layout of the world will undergo massive changes and the Arctic region will become the next focal domain for great power competition.

1. In the world of the future the Arctic will become the central shipping hub.

2. In the world of the future the Arctic will become a strategic base for energy resources.

3. In the world of the future the Arctic will become the commanding heights of military struggle.

4.Relevant countries have centred [their attention on] Arctic leadership roles and have already placed their chess pieces, set traps, and entered into intense rivalries.48

He sees and recommends China’s navy as the branch of its military that will play a key role in China’s expanding roles in the Arctic:

Give full play to the navy’s advantages as a strategic and international branch of the armed forces and bravely assume the heavy historical responsibility of planning and controlling pioneers in the Arctic. 1. Select and send naval vessels and personnel to participate in scientific investigations in the Arctic.

1. Broadly gather information on the maritime environment of the Arctic region.

2. Strengthen the building of naval equipment suited to activities in the Arctic region.

3. Keep close track of the security of important strait passageways in the Arctic region.49

All of this is necessary for several reasons, he argues, including safeguarding the Bering Strait, which he sees as essential to China in the future as the Malacca Strait is now:

In 1986 the American military announced sixteen strait passageways to be controlled in time of war, and the straits linking up Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom were among them. For our country, what bears heavy emphasis is the Bering Strait that links up the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. When conditions are ripe for energy resource extraction in the Arctic Ocean and the Northwest and Northeast Passages are unimpeded, the Bering Strait will be no less important to our country than the Strait of Malacca is. For this we need, as soon as possible, to carry out safe operations in the Bering Strait so that in the future the Bering Strait will be a safe-passage strategic passageway for us.50

YANG then continues on to what might be the single most important key point in his article: his envisioning of a broad future alliance with Russia, one that would include extensive access to Russian naval bases in the Arctic:

Dispatch naval forces to the Arctic region when the time is right

Give full play to the navy’s functionality of military diplomacy and dispatch naval vessels to the Arctic region to carry out [naval] visits. After the end of the Cold War, the two countries China and Russia formed a comprehensive co-operative strategic relationship. Regarding Arctic issues, our country should, at a certain level, support Russia’s strategic breakthroughs in the Arctic.51 At the same time, we should also carry on active communication with Russia, have Russia understand our positions, and through diplomatic diligence have Russia support our entry into the Arctic. If we can achieve a consensus with Russia, it will have the effect of achieving twice the result with half the effort. For this, when the time is right [we can] dispatch formations of naval vessels to visit Russian Arctic ports such as Murmansk and can [thereby] achieve unique results unattainable by other styles of diplomacy. When conditions are right, we can consider dispatching nuclear submarines to carry out scientific investigations in the Arctic Ocean, [thereby] expanding the operational space of our strategic power.52 Beyond this, in the future when the ice layers of the Arctic Ocean waters have receded to a certain level, we can dispatch armed forces to the Arctic Ocean to carry out instruction and training in long-range sea voyaging, [thereby] expanding the operational space of our navy without interruption and [also] practically and conscientiously safeguarding our economic and security interests in the Arctic region.53

For YANG, Rear Admiral Alfred T. Mahan held the key for China’s ultimate security from threats anywhere in the world, and the Arctic would become the central internal line of the Northern Hemisphere:

Gradually normalize the presence of [Chinese] naval power in the Arctic region

Mahan held that central position, internal lines, and communication lines are three essential components of naval strategy and that of them, occupying central position and internal lanes are the keys to victory in naval warfare. The Arctic is situated at the top of the world, and it has every one of the distinctive characteristics for becoming the central position and internal line of the Northern Hemisphere. If our navy can effectively take advantage of the space and strategic passageways of the Arctic, then in the future it can pivot around [from the Arctic Ocean towards] the great oceans and deal with threats coming from any direction … if our navy were free to roam54 the waters of the Arctic, in the future it would constitute a very large restraining check on potential strategic rivals and effectively enable expansion of our country’s strategic space … Our navy should give full play to its advantages as a strategic and international branch of the armed forces and comprehensively develop its work in weaponry, naval battlefields, personnel training, military diplomacy, and other areas. It should bravely assume the heavy historical responsibility for planning and controlling pioneers in the Arctic and make the contributions it should make to our country’s development and utilization of the Arctic.55

Thus, Elizabeth Wishnick’s characterization of YANG’s article is inadequate and incomplete:

Yang Zhirong of the PLAN’s Naval War College observed that the melting ice reduced the distance between great powers in the region and increased its strategic importance. He noted that both the United States and Russia had a military component to their Arctic strategy and urged China to do the same. This would involve dedicating naval staff to Arctic affairs, as well as information-gathering, developing Arctic-capable equipment, improving communication in the region, making ports of call visits, and more generally to recognize the strategic value of the Arctic.56

YANG envisions nothing less than the eventual achievement of Chinese naval supremacy in the Arctic.

YANG has recently published other articles and has also written some unpublished papers on the Chinese military. Some of them have received very considerable national attention and billing. For instance, after its original publication elsewhere, his “Victory in the War of Resistance [Against Japan] and the Formation of Strategic Patterns in the South China Sea” (which covers the surrender of the Japanese-occupied South China islands and, from Yang’s point of view, China’s subsequent sovereignty over them) enjoyed the high honour of being reposted on the official website of China’s Ministry of National Defense (MOD).57 The article contains YANG’s personal views, and neither its original publication nor its reposting on the ministry’s government website necessarily means or implies that it represents official Chinese government strategy or policy. But the facts of its publication and reposting do mean, at a very minimum, that YANG is within the mainstream of Chinese military and political writing and commentary today and is not some random or outlying fanatic or loose cannon. His views are not those of a rogue admiral in the PLAN shooting off his mouth or making spontaneous and ill-considered comments at a dinner party or to a clutch of journalists.

An unpublished paper of YANG’s garnered even more national attention and plaudits. A notice on the official website of China’s Ministry of National Defense, dating to April 28, 2017, announces the fourth occurrence of an inter-service awarding of prizes for published and unpublished papers on politics and the Chinese military.58 An inter-service evaluation committee of China’s powerful Political Work Department of the Central Military Commission went through a collective appraisal of 399 selected papers representing “outstanding research results,” and of them, five received special prizes, forty received first-class prizes, 119 received second-class prizes, and 235 received third-class prizes.59 Yang’s unpublished paper, entitled “Strategic Musings on Building a Great and Powerful Navy Befitting the International Standing of our Country,”60 was number forty-two out of sixty-five papers in the unpublished paper category (lunwen lei) for second-class prizes.

The MOD announcement reported that a few days previous, it had received a notification from the Political Work Department about the awarding of the prizes. This notification came with instructions that only a Chinese communist military and political bureaucrat could dream up, and it is difficult after reading (much less translating!) this monster sentence-paragraph to avoid concluding that the overall doctrinaire tonality and stilted style of the instructions betoken and presage an atavistic reversion to Mao’s personality cult and the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution:

The notification emphasized that all levels should take these outstanding and critically selected [research] results as new starting points; keep in step with, and abreast of, the Party’s theoretical innovations and the progress of [our] strong military and strong country; bear in mind the firming up and safeguarding of the core and obedience to directives in the foundation of ideological politics; orbit centrally around the series of important talks by Chairman XI and new concepts of governance, new thoughts, and new strategies; give prominence to Chairman XI’s thoughts on strengthening the military; penetratingly sum up [how] National Defense and the military have been building new concepts, new thoughts, and new strategies since the 18th CPC National Congress; in a solid and down-to-earth manner, unfold the military’s building up and development of research into major strategic issues; on [the foundation of] theory, diligently expand new fields of vision and come up with new generalizations; penetratingly push forward the political building up of the military, the reform and strengthening of the military, and in accordance with the law making greater contributions to running the armed forces and training troops in preparation for war, [all] in order to construct a timely, anticipatorial and distinctive system of Marxist military theory; and with superlative accomplishments greet the successful and triumphant convening of the 19th CPC National Congress.61

Most of what is written in Chinese about military presences in the Arctic pertains to Russia, Canada, and the United States. Over the past few years, little of the scholarly and popular writing on the militarization of the Arctic voices any strong disapproval of Russia’s massive militarization of the region. The writing often sees the A5 states as scheming, posturing, and greedily leering at the natural resource wealth and navigation routes of the Arctic. When China’s possible military participation in Arctic affairs is discussed as well, this observation is often used as a justification for China’s military presence in the Arctic lest China lose out in the competition between the well-armed, well-financed, and greedy A5 states.

One major academic article on China’s military in Chinese Arctic strategy is by none other than the aggressive and indefatigable Chinese Arctic analyst LI Zhenfu62 of the College of Transportation Management at Dalian Maritime University, along with two other colleagues.63 (This is, by the way, the same LI Zhenfu who wrote in 2009 that China “has not yet met the demands to become a leading state in international mechanisms and at present has neither the real power nor the strategic will to act as a leading state,” and thus could not achieve hegemonic dominance in the formulation, alteration, and improvement of international mechanisms pertaining to Arctic affairs.64 In 2011, he even floated the suggestion that the Chinese government could consider making its own territorial claims in the Arctic!65) In this article, LI et al are quite insistent that China has many “rights and interests” in the Arctic, but as per usual, LI is vague and non-specific about what they actually are, likely because he knows that China’s case for claiming all of the rights and interests he envisions is, at least for now, quite weak. Fortunately, we have the guidance of Anne-Marie Brady, an ace of an analyst on China’s ambitions and designs on both the Arctic and the Antarctic, who is much less coy and more specific about what these rights actually are:

In the Arctic, along with all non-Arctic states, China has the following rights:

* To engage in scientific and economic activities in the Svalbard islands;

* To apply for observer status at the Arctic Council;

* To access Arctic seas for scientific research, transportation, tourism, and fishing;

* To utilize cross-Arctic air routes;

* To participate in international decision-making on Arctic matters under international governance;

* To bid for mineral rights and other economic opportunities with Arctic states; and

* To bid for deep-sea mineral exploration licenses in Arctic international waters.66

The issue is, of course, whether China will eventually begin demanding more rights in the Arctic than these. It likely will.

The authors of this singular piece envision a strong Chinese military (particularly naval) presence in the Arctic, one with high levels of war-fighting capabilities, for protecting Chinese rights and interests in the region. They seem to arrive at this strategic vision for China primarily because their country sees the Arctic powers as scheming and posturing for advantageous position in possible future conflicts, quite possibly to the detriment of what they see as China’s rights and interests in the region. Their assumption seems to be that if there is going to be a fight in the Arctic, China ought to be bound and determined to be part of it so that when the peace negotiations and settlements come, the Chinese will not be left out of them. China wants to be a player, to be one of the boys, in any action (and that includes military action) in the Arctic that determines rights for access to the region’s energy resources and navigation routes. China does not want to be left out of this or any other definitively determinative action in the Arctic.

Their Chinese-language article, which in English means something like “Research into a Multi-Level Strategic System for China Regarding Arctic Navigation Routes,” envisions a six-level or six-pronged strategic system. The levels are political (first and foremost), economic, energy, technological, legal, and military. They envision and endorse an important and prominent role for a strong Chinese military presence in China’s participation in Arctic affairs:

China’s military-level objectives regarding Arctic navigation routes

After the end of the Cold War, states relevant to the Arctic and Arctic navigation routes paid special attention to the military value and strategic significance of the Arctic region. In order to strive for rights, interests, and position in the Arctic, circum-Arctic states drew up military strategy in droves, and through building up military units, infrastructure, military bases, and other such underhanded tactics they expanded military presences in the Arctic region. Nowadays, with the value of the energy [resources] and navigation routes of the Arctic becoming more apparent, and with international law and international treaties [regarding the Arctic] not having yet been perfected, Arctic disputes are becoming more and more intense. Although the countries with conflicting interests have not yet used military tactics to resolve issues, they have all proclaimed that they will not forsake the [right to choose whether or not to] use of military force to protect their rights and interests in the Arctic, and they have increased their military installations in the Arctic and their war-fighting capabilities so that they can guard against other parties going to war without declaring it. The tense situation in the Arctic region and other factors of instability are bound in days to come to influence China’s striving for Arctic navigation routes and rights and interests, as well as normal business operations. For this reason, at the military level the overall objectives of China’s strategy regarding Arctic navigation routes are: effectively safeguarding the security of Arctic transit passageways, pushing forward our country’s developing into a militarily strong regional state, and bringing about the certain power to pose threats toward other relevant countries when it comes to issues pertaining to the Arctic and Arctic navigation routes. Concrete objectives include heightening the standards of military equipment, reinforcing the navy’s war-fighting capabilities, and strengthening research into theories of maritime military strategy.67

They then sum up their recommendations by arguing strongly and explicitly for vast and expeditious beefing up of China’s military might in the region:

In accordance with the military-level objectives that made it through the filtering [and] selection [process], [we should] in response put forward [our] military strategy and position it as “safeguarding the security of our country’s operations in Arctic navigation routes, scientific investigation, and business, and resolutely providing backup force and military safeguards for other strategic implementations.” In facing conditions of increasingly frequent military movements in the Arctic region by countries relevant to the Arctic navigation routes, our country should, in accordance with the international environment, make adjustments and replenishments in our current military strategy, safeguard our rights and interests in the Arctic, and ensure the security of navigation routes. First of all, our country must increase the speed of its development of military equipment, elevate its weapons capabilities, and do research and development in combat weaponry in advance in order to prepare fully for the possible triggering of a war contesting Arctic rights, interests, and resources. Next, our country should strengthen the navy’s war-fighting capabilities; develop strategic military tactics appropriate to the times and to the demands of the current situation, such as fostering and educating new kinds of human talent in naval warfare and in strategic deployment; beginning and developing maritime military simulation training; expanding military diplomacy; strengthening arms control, military crisis management capabilities, and other such tactics in military conflict; and resolutely defending the nation’s rights and interests in Arctic navigation routes. In addition, China should pay close attention to policy dynamics and developmental trends in Arctic states along the line [of OBOR] in order to avoid slipping into a passive posture.68

The case presented in this piece for China’s military presence and involvement in the Arctic will be fairly compelling for many Chinese in and out of government. It also clearly indicates that the claim that “In his later [post-2011] writings, it should be noted that Li Zhenfu is more conservative and rational”69 is manifestly untrue. So is this statement: “… both Admiral Zhuo and Li Zhenfu – whose provocative statements are widely quoted by Western analysts as demonstrating nefarious intentions – have decided to stop (or been told to stop) their impolitic statements.”70

China’s white paper on the Arctic will settle some policy formulation issues that have been robustly discussed and debated in China over the past decade or so, but it is not clear from the document what role China envisions for its military (particularly its navy) in the region. The role of China’s military in the Arctic has not heretofore been a large part of the country’s policy discussions and debates about the region, but it may become more prominent and topical in the future. In the near future, there will be more space, not less, for discussion and even debate in China over the roles the PLAN should play in Arctic affairs. Any significant plans for extensive roles for China’s military in the Arctic are of course long-term plans, and the recommendations and advocacies of LI Zhenfu and YANG Zhirong, which may seem aberrant and off-the-wall today, may well represent viable long-term visions for China’s geostrategic position in the Arctic region.

The strategic value of the Arctic and the unique challenges its natural environment poses to modern militaries continue, post-white paper, to be discussed openly in China. The June 1, 2018 issue of the PLA’s Liberation Army Daily (Jiefangjun bao), for example, discusses possible military deployments in the Arctic in general terms and contains several observations:

  • The failure to prepare properly for warfare in very cold temperatures was one major reason the Nazis failed to conquer the Soviet Union; temperatures below 20° or 30° C can negatively influence the proper functioning of many types of equipment;
  • Electromagnetic conditions in the Arctic present special challenges; and
  • Submarines, strategic bombers, fighters, and unmanned vehicles will all be important military assets in the Arctic.

The article discusses the relative strengths, weaknesses, and military assets of the United States and Russia in the Arctic region in detail before ending first with the statement that developing the Arctic is the shared right of all humankind and then (finally) the point of the entire article: submarines that can operate well in the Arctic are the best ways to overcome the disadvantage of having no military bases in the region. Even though China is not mentioned once in the article, the implication is still clear enough – the best and most effective way for China to participate in the militarization of the Arctic is to develop submarines for deployment there.71

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Mahan and the Chinese navy in polar, naval, and global power

Chinese naval strategies that foresee and encourage China’s eventual naval domination of the Arctic are manifestly Mahanian. Now that China aspires to global and not simply regional power, the history of the influence of naval might in the rise and fall of great world powers has become popular and topical.72 China has come to the firm conclusion that its statuses as polar, naval, and global power are inextricably linked – that in order to be a bona fide world power, China must have a powerful and world-class navy on the high seas. This thinking is based largely on the theories of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914), an American naval officer and historian for whom naval warfare was not primarily about coastal defences but about a combination of coastal defences and the deployment of offensive capabilities on the high seas:

In naval war, coast defense is the defensive factor, the navy the offensive. Coastal defense, when adequate, assures the naval commander-in-chief that his base of operations – the dock-yards and coal depts – is secure … The offensive in naval war, as has been said, is the function of the sea-going navy – of the battleships, and of the cruisers of various sizes and purposes, including sea-going torpedo-vessels capable of accompanying a fleet … the backbone and real power of any navy are the vessels which, by due proportion of defensive and offensive powers, are capable of taking and giving hard knocks.73

In this China is not slavishly copying Mahan and is trying its best to come up with a uniquely Chinese naval strategy, but Mahan’s thought still dominates the ongoing formulation of China’s naval strategy and maritime policies:

The theories of Alfred T. Mahan continue to be a major influence on China’s evolving strategy, as they were in the late Qing and early Republican era. In the 1980s, when PLA-Navy commander Admiral Liu Huaqing laid out a new blueprint for China to gain control over its maritime boundaries and defend the key chokepoints on which China’s sea lanes of communication depend, his thinking was greatly influenced by Mahan’s writings on sea power. In 2012, a senior Chinese polar policymaker said that while Mahan’s theories do not completely fit China’s situation, Mahan-ism dominates current Chinese maritime policymaking.74

A 2009 monograph by United States Naval War College scholars James R. Holmes and Toshi YOSHIHARA on China’s use of Mahan entitled Chinese Naval Strategy in the 21st Century: The Turn to Mahan75 was rendered into a classified (neibu; not for public use) Chinese translation and published by the PLAN Headquarters Intelligence Service in 2013. The translator’s appreciative introduction to the book notes that it is the first systematic explication of the influence Mahan’s thought has had on Chinese naval strategy. It also points out that the book emphasizes over and over again the great importance the PLAN attaches to controlling Taiwan and the first island chain.76

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A moderate and constructive voice

On the more moderate and constructive end of the scale, TANG Yao of the School of Political Science and International Relations at Tongji University in Shanghai published an article in 2015 in which he offered constructive and non-militaristic suggestions for reducing military tensions and apprehensions in the Arctic region. The good international citizenship displayed in this article reflects the more benign and congenial side of scholarly discussion in China of military and security issues in the Arctic. In it, he proposes specific mechanisms and processes for increasing trust, dialogue, and comity among the A5 states. He foresees no special role for China in implementing his ideas, but it is obvious from his article that he sees China as a stakeholder in, and potential beneficiary of, the reduction of military tensions in the Arctic.

TANG’s article starts out with an unusually adequate and useful abstract and then a similarly good introductory paragraph, both of which highlight and anticipate his main conclusions and recommendations:

Abstract: Previously during the Cold War, the Arctic region was militarized to a high degree. The aggravations in [already] tense Russo-American relations and the opening up of the Northeast Passage over the past few years may in the future change the patterns of strategic and energy security in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, demands by Arctic littoral states for Arctic strategic and economic interests have directly triggered remilitarization in the region. Each [Arctic] state has strengthened its military presence in the Arctic through building up armed forces in the Arctic, purchasing arms, conducting military exercises, and other means. Existing legal treaties and international cooperation touching upon the governance of the Arctic region all lack provisions for military security. Because of this, at present it is possible [and desirable] to respond to issues pertaining to the remilitarization of the region by concluding treaties, establishing military fora, and giving the Arctic Council the role of harmonized handling of military issues in the Arctic region. [This would] simultaneously assure turning all parties involved in deliberative governance over [militarization] issues into a community of shared interests, responsibilities, and destinies. [This in turn would] thereby guarantee peace and stability in the Arctic.

… In February 2014 the American navy issued its U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap, 2014-2030, which gave a detailed introduction and analysis of the American navy’s military operations and concrete allocated departmental functions in the Arctic region over the next fifteen years, along with the navy’s annual financial budget. In addition to this, Russia, following through from its flag-planting incident on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean in 2007, submitted an application to the United Nations on Oct. 29, 2014 demanding 1,200,000 square kilometres of Arctic territory. As great military powers, the drive and ambition of Russia and the United States have already gotten on each other’s nerves, and the other Arctic states have strengthened their military presences in the Arctic through purchasing arms, building up armed forces in the Arctic, conducting military exercises, and other means. Bearing in mind that the re-militarization of the Arctic region will exert massive influences on global transport waterways and energy development in the future, this article will analyze new trends in the military deployments of the A5 states, sum up their special characteristics, and then advance concrete ways and means for dealing with the future development of re-militarization in the region.77

Section I of his article, “New Trends in A5 Military Deployments in the Arctic,” outlines each of the A5 states’ remilitarizations. In Section II, “The Special Characteristics of Remilitarization in the Arctic Region,” TANG covers what he sees as three specific problems of remilitarization that require redress. In Section III, “Choices of Ways and Means for Dealing with the Development of Remilitarization in the Arctic Region,” TANG offers “three substantive measures … that may be adopted for dealing effectively with issues brought about by the remilitarization of the Arctic region.” He then concludes his article with this paragraph:

At present, each Arctic state needs first to make clear and definite its own military policies, principles, and the rules and regulations for its actions in the Arctic region. Upon this foundation of concluding treaties, establishing military fora, and other ways for handling issues pertaining to the re-militarization of the Arctic, each side should at the same time make clear and definite [its recognition of] the reality that it is [in] a community of shared interests, responsibilities, and destinies in the region, thereby ensuring peace, utilization, and regional stability in the Arctic region.78

These are constructive, responsible, and positive suggestions for maintaining peace and stability in the Arctic region. They are not the counterproductive and destabilizing recipes for disaster propounded by YANG, LI, and their ilk, whose suggested courses of action would amount to pouring gasoline on the flames.

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Popular, unofficial voices

Popular unofficial publications in China also comment with some frequency on China’s military affairs in general and China’s involvement in Arctic affairs in particular. For example, Xinlang Junshi (New Wave Military Affairs), an online magazine popular with military buffs in China, published an article in June 2017 entitled “Russia is About to Prepare Militarily for Future War in the Arctic Circle, and China Secretly Rejoices.” The article argues that Russian military preparation in the Arctic is a good thing for China and uses the first-person plural (“we,” “us”) to refer to the Chinese and the Russians fighting together against a common foe in a future Arctic war. It covers Russia’s advantages in icebreakers and nuclear submarines and then speculates about the nature of naval and air warfare in an entirely ice-free Arctic:

Even if all the ice on the surface of the [Arctic] Ocean were cleared away, conditions in the Arctic would still not be very accommodating for the free movement of aircraft carriers. For this reason the importance of land-based aircraft becomes apparent, and at this time we would need a Mig-31 fighter. As a very fast interceptor aircraft, the area the Mig-31 can defend is very vast, and it can pursue and shoot down enemy warplanes attempting to penetrate air defences. In comparison with the Mig-25, the Mig-31 has a fine radar system and stronger manoeuvrability and is an excellent platform for air supremacy.79

Unofficial online comments by individual netizens in China are subject to rigorous inspection and potential removal by the personnel and technology of the “Great Firewall of China,” the Chinese communists’ vast cyber-space censorship apparatus that scrubs the Internet of anything the government deems politically destabilizing or otherwise inappropriate. Those comments that survive reflect, or at least do not directly contradict, the Chinese government’s thinking. A question posed in January 2017 on Baidu (China’s censor-friendly copycat version of Google) about why China has not established a military base in the Arctic garnered the following “best answers” (in imitation of what quora.com does in the Anglophone corner of the free world on the Internet):

1. There is only floating ice in the Arctic, and no land.80

2. There is currently no need to build a Chinese military base in the Arctic.

3. Future maritime transport routes spanning the Arctic pertain to the future, and it is still [too] early [to contemplate building a military base in the Arctic].

4. None of the countries surrounding the Arctic – Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, Iceland, England,81 Denmark – are chumps or easy pushovers.82

These are of course only private individuals’ points of view, but their online presence in China for well over a year now is significant.

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European and other East Asian estimations of the Arctic's strategic significance

The Chinese are not the only people keeping careful track of the Arctic’s potential military and strategic value. That the region has been undergoing militarization over the past decade or so has been noted outside of China and North America in scholarly publications83 as well as in mainstream European and Japanese print media and media outlets. Die Zeit, a mainstream German-language national weekly newspaper published in Hamburg, ran a story on Aug. 20, 2013 by the well-respected Theo Sommer (1930- ), a senior editor and public intellectual who has been at Die Zeit since 1958, on “China’s Search for a Shortcut in the Arctic.” The article assigned the lion’s share of the blame for strategic tensions in the Arctic squarely to Russia but placed the burden for resolution of the resultant tensions on the shoulders of more cool-headed actors in international diplomacy: “Vladimir Putin, however, who in 2007 had his Arctic researchers plant the Russian flag at a depth of 4,261 metres under water at the North Pole, has already announced an increase in troops in the Arctic, and this portends new potential for conflict here. Only even-handed diplomacy can prevent antagonistic ambitions from degenerating into stark confrontation.”84 The April 28, 2017 issue of JBpress (Japanese Business Press), a Japanese-language publication, noted Russia’s delivery and deployment of new military assets in the Arctic, including the Mi-8 helicopter, the commencement of the construction of a new multipurpose ship for the Arctic, and a military base on Franz Joseph Island.85 On Sept. 2, 2015 the Japanese-language edition of Newsweek carried an article covering Russia’s augmentation of its military posture in the Arctic with new air defence and missile systems. It reported that the Russian Ministry of Defence had designated the Arctic Circle as the most important region in Russia’s naval strategy and that plans were underway to expand Russia’s major military base at Murmansk.86 In March 2017 the Swiss French-language daily newspaper Le Temps reported on Russia’s opportunistic militarization of the Arctic while the world’s attention was focused elsewhere and even noted media whining in Russia about the nineteenth-century sale of Alaska to the United States (shades of the antics of Russian ultranationalist buffoon Vladimir Zhirinovsky a few years ago):

While international attention was fixated on Russia’s southern flank (the annexation of Crimea, military aid to Donbass, the liberation of Syria), the tools of [Russian] territorial conquest were rapidly deployed on its [Russia’s] northern front. An independent [Russian] command centre for all northern forces has [now] been created. Six military bases have already been built on the Arctic Ocean, along with the installation of state-of-the-art anti-missile systems. And the Russian press is now seizing upon the theme of Alaska, which was “unjustly” sold to the Americans 150 years ago …87

The Sept. 17, 2013 issue of the internationally respected and authoritative Le Monde, a French-language daily newspaper published in France, reported on Russia’s decision to re-establish a former military base in the New Siberian Islands in the eastern Arctic Ocean:

Russia is going to restore its military presence in the Arctic for surveilling the northern maritime route [Northern Sea Route], [in] a strategic project dedicated to playing a growing role in international trade. The head of state, Vladimir Putin, has indicated that a military base situated in the New Siberia Islands archipelago in the eastern Arctic will be reestablished.

“Our military left in 1993. (…) We have agreed not only to reestablish a military base at this location, but also to restore the airfield,” the Russian president specified. “We have come here, or more exactly we have returned here forever, because this is a Russian territory,” also declared Arkadi Bakhine, a vice-minister of defence.88

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China's Future Long-Term Ambitions and Intentions in the Arctic

The benignity of China’s long-term Arctic intentions, policies, and objectives is suspect. That China is hardly a well-behaved and exemplary member of the international community really ought to be axiomatic, but because it apparently is not, the point bears reiteration. (See Appendix Item G for an analysis of why China is not a benign or trustworthy power internationally or domestically).

What are China’s long-term ambitions in the Arctic? This is the unfathomable issue, especially given China’s extraordinarily long-term and multivalent planning horizon, in the Arctic as elsewhere. As Leiv Lunde of Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Institute noted to a reporter with Der Spiegel:

“In comparison with the Arctic, China still spends much more on research in the Antarctic,” said Leiv Lunde of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute. The mining of raw materials there is forbidden by the Antarctic Treaty. In a few decades that might look different: “Perhaps the Chinese are just getting started in the far north. They are extremely good at long-term thinking.”89

Indeed, “China has a notable and enviable ability to think in the long term.”90 One of the key ways to understand China’s ultimate plans and ambitions in the Arctic is to grasp an essential fact, one that does not readily occur to Westerners with their much shorter planning horizons: “China’s current polar activities are sowing the seeds for long-term interests, some of which will not come into fruition for another thirty to fifty years.”91 Put another way, “China is playing a long game in the polar regions. Keeping other states guessing about its true intentions and interests are part of its strategy.”92 China’s Arctic ambitions are part and parcel of the “hundred-year marathon,” or the cause to make China the world’s preeminent state by 2049, the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the communist People’s Republic of China. Then China will, it hopes, “set up a world order that will be fair to China, a world without American global supremacy, and revise the U.S.-dominated economic and geopolitical world order founded at Bretton Woods and San Francisco at the end of World War II.”93 In other words, after 2049 China might not be content any longer with being one of the boys in the Arctic, but will want to be The Boy, in the Arctic as everywhere else in the world.

Meanwhile, if in the short to medium terms China, a non-Arctic state, really were to insert heavily armed warships into the Arctic, would Japan, the EU, India, and South Korea be far behind in doing likewise? Then the region’s geopolitics and geostrategy would become about as complicated and chaotic as vehicular traffic in the roundabouts of Zhangjiakou. The Arctic does not need one more heavily armed principal, especially one from outside the region.

Anne-Marie Brady’s periodization of the next few decades of China’s future is divided into near, middle, and long terms. For her, the near term is through 2021, when

China’s economic development should have advanced to the point that the whole of Chinese society will enjoy a comfortable standard of living as a basic minimum (xiao kang shehui) … China will complete an assessment of polar resources and governance, make a declaration on a formal Arctic and Antarctic strategy, and appoint an Arctic ambassador … The People’s Liberation Army will increase the number of personnel trained in polar operations through greater participation in Arctic and Antarctic polar scientific missions and will invest in polar ice-capable vessels, and Chinese navy boats [sic] will increasingly sail in polar waters as part of their global mission.94

She sees the middle term as 2021 to 2048, a period during which “The PLA will develop submarine capabilities to the level of credible nuclear deterrence and be active in supporting freedom of navigation and oversight in the Arctic”95 and “… we can expect to see Chinese foreign policy verge from being assertive and proactive to being ambiguous and non-confrontational.”96 The final or long-term period is 2049 and beyond:

Xi Jinping has signaled that by 2049, the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the goal of China becoming a fully developed national should be achieved. By that date, China should be a rich country with a strong military (fu guo qiang bing), restored to its rightful place in global affairs …We can expect a further expansion of PLA capabilities in the Arctic and Antarctic, including nuclear ballistic missile submarines operating regularly in the Arctic Ocean.97

Her division into discreet periods or stages is fine, and the issuance of China’s Arctic policy white paper has shown her to be spot-on so far in her forecast for the near term. But demographics show that the medium and long terms may be upon us sooner than she thinks, with the long term arriving by 2040 at the latest, when China’s ticking grey demographic time bomb will already have exploded:

China, therefore, although newly powerful, still feels tightly boxed in, and is determined to win space for itself, beginning with the pacification of its periphery. This it will seek to do first with economic strength, but as it grows stronger, it will not shrink from using its newfound and growing military strength as the need arises. There is urgency in all of this too, for the fundamentals of the country’s demographics and the uncertainties linked to its economic expansion, already decades old and slowing, showing more and more signs of imbalance, make the next decade or at most two the period of its greatest relative strength, and hence its moment of greatest opportunity. Current trends, which do not look amenable to dramatic improvement, suggest that by 2040 the Chinese population will be more skewed in favor of old people than Japan, the “grayest” major country in the world today.98

At present, pushiness and prying do already seem to be occasional parts of Beijing’s expanding program of international influence in and beyond its immediate region.99 (Its immediate region includes the East and South China Seas.) The maritime radius or reach out into the Pacific of Beijing’s menacing and meddling seems to lengthen more or less in synch with its growing comprehensive national power, and it now seems that this reach might even include focused and targeted intimidation of individuals who assume high public profiles in disputing and challenging Beijing’s image of itself and its role in the world. In mid-February 2018 Anne-Marie Brady, the single most prominent China-Arctic scholar in the Western world and also (interestingly enough) an arch-critic of Beijing’s networks of international political influence and intrigue, stated to the Australian parliament and international media that people had recently broken into both her office and her residence in New Zealand and had also sent her a threatening letter. She believes that agents of China did these things. Given what we know of China’s brazen kidnappings and intimidations in other countries and extrajudicial detentions in its own, it is possible that China would do such things in New Zealand, although as covert operations with the requisite plausible deniability.100

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Proceed with Sober Caution and Vigilance

The author stated in 2014 that even though a comprehensive strategic assessment report issued by the National Defense Policy Research Centre of the PLA’s Academy of Military Science in 2013 stated that China has important strategic interests in the Arctic, interests that have long-term significance for China in terms of its national development and national security, China was still not likely in the short to medium runs to stir up trouble in the Arctic:

… might China one day declare Arctic access one of its “core interests”? This seems unlikely. China will not for the foreseeable future actually commit military assets to defend its Arctic interests. I think concerns about China possibly attempting to establish a permanent and substantial military presence in Iceland or elsewhere in the Arctic are greatly overblown. China’s approach to the Arctic is much more economic than military or geopolitical … China’s increasing involvement and activity in the Arctic will not have disruptive political ramifications (much less military ones) in the short and medium run.101

But in the long run all bets are off, and meanwhile over the short to medium runs it behooves the North American Arctic democracies to be circumspect, savvy, and sober. As we watch Chinese interests arriving in the Arctic in droves, should China and Russia ply the Arctic with a joint total of over fifty icebreakers, the largest of them (four Russian nuclear-powered craft) each displacing well over 20,000 tons, while Canada and the United States continue to have only eight fully functional icebreakers between them (Canada six, America two)? All of these are coast guard vessels, all diesel-electric, with the largest of them, the USCGC Healy and the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, displacing 16,000 and 11,450 tons respectively. In this, the eagle and the beaver seem to have been neglecting continental defence, and the dragon and the bear are likely rubbing their hands gleefully and laughing up their sleeves at us.

Should we in the Arctic democracies put our minds at ease about China’s participation in Arctic affairs simply because the Chinese communist party-state has given us reassurances that its intentions in the region are completely benign and because of likely economic benefits and (supposedly) unlikely environmental damage? Should we trust the words of the Communist Party of China? We should think through these questions thoroughly and then think and rethink them again and again. Let us temper our economic and developmental enthusiasms with a measure of sober realism and prudent geopolitical precaution. Let us beware of the “introduction of a military presence that can come with Chinese investment” and know what we are getting into with the Chinese:

Canadians may disagree about the wisdom of accepting extensive Chinese investment and involvement in the Arctic, but their debates should be fully informed and take into account Chinese ambitions for the region … For the most part, China has shown itself to be a country worth dealing with, but the most prudent way forward is to deal with China with both eyes open.102

Let us bear constantly in mind the nature of the regime that has ruled China since 1949. Let us be realistic enough to consider seriously the possibility that YANG’s and LI’s outré advocacy and recommendations for China’s military domination of the Arctic represent significant strains of China’s long-term strategizing.

Freedom-loving people and countries in the Arctic and everywhere else must remain chary about the burgeoning presence in the Arctic of the world’s two great undemocratic and anti-democratic states: China and Russia. Should we impede China’s desire to participate in Arctic affairs? No. Should we be leery of China? Certainly. Is the Chinese government to be trusted? Not entirely; as the Chinese communists are themselves fond of saying, we must both “hear their words and watch their deeds.” Let us be as wise as serpents and much less harmless than doves, taking all wise and prudent precautions and preparing for all conceivable eventualities and contingencies. We must be prepared psychologically and strategically for the possibility that China will, at some point, seek more than its current status as just another customer in the Arctic or just another observer state on the Arctic Council. China has an enormous sense of entitlement and exceptionalism, and someday it will likely want to seek some exceptionally important position of prominence in Arctic affairs.

Having the Chinese people participate peacefully and constructively in Arctic affairs will of course be beneficial to everyone involved. Concerns about China’s presence in the Arctic are not about the Chinese people themselves but about the dictatorial communist party-state that governs them and over which they exercise very little effective control, electoral or otherwise. The Chinese communist party-state needs to be watched carefully as it operates in the Arctic and increasingly faces the temptations of empire there (as elsewhere in the world). To reword a Chinese proverb slightly, we in the Arctic democracies “must not have a mind to harm China, but we must also not lack the mind to be leery of the Communist Party of China.”103

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Appendix

ITEM A: "Militarization Trends in Arctic very Worrisome"

ITEM A (translation of selected passages): NI Haining and LI Ming, “Beiji junshihua qushi shen you 北極軍事化趨勢甚憂” (“Militarization Trends in Arctic very Worrisome”). Jiefangjun Bao 解放軍報 (People’s Liberation Daily), Feb. 12, 2016.

Militarization Trends in Arctic very Worrisome

Source: Jiefangjun Bao (People’s Liberation Army Daily), Feb. 12, 2016

Authors: NI Haining, LI Ming

With global warming and the discovery of energy resources, the strategic position of the Arctic becomes ever more important and militarization trends in the Arctic region ever more obvious.

The Soviet Union / Russia has always attached the highest importance to the Arctic region, and Russia now more than ever sees the future Arctic region as “a point of growth in the new economy” and “the main direction of threats [coming] to national security.” With the aggravation of antagonisms between Russia on the one hand and North America and Europe on the other, Russia formally set up a joint Arctic command in December 2014 and then continuously played a few matches of “military chess with offensive moves.”

Building and strengthening a network of protective bases

Already in September 2013, Putin demanded that all Soviet military facilities in the Arctic be restored. After two years of diligence, by the end of 2015 Russia had constructed 437 military infrastructure facilities in the Arctic on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, Franz Joseph Land, the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, and the New Siberian Islands archipelago. These included modernized barracks, radio relay stations, aircraft navigation installations, radar stations, and so on. Russia has already completed construction on six cozy little military towns called “Arctic Stars” that can satisfy the needs of the people in their units for residences, being on duty, and carrying out their combat missions. Russia’s Ministry of Defence has announced that in 2016 it will go one step farther in perfecting infrastructure in the Arctic; in 2017 will complete the construction of airports in the region; and in 2018 will begin deploying groups of mechanized units.

Outfitting high-end weapons and equipment suitable for the environmental climate of the Arctic

In 2015, Russia outfitted rapid Thunderstorm military snowmobiles, GAZ-3351 multi-purpose articulated track tanks for snow and marshland, and DT-3P amphibious armoured vehicles in order to heighten its mechanized combat capability. In air defence capability, Russia has deployed two stand-alone regiments equipped with S-400 guided missiles and armoured [anti-aircraft] systems in the two places Novaya Zemlya and Tiksi, and these are on duty 24 hours a day in combat readiness. Russia has basically completed the echelon for air attack capability in the Arctic. In Murmansk it has deployed supersonic MiG-31 Foxhound fighters, and upgraded Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers have strengthened cruising in the Arctic. As for maritime combat capability, Russia has deployed nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines in the waters off the northern face of the Kola Peninsula, and they carry close to sixty percent of Russia’s sea-based nuclear warheads. In the future, Novaya Zemlya will deploy a guided missile battalion outfitted with a [K-300P] “Bastion” anti-ship missile system. As for strength in reconnaissance and early warning, in the town of Vorkuta (north of the Arctic Circle) Russia has deployed a Voronezh M/DM long-range early warning radar with a detection range of 6,000 kilometres. In the Arctic areas of the eastern military districts, Russia has deployed units of Orlan-10 and Forpost104 unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out surveillance missions in coastal regions.

Launching training for the normalization of [a state of] threat

In 2015 the Russian military carried out a series of exercises in the Arctic, such as combined inter-service exercises between Arctic motorized infantry brigades and mechanized airborne platoons; northern fleet exercises designated to protect the territorial waters of Arctic islands; exercises with coastal defence units and guided missile, artillery and air defence firing; and so on. Russia’s Headquarters of the General Staff announced that in 2016 the Russian military planned to carry out a dozen exercises in the Arctic region.

American–led NATO also unceasingly outdoing itself in military presence in the Arctic.

A report in the American [fortnightly newspaper] Navy Times claims that among the various types of equipment involved in [military] exercises in the Arctic region in 2015, certainly putting on the biggest appearance were submarines that spent the overwhelmingly largest amount of their time beneath thick ice deploying new-model sonar as a precaution against submerged ice collisions. American and British nuclear submarines active in Arctic waters place great emphasis on gathering, comparing, and compiling marine acoustics parameters of underwater hazards. The American military is carrying out large numbers of fighter test flights in the Arctic. According to a report in the American [weekly magazine] Aviation Week, F-35C fighters have undergone special trials in Alaska, each equipped with onboard AN/APG-81 radars, [and it was proven that] not only could they filter out large amounts of manmade electrical interference, but also effectively take precautions against the influences brought about by strong ionospheric turbulence in the skies of the Arctic region.

At present, the Arctic has already become yet another forward position of antagonism between North America and Europe on the one hand and Russia on the other. As the five [Arctic littoral] countries of the United States, Canada, and northern Europe strengthen the harmonization of their positions and actions, Russia worries that the eight-state Arctic Council will be “NATO-ized” and degenerate into a political and military platform for a North American and European entente to beat up on Russia. In the future, therefore, [Russia] may well take stronger and more powerful action in response, such as dispatching a naval fleet to patrol the Arctic, building more military bases, and so on. Aside from this, disputes over islands and maritime boundaries exist between the United States, Canada, Denmark, and other countries. If each party continues travelling forward along the road of strengthening military presences in the Arctic, the possibility of the military confrontation that has emerged in this region producing “a minor incident that sparks a war” will only become greater and greater.105

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ITEM B: "Arctic Issues and Chinese Policy"

ITEM B (translation of selected passages): TANG Guoqiang 唐國強, “Beiji wenti yu Zhongguo zhengce 北極問題與中國政策 (“Arctic Issues and Chinese Policy”).” Guoji wenti yanjiu 國際問題研究 (China International Studies) January/February 2013.

The Arctic region controls the strategic crossroads of the Asian, European, and North American mainlands. Military experts hold that domination of the Arctic region will enable the occupation of commanding heights in world military affairs. During the Second World War, some routes on the Arctic Ocean were important navigation routes for Allied attacks on Germany, and a considerably large portion of Western material aid was transported over the Arctic Ocean to the Soviet Union. During the Cold War the Arctic Ocean was transformed into the frontmost of front lines in the standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, becoming the route of first choice for attacking each other with fighter planes and long-range guided missiles, and also the ideal base for test-firing by nuclear submarines. The military standoff in the Arctic eased after the end of the Cold War. Presently, the United States has deployed its main anti-missile system in Alaska and has set up air defence strongholds through the Arctic. Russia, for its part, has deployed the large majority of its most advanced strategic nuclear submarines in the Arctic Ocean in order to fully protect its power of nuclear deterrence.

Because global climate warming106 has caused obvious changes in the natural condition of the Arctic, each country in the Arctic region has begun attaching great importance to Arctic development and is regarding the Arctic as a “new Middle East” for energy resources, a “new vital artery” for the global economy, and “new commanding heights” for the world’s military affairs. They are throwing themselves in droves into expanding scientific research, political, economic, and military involvement [in the Arctic] and are making great efforts to have leadership roles in hand in the Arctic affairs of the future.107

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ITEM C: "New Directions in American Arctic Policy and Their Influences"

ITEM C (translation and discussion of selected passages): LI Yibo 李益波 “Meiguo Beiji zhanlue di xin dongxiang ji qi yingxiang 美國北極戰略的新動向及其影響” (“New Directions in American Arctic Policy and Their Influences”). Taipingyang xuebao 太平洋學報 (Pacific Journal) 22.6, 70-80.

In the article LI sees America as a Johnny-come-lately in Arctic affairs and in the geopolitical competition of the Arctic region in general, and he seems suspicious and even somewhat resentful of the influence that America’s changes in Arctic policy would nonetheless have there. He starts out by describing 2013 as an important year for American policy, a year when the White House, the Pentagon, and the Coast Guard all issued statements on American strategy in the Arctic. In 2013 the American government finally realized that it had fallen behind in Arctic strategy, LI maintains, and so was hastening to make up for lost time. According to Li, the Obama administration implemented “northward ho” diplomacy and threw more energy and resources into Arctic issues in order to secure free passage through Arctic navigation routes and also leadership in Arctic matters. America was going through a period of strategic contraction, he continues, and the American government’s implementation of its Arctic strategy would face many obstacles. These recent changes in American policy would have great influence on geopolitics, economics, and regional governance in the Arctic and so are worth analyzing and anticipating:

In May 2013 the Obama administration issued its “National Strategy for the Arctic Region”108 (also called the White House Report). On May 21, 2013 the United States Coast Guard issued its “United States Coast Guard Arctic Strategy.”109 On Nov. 22, 2013 the United States Department of Defense once again issued its “Department of Defense Arctic Strategy”110 (also called the Pentagon Report). The debut of this series of strategic plans clearly indicated that the “northward ho” [approach] of the Obama administration’s second term would involve devoting more energy and resources to this “new frontier” of the Arctic, a bitterly cold place but one full of hope. This article combines these reports mentioned above with the statements and policy recommendations of related think tanks and uses them aggregately to sort out the current state, adjustments, and trends of American Arctic policy, and on this foundation then analyzes the influences of these changes on the Arctic region.111

After a brief historical introduction in Part I, in Part II (“Reasons for the Policy Adjustments and Their Strategic Orientations”) LI writes up his discovery that the Obama administration’s Arctic policy is essentially a continuation of that of the George W. Bush administration, but with a few changes:

  • First, more strategic attention is now being paid to the Arctic;
  • Second, adjustments are now being made in the protection of peace and security in the Arctic region;
  • Third, the American government is now attaching greater importance to capacity building in order to safeguard American security interests in the Arctic;
  • Fourth, Americans want to be “responsible stewards” and not “leaders” in the Arctic; and
  • Fifth, America is now attaching great importance to international cooperation in the Arctic.

In Part III (“Actions Advantageous but Prospects Unclear”), LI points out that in the aforementioned American reports the United States had put forward renovation, cooperation, and sustainable measures as the means of realizing its strategic objectives in the Arctic. LI observes these concrete measures as follows:

  • First, the United States is increasingly strengthening its military presence and capacity to act in the Arctic region (“Military strength is an important starting point for America inserting its hands into Arctic affairs and realizing its strategic interests; under the guidance of the new strategy, the United States will take further steps to strengthen its involvement [in Arctic affairs] in order to compensate for the so-called ‘capacity gap.’”);
  • Second, the U.S. is pushing inter-departmental cooperation and elevating a hierarchy of leadership for responding to Arctic issues;
  • Third, the U.S. is strengthening scientific investigation and resource development activities in the Arctic region with Alaska as the centre of gravity; and
  • Fourth, the U.S. is strengthening harmonization and cooperation with Canada, Norway, and other surrounding Arctic states in responding to potential geopolitical challenges and in joint development of Arctic resources.

From 2015 to 2017, Part III continues, the United States will serve as chair of the Arctic Council, and it can be anticipated that the Obama administration will continue to pay much attention to Arctic affairs. But for the United States, which according to LI is undergoing a relative decline in national power and is in the midst of a period of strategic contraction, attempts at fully realizing the aforesaid strategic objectives will meet up with a series of obstacles in the following ways:

  • First, budgetary constraints will restrict America’s “northward ho” policy initiatives;
  • Second, the Arctic is not a region of strategic priority for the United States;
  • Third, domestic factors such as American ignorance of the Arctic, environmentalist groups opposing development in the Arctic, and conservative opposition to acceding to UNCLOS will present obstacles and problems; and
  • Fifth,112 obstruction from foreign countries, such as from Canada over the Beaufort Sea and Northwest Passage disputes, will also present challenges to the American government. Even though the issuance of the Arctic strategy reports means that America has sounded the bugle for its advance into the Arctic, LI concludes in this section, the American Arctic strategy will encounter many kinds of practical trials.

In Section 4, “The Influence of America’s Arctic Strategy and China’s Countermeasures,” LI argues that the Arctic is in a “state of anarchy” and that whether the future will be conflictual or co-operative will be determined by interactions between relevant parties and the way they play their chess pieces. He maintains further that changes in American Arctic policy are certain to influence the security and ecological environment of the Arctic significantly. He sees possible American influences in the Arctic as follows:

  • First, America’s strengthening of its military capacity to act in the Arctic might provoke other Arctic littoral states and intensify the arms race there;
  • Second, America’s participation in the founding of Arctic institutions might lead to dual influences (America’s use of institutions to restrict other countries’ freedom of movement while expanding the scope of America’s own, institutional rebalancing leading to the weakening of current institutions); and
  • Third, American development in the Arctic might incrementally worsen climate and environmental change.

In response to American strategic adjustments in the Arctic, LI proposes the following countermeasures by China:

  • First, China should try hard not to become involved in the geopolitical rivalry between America and Russia, and instead stay focused on commerce, energy development, navigation safety, and freedom, all the while playing the role of a “responsible and concerned stakeholder”;
  • Second, China should actively participate in the founding of multilateral Arctic institutions and push for the democratization of Arctic governance;
  • Third, China should strengthen cooperation with the United States, “responsibly” develop the Arctic with the Americans, and respond to Arctic climate change and environmental protection issues; and
  • Fourth, China should expeditiously work out its Arctic policy, co-ordinate all parties’ resources, and strengthen China’s influence in the Arctic, all the while continually strengthening Arctic “scientific diplomacy,” “resource diplomacy,” and “soft power diplomacy.”

All of this leads to Li’s conclusions, here translated in full, that all is not lost in the Arctic because of America’s strategy adjustments, that prospects for long-term peace and cooperation with the United States are still fairly good, and that China has its own contributions to make and measures to be followed:

The Obama administration is building on the foundation of its predecessor, is obviously strengthening the strategic attention it pays to the Arctic region, and is pouring more resources into it. America’s intention is to “stabilize the status quo, actively prepare, and be in it for the long run.”

This is America’s practical choice, one arrived at after comprehensive assessment of its own actual strength, the multi-state competition in the Arctic, and the benefits and risks of participation in Arctic affairs.

Intensified geopolitical and economic competition may emerge in the Arctic over the next few years in the wake of America strengthening its military involvement and resource development in the region. This will also present both challenges and opportunities for the timely perfection of multilateral governance institutions in the Arctic.

As a latecomer and concerned stakeholder in the Arctic region, China should strengthen its communication with relevant countries, actively roll out functional cooperation, and promote and foster norms of governance for an open, democratic, and peaceful Arctic region.

From this perspective, there is certainly some defined amount of space for Sino-American cooperation in Arctic affairs.

Additionally, while doing deep research into the orientations and directions of strategic competition between Arctic countries, [we should] formulate our country’s Arctic strategy as soon as possible and seek out directions of policy and objective that tally with our country’s interests, [all] in order to become accustomed to the geopolitical competition in the Arctic.

At the same time, [we should] do research on relevant international law, especially on the “Svalbard Treaty,” make full use of rights bestowed by the treaty, and make adequate and relevant preparations for our country’s claiming of these rights.113

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ITEM D: "Research into Changes in World Strategic Layouts after the All-Year-Long Opening of Arctic Navigation Routes"

ITEM D (translation of selected passages): YANG Zhirong 楊志榮, “Beiji hangdao quannian kaitonghou shijie diyuan zhanlue geju di bianhua yanjiu 北極航道全年開通後世界地緣戰略格局的變化研究” (“Research into Changes in World Strategic Layouts after the All-Year-Long Opening of Arctic Navigation Routes”). Guofang Keji 國防科技 (National Defense Science and Technology) 36.2: (2015): 7-11.

National Defense Science & Technology Vol. 36, No. 2, April 2015

“Research into Changes in World Geostrategic Patterns after the Year-Long Opening of Arctic Navigation Routes”114

YANG Zhirong

Naval Military Academic Research Institute

Abstract: Based on the general background of global climate change, on the foundation of deep analysis into the year-by-year melting and disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, and especially on the changes in world geostrategic layout to be brought about after the year-long opening of Arctic navigation routes and also the opportunities and challenges our country faces, [the author] puts forth a few measures in response. The military, and especially the navy, should give full play to the strategic and international advantages of the [naval] branch of the armed forces and bravely assume the heavy historical responsibility of planning and controlling pioneers in the Arctic.

Key terms: Arctic Ocean, strategic passageways, geostrategy, navy

With global climate change and the unceasing shrinkage and reduction of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, the possibility of the year-long opening of Arctic navigation routes is becoming more and more real, as is the development and utilization of the resources and spaces in the Arctic region. The entire world has enormous strategic interests in the Arctic region, and it is necessary to go with the flow of the times, take the initiative and actively participate in planning and control in the Arctic, and strive to secure advantageous strategic space for the future development of the country.

I. After the year-long opening of the Arctic navigation routes, the geostrategic layout of the world will undergo massive changes and the Arctic region will become the next focal domain for great power competition.

1. In the world of the future the Arctic will become the central shipping hub.

2. In the world of the future the Arctic will become a strategic base for energy resources.

3. In the world of the future the Arctic will become the commanding heights of military struggle.

4. Relevant countries have centred [their attention on] Arctic leadership roles and have already placed their chess pieces, set traps, and entered into intense rivalries.

II. The year-long opening of Arctic navigation routes will bring massive favourable strategic opportunities for our country, and we should “do the waterproofing before it rains,”115 seize the opportunities, welcome the challenges, and strive mightily for the initiative.

1. We need to do research into copying [the model for] planning and controlling the Arctic policy program.

2. We should take the initiative to grasp the right to speak and freedom of speech regarding Arctic issues

3. We should manifest our good image as a responsible great power.

4. We should increase the vigour of our scientific investigation in the Arctic.

5. We should render service for the economic construction of our country by making use of the Arctic’s navigation routes and its energy resources.

6. We should expand our freedom to maneuver in our struggle with the great powers of the world.

III. Give full play to the navy’s advantages as a strategic and international branch of the armed forces and bravely assume the heavy historical responsibility of planning and controlling pioneers in the Arctic.

1. Select and send naval vessels and personnel to participate in scientific investigations in the Arctic.

2. Broadly gather information on the maritime environment of the Arctic region.

3. Strengthen the building of naval equipment suited to activities in the Arctic region.

4. Keep close track of the security of important strait passageways in the Arctic region

In 1986 the American military announced sixteen strait passageways to be controlled in time of war, and the straits linking up Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom were among them. For our country, what bears heavy emphasis is the Bering Strait that links up the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. When conditions are ripe for energy resource extraction in the Arctic Ocean and the Northwest and Northeast Passages are unimpeded, the Bering Strait will be no less important to our country than the Strait of Malacca is. For this we need, as soon as possible, to carry out safe operations in the Bering Strait so that in the future the Bering Strait will be a safe-passage strategic passageway for us.

5. Dispatch naval forces to the Arctic region when the time is right

Give full play to the navy’s functionality of military diplomacy and dispatch naval vessels to the Arctic region to carry out [naval] visits. After the end of the Cold War, the two countries of China and Russia formed a comprehensive co-operative strategic relationship. Regarding Arctic issues, our country should, at a certain level, support Russia’s strategic breakthroughs in the Arctic.116 At the same time, we should also carry on active communication with Russia, have Russia understand our positions, and through diplomatic diligence have Russia support our entry into the Arctic. If we can achieve a consensus with Russia, it will have the effect of achieving twice the result with half the effort. For this, when the time is right [we can] dispatch formations of naval vessels to visit Russian Arctic ports such as Murmansk and can [thereby] achieve unique results unattainable by other styles of diplomacy. When conditions are right, we can consider dispatching nuclear submarines to carry out scientific investigations in the Arctic Ocean, [thereby] expanding the operational space of our strategic power.117 Beyond this, in the future when the ice layers of the Arctic Ocean waters have receded to a certain level, we can dispatch armed forces to the Arctic Ocean to carry out instruction and training in long-range sea voyaging, [thereby] expanding the operational space of our navy without interruption and [also] practically and conscientiously safeguarding our economic and security interests in the Arctic region.

6. Gradually normalize the presence of [Chinese] naval power in the Arctic region

Mahan held that central position, internal lines, and communication lines are three essential components of naval strategy and that of them, occupying central position and internal lines are the keys to victory in naval warfare. The Arctic is situated at the top of the world, and it has every one of the distinctive characteristics for becoming the central position and internal line of the Northern Hemisphere. If our navy can effectively take advantage of the space and strategic passageways of the Arctic, then in the future it can pivot around [from the Arctic Ocean towards] the great oceans and deal with threats coming from any direction. If the passageways of the Arctic had been open in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War, Russia’s Baltic Fleet could have followed the Northeast Passage, passed through the Bering Strait, entered the Pacific Ocean, combined forces with the fleet at Vladivostok, and jointly attacked the Japanese fleet, and then it might have been possible to rewrite the ending of the Russo-Japanese War. For the same reason, if our navy were free to roam the waters of the Arctic, in the future it would constitute a very large restraining check on potential strategic rivals and effectively enable expansion of our country’s strategic space. Presently, many countries in the world are actively plotting strategic actions in the Arctic region. On Nov. 24, 2009, the American [fortnightly newspaper] Navy Times disclosed the American navy’s aboundingly ambitious plans for an Arctic Ocean fleet. [The plan was for] four years of achieving clarity on conditions in the Arctic and doing a good job of battlefield construction in order to prepare for building a unit of Arctic Ocean surface warships. In recent years Russia has been continually engaged in restoring [old Soviet] Arctic military bases that had lain idle for many years and bringing them back to use, stationing special units in the Arctic, and building nuclear-powered icebreakers. On Dec. 1, 2014 Russia’s Arctic Strategic Command118 formally commenced operations. This command is under the jurisdiction of the National Defence Control Centre and is equivalent to Russia’s fifth military district. Our navy should give full play to its advantages as a strategic and international branch of the armed forces and comprehensively develop its work in weaponry, naval battlefields, personnel training, military diplomacy, and other areas. It should bravely assume the heavy historical responsibility for planning and controlling pioneers in the Arctic and make the contributions it should make to our country’s development and utilization of the Arctic.119

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ITEM E: "Research into a Multi-Level Strategic System for China Regarding Arctic Navigation Routes"

ITEM E (translation and discussion of selected passages): LI Zhenfu 李振福 et al., “Zhongguo Beiji hangxian duoceng zhanlue tixi yanjiu 中國北極航線多層戰略體系研究 (“Research into a Multi-Level Strategic System for China Regarding Arctic Navigation Routes”). Zhongguo ruan kexue 中國軟科學 (Chinese Soft Science) 2015.4, 29-37.

China’s military-level objectives regarding Arctic navigation routes

After the end of the Cold War, states relevant to the Arctic and Arctic navigation routes paid special attention to the Arctic region’s military value and strategic significance. In order to strive for rights, interests, and position in the Arctic, circum-Arctic states drew up military strategy in droves, and through building up military units, infrastructure, military bases, and other such underhanded tactics they expanded military presences in the Arctic region. Nowadays, with the value of the Arctic’s energy [resources] and navigation routes becoming more apparent, and with international law and international treaties [regarding the Arctic] not yet perfected, Arctic disputes are becoming more and more intense. Although the countries with conflicting interests have not yet used military tactics to resolve issues, they have all proclaimed that they will not forsake the [right to choose whether or not to] use of military force to protect their rights and interests in the Arctic, and they have increased their military installations in the Arctic and their war-fighting capabilities so that they can guard against other parties going to war without declaring it. The tense situation in the Arctic region and other factors of instability are bound in days to come to influence China’s striving for Arctic navigation routes and rights and interests, as well as normal business operations. For this reason, at the military level the overall objectives of China’s strategy regarding Arctic navigation routes are: effectively safeguarding the security of Arctic transit passageways, pushing forward our country’s developing into a militarily strong regional state, and bringing about the certain power to pose threats toward other relevant countries when it comes to issues pertaining to the Arctic and Arctic navigation routes. Concrete objectives include heightening the standards of military equipment, reinforcing the navy’s war-fighting capabilities, and strengthening research into theories of maritime military strategy.120

The article then continues with a tabulation of preliminary strategic objectives in Arctic navigation routes as below:

Initial system of China’s strategic objectives regarding Arctic navigation routes121

LEVEL OF OBJECTIVES CONCRETE OBJECTIVES
Political * Constructing a “great power diplomacy” network regarding Arctic navigation routes
* Reaching agreements with Arctic First Nations NGOs for comprehensive cooperation
* Occupying important positions in Arctic governance mechanisms
* Pushing for the promulgation of reasonable delimitation standards for Arctic continental shelves
* Participating in dealing with unexpected incidents in the international waters of the Arctic Ocean
Economic * Opening and developing economic cooperation with Arctic states
* Shaping and forming a perfected network of international trade 
* Constructing an international mechanism for responding to changes in the patterns of international energy trade
* Participating in the construction of ports along the shorelines of Arctic navigation routes
* Shaping and forming more reasonable maritime industry associations 
* Shaping and forming responses to the layouts of domestic ports in the development of Arctic navigation routes
* The volume of energy trade with the Arctic region becoming an important component of the nation’s overall volume of energy trade
* The volume of energy trade through Arctic navigation routes occupying a relatively higher proportion in the nation’s overall volume of trade
Energy * Strengthening energy cooperation with states that have the same demands for rights and interests in Arctic energy resources
* Participating in the construction of energy transportation infrastructure along the lines [of the Belt and Road Initiative]
* Strengthening energy conservation consciousness in government and enterprise
* Going green in developing Arctic energy resources
Technological * Constructing a perfected system for protecting the foundation of scientific research in the Arctic
* Constructing a collective system for research and development into Arctic navigation routes
* Shaping and forming an international network of technological cooperation for Arctic navigation routes
* Fostering and educating large groups of new talent regarding Arctic navigation routes
* Recruiting high-end talent from overseas
* Getting a grip on the technology for multi-function icebreakers
* Building a safe guided navigation system
* Developing effective technology for environmental protection in the Arctic
* Bringing about safe transit for Arctic energy
Legal * Responding to applicable parts in current world legal norms
* Pushing for the formulation of norms for ships and shipping in Arctic navigation routes
* Participating in the construction of environmental protection statutory systems in the Arctic
* Participating in the institution of a statutory system for Arctic navigation route governance
* Pushing for the conclusion of multilateral and bilateral treaties
Military * Heightening standards of military equipment
* Reinforcing the navy’s war-fighting capabilities
* Strengthening research into theories of maritime military strategy

The authors apparently managed to convince themselves, through seemingly rigorous mathematical analysis, that this initial grouping of thirty-five concrete objectives under the six strategic levels would eventually be reduced, filtered, or winnowed down to twenty-five (nine fewer than the thirty-four original “initial” ones). That is, of the original thirty-four initial objectives, eight were cut and only one added (“constructing a ‘great power diplomacy’ network regarding Arctic navigation routes”), and that in the political level as the very first of the twenty-five concrete objectives they prescribe:

System of China’s strategic objectives in Arctic navigation routes122

LEVEL OF OBJECTIVES CONCRETE OBJECTIVES
Political * Constructing a “great power diplomacy” network regarding Arctic navigation routes
* Occupying important positions in Arctic governance mechanisms
* Pushing for the promulgation of reasonable delimitation standards for Arctic continental shelves
* Participating in dealing with unexpected incidents in the international waters of the Arctic Ocean
Economic * Opening and developing economic cooperation with Arctic states
* Participating in the construction of ports along the shorelines of Arctic navigation routes
* Shaping and forming more reasonable maritime industry associations 
* Shaping and forming responses to the layouts of domestic ports in the development of Arctic navigation routes
* The volume of energy trade through Arctic navigation routes occupying a relatively higher proportion in the nation’s overall volume of trade
Energy * Strengthening energy cooperation with states that have the same demands for rights and interests in Arctic energy resources
* Participating in the construction of energy transportation infrastructure along the lines [of the Belt and Road Initiative]
* Going green in developing Arctic energy resources
Technological * Constructing a perfected system for protecting the foundation of scientific research in the Arctic
* Constructing a collective system for research and development into Arctic navigation routes
* Shaping and forming an international network of technological cooperation for Arctic navigation routes
* Getting a grip on the technology for multi-function icebreakers
* Building a safe guided navigation system
* Developing effective technology for environmental protection in the Arctic
Legal * Responding to applicable parts in current world legal norms
* Pushing for the formulation of norms for ships and shipping in Arctic navigation routes
* Participating in the construction of environmental protection statutory systems in the Arctic
* Participating in the institution of a statutory system for Arctic navigation route governance
* Pushing for the conclusion of multilateral and bilateral treaties
Military * Heightening standards of military equipment
* Reinforcing the navy’s war-fighting capabilities

After discussing the political, economic, energy, technological, and legal ins and outs of this new trimmed-down list, the authors once again get around to the military level of strategic objectives, and this time they call even more urgently for a robust military presence in the Arctic, one with high war-fighting capabilities:

China’s military strategy regarding Arctic navigation routes

In accordance with the military-level objectives that made it through the filtering [and] selection [process], [we should] in response put forward [our] military strategy and position it as “safeguarding the security of our country’s operations in Arctic navigation routes, scientific investigation, and business, and resolutely providing backup force and military safeguards for other strategic implementations.” In facing conditions of increasingly frequent military movements in the Arctic region by countries relevant to the Arctic navigation routes, our country should, in accordance with the international environment, make adjustments and replenishments in our current military strategy, safeguard our rights and interests in the Arctic, and ensure the security of navigation routes. First of all, our country must increase the speed of its development of military equipment, elevate its weapons capabilities, and do research and development in combat weaponry in advance in order to prepare fully for the possible triggering of a war contesting Arctic rights, interests, and resources. Next, our country should strengthen the navy’s war-fighting capabilities; develop strategic military tactics appropriate to the times and to the demands of the current situation, such as fostering and educating new kinds of human talent in naval warfare and in strategic deployment; beginning and developing maritime military simulation training; expanding military diplomacy; strengthening arms control, military crisis management capabilities, and other such tactics in military conflict; and resolutely defending the nation’s rights and interests in Arctic navigation routes. In addition, China should pay close attention to policy dynamics and developmental trends in Arctic states along the line [of OBOR] in order to avoid slipping into a passive posture.123

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ITEM F: "On New Trends in the Remilitarization of the Arctic Region and their Distinctive Features"

ITEM F (translation and discussion of selected passages): TANG Yao 唐堯, “Lun Beiji diqu zaijunshihua di xin Dongxiang ji qi tezheng 論北極地區再軍事化的新動向及其特徵” (“On New Trends in the Remilitarization of the Arctic Region and their Distinctive Features”). Jiangnan shehui xueyuan xuebao 江南社會學院學報 (Journal of Jiangnan Social University) 2015.2: 44-49.

http://www.airitilibrary.com/Publication/alDetailedMesh?docid=jnshxyxb201502009

Journal of Jiangnan Social University    June 2015, Vol. 17. No. 5, 44-49

On New Trends in the Remilitarization of the Arctic Region and their Distinctive Features

TANG Yao

(School of Political Science and International Relations, Tongji University, Shanghai)

Abstract: Previously during the Cold War, the Arctic region was militarized to a high degree. The aggravations in [already] tense Russo-American relations and the opening up of the Northeast Passage over the past few years may in the future change the patterns of strategic and energy security in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, demands by Arctic littoral states for Arctic strategic and economic interests have directly triggered remilitarization in the region. Each [Arctic] state has strengthened its military presence in the Arctic through building up armed forces in the Arctic, purchasing arms, conducting military exercises, and other means. Existing legal treaties and international cooperation touching upon the governance of the Arctic region all lack provisions for military security. Because of this, at present it is possible [and desirable] to respond to issues pertaining to the region’s remilitarization by concluding treaties, establishing military for a, and giving the Arctic Council the role of harmonized handling of military issues in the Arctic region. [This would] simultaneously assure turning all parties involved in deliberative governance over [militarization] issues into a community of shared interests, responsibilities, and destinies. [This in turn would] thereby guarantee peace and stability in the Arctic.

During the Cold War, the Arctic regions were militarized to a high degree and the Arctic Ocean for a time became a frontline battleground in the standoff between East and West. The [two] great nuclear powers were distributed especially densely in the region, and the nuclear threat was a constant presence. The aggravations in [already] tense Russo-American relations and the opening up of the Northeast Passage over the past few years may in the future change the patterns of strategic and energy security in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, demands by Arctic littoral states for Arctic strategic and economic interests have directly triggered remilitarization in the region. In February 2014 the American navy issued its U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap, 2014-2030, which gave a detailed introduction and analysis of the American navy’s military operations and concrete allocated departmental functions in the Arctic region over the next fifteen years, along with the navy’s annual financial budget. In addition to this, Russia, following through from its flag-planting incident on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean in 2007, submitted an application to the United Nations on Oct. 29, 2014 demanding 1,200,000 square kilometres of Arctic territory. As great military powers, the drive and ambition of Russia and the United States have already gotten on each other’s nerves, and the other Arctic states have strengthened their military presences in the Arctic through purchasing arms, building up armed forces in the Arctic, conducting military exercises, and other means. Bearing in mind that the remilitarization of the Arctic region will exert massive influences on global transport waterways and energy development in the future, this article will analyze new trends in the military deployments of the A5 states, sum up their special characteristics, and then advance concrete ways and means for dealing with the future development of re-militarization in the region.124

Section I of his article, “New Trends in A5 Military Deployments in the Arctic,” outlines each of the A5 states’ re-militarization: first the United States, second Russia, third Canada, fourth Norway, and fifth Denmark. His coverage of Canada is given below in full translation:

3. Canada‘s military trends in the Arctic region

Canada’s patrol operations in the Arctic are traceable back to the year 1922, and from that time until 1958, one patrol per year was required. The NOREX 15 military exercises are important constituent components of the Canadian army’s current military operations being conducted in the Arctic region. These military exercises are held in northernmost Canada at Resolute Bay with the purpose of heightening the ability of Canadian forces in the Arctic region to respond by launching military action. All of the NOREX military exercises in 2015 will be conducted from March 20 through mid-April.

In the 2006 federal election, Stephen Harper had already promised that three armed icebreakers would be built for the Canadian navy. This promise evolved into another plan, which was to develop six to eight Arctic coastal patrol vessels (AOPS) and one large icebreaker – the John G. Diefenbaker. The Diefenbaker will cost C$720 million and when outfitted in 2017 will be used by the Canadian Coast Guard. Additionally, from 2007 when Canada came up with its “Northern Strategy” until the present, Prime Minister Harper has been on nine inspection tours in the northern region. Especially [noteworthy] is that the Harper government has developed a massive investment plan revolving around the Arctic region, one that includes investing C$3.1 billion for use in building vessels for patrolling the Arctic’s coastal waters, planned for completion by 2023; and investing C$1.3 billion for building Arctic icebreakers, planned for completion by 2021. As well, in January 2014 the Canadian government announced that it would build an all-weather road connecting Inuvik with Tuktoyaktuk along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, and with it continue to strengthen Canada’s influence in the Arctic region. As well, at the north of the country Canada has built an air surveillance radar network. These facilities are part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). What needs attention now is that Prime Minister Harper has announced that he wants to build the Nanisivik airport and deep-water port on Baffin Island in Nunavut and a northern Canada military training base at Resolute Bay. Among them is Nanisivik’s deep-water port, construction on which began in 2013 and will be completed in 2016. Nanisivik and Resolute Bay are close to each other, and after construction on Canada’s northern military training base is completed, it will be used as a year-round Arctic war-fighting training base, one that can accommodate one hundred people for training.125

In Section II, “The special characteristics of re-militarization in the Arctic region,” TANG covers what he sees as three specific problems of re-militarization that require redress. The first observation is that “The speed of the deployment of military power in the Arctic has obviously increased, and nuclear pollution issues especially stand out.” To this observation he adds two ancillary ones: “The developmental trends of re-militarization in the Arctic are obvious” and “The deployment of nuclear submarines and the use of nuclear power have given prominence to the issue of nuclear pollution in the Arctic.”

Second is that “Inconsistencies have been shown between the official documents and actual movements of each state,” to which he adds to more derivative observations: “Each state is giving the Arctic region unprecedented amounts of attention” and “All sides have hopes for cooperation, but each also emphasizes that they absolutely will protect the national interests of their countries.”

Third is that “There is a lack of effective legal mechanisms focused specifically on dealing with the topic of Arctic military affairs.”

In Section III, “Choices of Ways and Means for Dealing with the Development of Re-militarization in the Arctic Region,” TANG offers “three substantive measures … that may be adopted for dealing effectively with issues brought about by the re-militarization of the Arctic region.” Each of these measures is developed in a separate paragraph:

First is construction at the institutional level, which would involve concluding treaties to raise the effectiveness of existing governance mechanisms …

Second is developing cooperation in military security, which would involve establishing new types of military fora to strengthen communication between each country …

Finally, entrusting the Arctic Council with the function of harmonized handling of issues pertaining to Arctic military affairs could be considered …126

TANG then concludes his article with this paragraph:

At present, each Arctic state needs first to make clear and definite its own military policies, principles, and the rules and regulations for its actions in the Arctic region. Upon this foundation of concluding treaties, establishing military fora, and other ways for handling issues pertaining to the re-militarization of the Arctic, each side should at the same time make clear and definite [its recognition of] the reality that it is [in] a community of shared interests, responsibilities, and destinies in the region, thereby ensuring peace, utilization, and regional stability in the Arctic region.127

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ITEM G: "China is Not a Benign Power" (by David Curtis Wright)

China as ruled by the Chinese Communist Party today is not a benign power internationally or domestically, and as such the benignity of its long-term Arctic intentions, policies, and objectives is highly suspect. That China is hardly a well-behaved and exemplary member of the international community really ought to be axiomatic, but because it apparently is not, the point bears reiteration.

External aggression

Externally, the People’s Republic of China has fought several intense wars and battles against its regional neighbours since its founding in 1949. In his classic rethinking of the history of China’s strategic culture, Canadian Sinologist and Harvard professor Alastair Iain Johnston lays bare the stark picture of China’s military actions post-1949:

According to the data set on foreign-policy crises generated by Wilkenfeld, Brecher, and Moser, the PRC has been involved in eleven foreign-policy crises and resorted to violence in eight (72%) of these through 1985.128 This is proportionately far more than the other major powers in the twentieth century. The comparable figures for the U.S., USSR, and U.K. from 1927-1985 are 18%, 27%, and 12 % respectively. And, according to these researchers, the Chinese use of violence has been what they label “high intensity,” involving “serious clashes” or “full-scale war.” (Wilkenfeld, Brecher, Moser 1988, 2:161).129

Further, China’s obdurate failure or refusal to recognize the adamantine fact that its military actions can be and are seen by its regional neighbours as ominous and aggressive is precipitous and dangerous:

The most significant conclusion of this book is the persistence of a shared myth among Chinese decision makers and researchers, symbolized by the Great Wall. This fortification is essential to understanding China’s contemporary strategic disposition. For many Chinese soldiers and statesmen, it represents a powerful symbol of their belief in a completely defensive Chinese strategic tradition. These elites sincerely believe that they are heirs to an ancient and enduring strategic culture that is purely defensive. This conviction will continue to move these leaders to rationalize virtually any military operation as a defensive action. Beijing seems incapable of recognizing that actions it views as purely defensive may be construed as offensive and threatening in other capitals. The implications of this final observation provide greatest cause for alarm for China’s neighbors in the twenty-first century.130

In the long term, however, the ignis fatuus of the innately defensive and unaggressive nature of all Chinese military action may, at some point, ultimately be dispelled and give way to a more assertive and frankly offensive one:

Like its imperial predecessors, the PRC has made the pursuit of power the core element of its security policy. Beijing’s adoption of a defensive grand strategy reflects its relative weakness vis-à-vis the United States. The crucial question remains: Will China continue to adopt a defensive grand strategy when it reaches power parity with the United States? This is ultimately an empirical question that only the future can answer. However, this study suggests that, based on both theory and history, China will gradually shift to an offensive grand strategy when it has accumulated sufficient power. A wealthy and powerful China will tend to be more assertive in regional and global affairs, expand political and economic interests abroad, and dictate the boundaries of acceptable state behavior; it may be tempted to use coercive or non-peaceful means to advance security interests or resolve disputes.131

China has never apologized to the people of Cambodia (Kampuchea) for supporting and defending the infamously murderous Khmer Rouge regime of Maoist Cambodian dictator Pol Pot (1925-1998), a regime responsible for perpetrating the Cambodian genocide of 1975 to 1979, when an estimated 1.5 to three million Cambodian people died or were killed by the state.132

China is ruthlessly using imperialistic, predatory lending practices and the debt traps they entail to drive smaller countries to the brink of fiscal ruin and then take advantage of them. This amounts to neo-colonial “debt-trap diplomacy in which China angles to gain influence overseas by bankrupting its partners and bending them to its will.” Montenegro, a Balkan state well beyond China’s region, used Chinese loans to build a highway but now finds, with the highway only halfway built, that it “faces the prospect of incurring debt of more than 80 per cent of its gross domestic product.” Sri Lanka became so mired in debt to China that it was forced to lease a port to a Chinese company for 99 years, a port that the United States and Japan are well aware could be used as a naval base. A Chinese-built railway through Laos is worth half that country’s entire GDP! (According to Gareth Evans, a former Australian foreign minister, Laos and Cambodia are now “wholly owned subsidiaries of China.”) In August 2018 the Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, announced that his country was cancelling two multi-billion dollar Chinese projects because he did not want to see Malaysia go so far in hock to China that relations between the two countries would amount, in his words, to “a new version of colonialism.” In several countries China has built Chinese-only gated communities that more than subtly resemble the foreign concession areas in nineteenth-century Chinese cities so hated by China then and now as symbols of imperialist bullying.133 This all seems to add up, as The Washington Post recently opined, not to “socialism with Chinese characteristics” but “imperialism with Chinese characteristics.”134

China disputes Japan’s sovereignty over Japan’s Senkaku Islands (“Diaoyu Islands” in Chinese)135 and lays territorial claim to all of the South China Sea, despite the protests of five other Asian countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam) about China’s intrusion into territorial waters they also claim. In its confrontations and blustering in the East and South China Seas, China walks a fine line between enforcement actions and outright military action:

China has leveraged its growing power to assert its sovereignty claims over features in the East and South China Seas. China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict. In the East China Sea, China continued to use maritime law enforcement ships and aircraft to patrol near the Senkaku Islands to challenge Japan’s claim. In the South China Sea, China continued construction at its military outposts in the Spratly Islands. Important milestones in 2016 included landing civilian aircraft on its airfields on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs, as well as landing a military transport aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef. In July 2016 an arbitral tribunal constituted under the compulsory dispute settlement procedures in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) issued a ruling in favor of the Philippines with respect to issues involving the interpretation and application of the LOSC. Among other things, the tribunal ruled that China’s “nine-dash line” cannot represent a lawful maritime claim to the extent that any of the claims it reflects would exceed the limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention. The tribunal did not rule on sovereignty claims to land features, an issue that is outside the scope of the Convention. China rejected the ruling.136

On Nov. 10, 2004 a submerged Chinese submarine brazenly intruded into Japan’s territorial waters and remained there for two days, not even trying very hard to hide. It was an old and noisy Han-class nuclear submarine that was easily tracked by Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the purposes of its intrusion were likely to conduct reconnaissance, intimidate Japan, help China’s territorial claims against Japan in the East China Sea, and probe the submarine detection capabilities of Japan and the United States.137 Beijing ultimately “expressed regret” through diplomatic channels and made the pathetically flimsy claim that its submarine had intruded due to “technical reasons.”138

China’s recent campaigns of interference in the domestic politics and internal affairs of countries well beyond its region are coming to light, as in Australia139 and especially in New Zealand, where threats and intimidation against Professor Anne-Marie Brady (including break-ins in both her office and home in New Zealand), the world’s foremost expert on China’s ambitions in the Arctic (and the Antarctic), have occurred.140

Internal repression and oppression

Internally, China’s government is anything but democratic; it is instead a political dictatorship, one that is historically responsible for the manmade famine141 of 1959-1961 that resulted in thirty- six million deaths by starvation.142 (That is more than the entire population of Canada today!143 Even the estimated seventeen to twenty-two million Chinese civilian deaths in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War {1937-1945}144 were much less than this.) During the Cultural Revolution, a ten-year period of chaos and turmoil in China launched in 1966 by Mao and his supporters, anywhere from 500,000 to eight million people were murdered by Red Guards and other thugs doing the Maoists’ bidding. The death toll estimates vary widely because research into the Cultural Revolution is now officially discouraged in China. A fairly precise tallying of the death toll is well known to the higher echelons of the Chinese communist government, but it is a highly classified state secret and has not been divulged. The Chinese government discourages Chinese scholars in China from studying the Cultural Revolution and even attempts to prevent overseas scholars from doing research on it in China.145

The number of unarmed civilians murdered in Beijing by government troops during the Tiananmen Massacre in the wee hours of June 4, 1989 will likely never be known, but a credible and sober estimate soon after the massacre put it at somewhere between 400 and 800: “The true number of deaths will probably never be known, and it is possible that thousands of people were killed without leaving evidence behind. But based on the evidence that is now available, it seems plausible that about a dozen soldiers and policemen were killed, along with 400 to 800 civilians.”146 Tiananmen Mothers, a group of mothers founded in September 1989 whose children were murdered during the June 4 carnage, has worked tirelessly since the massacre to tally the names of victims and information about them. As of August 2011 the group had, despite government surveillance, harassment, interference, isolation tactics, and intimidation campaigns, collected information on 202 victims and published their names on the Chinese-language Tiananmen Mothers website.147 In 2016 DING Zilin, a retired philosophy professor and founder of the group, told the New York Times that she could not be interviewed and that there were “people watching and checking at my door.” Her phone line was later cut.148

Up until the present, the Communist Party of China and the government it controls has neither acknowledged its culpability in any of these catastrophes nor apologized to the Chinese people for them.

Freedom House, an NGO founded in 1941 that evaluates and advocates political freedom, democracy, and human rights throughout the world, said of China in 2017 that the country “received a downward trend arrow due to the chilling effect on private and public discussion, particularly online, generated by cybersecurity and foreign NGO laws, increased Internet surveillance, and heavy sentences handed down to human rights lawyers, microbloggers, grassroots activists, and religious believers.” In 2017 it rated China in 2017 as “not free” with freedom ranked at 6.5/7, political rights at an abysmal 7/7, and civil liberties at 6/7 (7 being the least free and 1 the freest).149 In the Human Freedom Index for 2017 carefully prepared by America’s Cato Institute, Canada’s Fraser Institute, and Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Taiwan is ranked at eighteenth (just behind the United States at seventeenth and well ahead of Japan at twenty-seventh and South Korea at twenty-ninth) in its list of 159 countries, while China comes in at an abysmal and shameful 130th.150

China continues today to stalk, harass, intimidate, and abuse its citizens. Amnesty International’s report on China for 2016 and 2017 is nothing short of scathing:

The government [of China has] continued to draft and enact a series of new national security laws that presented serious threats to the protection of human rights. The nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists continued throughout the year. Activists and human rights defenders continued to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest, and detention. Police detained increasing numbers of human rights defenders outside of formal detention facilities, sometimes without access to a lawyer for long periods, exposing the detainees to the risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Booksellers, publishers, activists and a journalist who went missing in neighbouring countries in 2015 and 2016 turned up in detention in China, causing concerns about China’s law enforcement agencies acting outside their jurisdiction. Controls on the Internet, mass media, and academia were significantly strengthened. Repression of religious activities outside of direct state control increased. Religious repression conducted under “anti-separatism” or “counter-terrorism” campaigns remained particularly severe in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas.151

One of these Hong Kong booksellers told the author in person in Calgary in the spring of 2017 about the isolation, psychological abuse, and torrent of lies he endured during his captivity in mainland China.152

As of this writing (mid February 2018), GUI Minhai remains the one Hong Kong-based bookseller still in extrajudicial detention in China. On Oct. 17, 2015 GUI, a naturalized Swedish citizen and bookseller in Hong Kong, was kidnapped from his vacation home in Thailand by Chinese agents. Under Chinese law, a Chinese citizen who, like GUI, secures a foreign passport is no longer a citizen of China. Nonetheless, Beijing felt still free to nab GUI with impunity from a third sovereign country and then to coerce a “confession”153 from him that he had returned to China of his own free will to face charges for a decade-old traffic accident. When Swedish diplomats came to GUI’s aid, Chinese security forces were enraged and forced him to cop another concocted “confession,” this time with the risible claim that Sweden was supposedly causing much inconvenience for him and “manipulating” him.154 Undeceived and undaunted, the Swedish government continues to demand GUI’s release.155 In mid September 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden there was a garden-variety fracas between nervy and demanding Chinese tourists and a Swedish hotelier. When police arrived because the tourists refused to leave at the request of hotel personnel, the tourists pitched a scene, lay down on the sidewalk, and wailed that the Swedish police were “killing people.” Video footage of the incident published by the New York Times and other news outlets comes across as melodramatic and highly exaggerated. The Chinese embassy in Stockholm seized upon this incident and footage to lambast the Swedish government for its violation of the very human rights it so assiduously upholds. The Chinese embassy in Stockholm even went as far as making an announcement to Chinese citizens that Sweden was not a safe place, a claim patently absurd on its face. The entire incident was transparently hyped up by the Chinese government as a way of getting back at Sweden for continuing to press for the release of GUI Minhai.156

China is now (2018) rounding up hundreds of thousands (and perhaps as many as a million or more by UN estimations) of ethnic Uighurs (an Islamic Turkic people) in Xinjiang and forcing them against their will into concentration camps for brainwashing. New prison camps are continually being built, and the number of them had doubled by September 2018. The purpose is to eliminate almost all vestiges of religious conviction in their hearts and minds. The Chinese communists are treating belief in Islam as if it were a mental illness that requires “medical” (i.e., concentration camp) intervention. Inmates are often denied contact with their families and loved ones and not informed of how long they will be imprisoned in the camps. There are reports of abuses of inmates in these prison camps, including torture and being compelled to consume pork and drink alcoholic beverages, both forbidden to Muslims. In one jurisdiction in Xinjiang, police officials admitted to Radio Free Asia that they had been ordered to round up and imprison forty percent of the entire local Uighur population! All of this is done in the name of eradicating religious extremism and terrorism, but in actuality the Chinese communists are going much farther than this and are attempting to replace Islam with quasi-religious personality cult veneration of Xi Jinping. This includes thanking him instead of God for their food, swearing allegiance to the Communist Party and even personally to Xi, and disavowing their belief in Islam.157

Politically, the Chinese communist party-state has no intention of democratizing itself or of tolerating any more liberalization and openness than it has already, and roseate hopes to the contrary are misplaced and naïve. On March 10, 2011 WU Bangguo, the head of the National People’s Congress (the Communist Party’s ceremonial and theatrical rubber-stamp parliament), announced Beijing’s diktat on the “Five Things that Shall Not Be Done”:158

Multi-party system of party alternation in government (i.e., multi-party democracy)

Pluralization of guiding ideology Tripartite separation of powers and bicameral legislature

Federal system

Privatization

These were followed up on May 13, 2013 with the “Seven Things that Shall Not [Even] Be Discussed”:159

Universal values

Freedom of the news media

Civil society

Civil rights

Historical errors of the Chinese Communist Party

Crony capitalism

Judicial independence

In short, the unelected and anti-democratic Chinese communists have insisted and ensured that any political institution, arrangement, or concept that would even begin to threaten their iron grip on political power in China will never be accepted or tolerated.

The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index for 2017-2018 measures the rule-of-law performance in 113 selected countries in terms of eight key concerns: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice. China, which in its average score for all of these concerns comes out at .5 (with 1.0 as the maximum possible score) and achieves a global rank of 75th overall out of the 113 countries, fares best in Order and Security, with a respectably high score of .80, or 28th of the 113 countries. It fares worst in Constraints on Government Powers (.40, with a global ranking of 100/113) and especially in Fundamental Rights, where at an abysmal 0.31 it comes in at a global ranking of 108/113. Only Cameroon (109/113), Egypt (110/113), Afghanistan (111/113), Cambodia (112/113) and Venezuela (113/113) fare worse. (The five highest-scoring countries were, from top down, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Canada came in at ninth place, Singapore at thirteenth, Japan at fourteenth, the U.S. at nineteenth, and Mexico at ninety-second.160)

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ITEM H: China’s pushiness in the Arctic (by David Curtis Wright)

Pushiness, brusqueness, and imperiousness may occasionally seem to be the order of the day for China in Canada and elsewhere. Beijing has in fact occasionally displayed unseemly assertiveness in Canada, and at least once even in the Arctic. One foretaste of China’s possible future assertiveness and pushiness in Arctic affairs might have occurred, perhaps unwittingly, in August 2013 in what the Chinese media dubbed the “LI Xuejiang push-pull incident.”161 On Aug. 23, 2013 LI Xuejiang, a former Washington correspondent and the bureau chief for the People’s Daily (the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper), had been travelling in the Arctic following Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his week-long tour there. When Harper’s staff declined to allow LI to ask Harper a question because LI was not on the approved list of journalists (the numbers of questions journalists could ask were limited), LI became miffed and huffy. He tried to snatch the microphone away from the person holding it and ask his question anyway. In an unseemly and ungentlemanly display of pique and temper, LI ended up in a tussle with Harper’s spokeswoman, Julie Vaux, and actually pushed her.

The ensuing scuffle made it necessary for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police security staff present to intervene and separate LI from the scene.162 LI later complained that the Mounties had treated him roughly, but they had not; they employed remove-and-deescalate tactics by taking him from the fracas and then immediately letting him go, without charging him with assault. That the Mounties had to resort to these tactics in the first place should have been highly embarrassing to LI and indeed to the entire Chinese press contingent present. The seemingly imperceptive and clueless LI, however, was unfazed and uncontrite about the entire incident. He later even stooped to playing the race card in talking about why he had not been allowed to ask a question: “For racial reasons? They didn’t give me any reason.”163 In the wake of this dust-up, the Canadian government banned Chinese media (the Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily) from Harper’s next Arctic trip in August 2014 due to “past incidents and behaviours,” his spokesman told reporters.164 The incident eventually blew over, with the Canadian government, as per usual, not pressing the Chinese government as much as it should have for an apology. (Canada excels at apologizing to others but not at standing up for itself when it is itself due an apology.) One shudders to imagine how explosive the public outcry would have been in China if a Western reporter there had pushed a female Chinese government official in a similar manner!

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References

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2017 “Ageing Tigers, Hidden Dragons.” Voice of Asia, Third Edition, September 2017. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/economy/voice-of-asia/sept-2017/demographics-ageing-tigers-hidden-dragons.html Accessed July 27, 2018.

EDEL, Charles and Dougal Robinson
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2015 “Roshia ga sentōki to misairu de ‘Hokkyokugun’ o zōkyō ロシアが戦闘機とミサイルで 北極軍」を増強” (“Russia Strengthens its ‘Arctic Forces’ with Fighter Aircrafts and Missiles.” Newsweek Japan, Sept. 2, 2015. https://www.newsweekjapan.jp/stories/world/2015/09/post-3885.php Accessed Feb. 19, 2018.

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End Notes

1 YANG 2015a. In this article I have, for the benefit and reference of non-Sinophones, indicated surnames or family names in ALL CAPS.

2 For the full text of the white paper see http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-01/26/c_136926498_2.htm Accessed Feb. 8, 2018.

3 Brady 2017, 222

4 Jakobson 2010, 13

5 GUO 2012  

6 Forms of the term “strategy” (strategy, strategies, strategic) occur three times in the English version of the document in scattered contexts, none with any significant military content.  

7 SUN 2018

8 Brady 2017, 222-23

9 Brady 2017, 38, 87

10 Brady 2017, 249  

11 Rodman 2018

12 On the early stages of these, see Wright 2011.

13 Quoted in Lackenbauer et al 2018, 15.

14 http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?histland Accessed Feb. 20, 2018.

15 http://brilliantmaps.com/human-hemisphere/ Accessed Feb. 20, 2018.   

16 This must have been a mistake on the part of the author of the piece, Christoph Seidler: the northernmost extent of China is 53°33’ N, a point Zhao certainly would have known.

17 Seidler 2013

18 If China allowed the Netherlands admission into the exclusive NAS club even though its northernmost point of 53°33’18” is just a smidgeon south of Mohe County’s northernmost point, the Netherlands would be a member of a club of nineteen developed Global North countries.

19 The optical and acoustic implications of China’s self-designated status as an NAS are interesting: Shall China and the other developed economies of the Global North have the lion’s share of the wealth of the Arctic?

20 https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2012/china-defines-itself-near-arctic-state-says-sipri Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

21 http://english.cntv.cn/2016/12/22/VIDEtaNtskOBzIzFoaI9xmxj161222.shtml  

22 I watched Part 5 of this documentary on cable television in Calgary in early February 2018.

23 https://www.tourism-review.com/chinese-tourists-attracted-by-the-russian-arctic-news10449 Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

24 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldsupremws/wp/2018/02/09/antarctica-is-such-a-trendy-vacation-spot-that-chinese-officials-made-a-dont-touch-penguins-rule/?utm_term=.2b580dd30fad Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

25 Brady 2017

26 Lackenbauer et al 2018, 25-26  

27 Lackenbauer et al 2018, 24

28 On which see Fischer 1970, 283-90.

29 On which see Fischer 1970, 51-53.

30 Largely because of Waldron 1990.

31 Brady 2017, 70-71

32 Brady 2017, 47

33 Brady 2017, 76-77

34 Brady 2017, 61

35 Brady 2017, 258  

36 Brady 2017, 1  

37 Pillsbury 2015, 15

38 The Huanqiu Ribao 環球日報 is the Chinese-language counterpart of this newspaper. Both parrot Communist Party positions.

39 Pillsbury 2015, 14. “Some of my colleagues,” Pillsbury writes a few pages earlier, “wrongly dismiss the ying pai [hawks, hardliners, nationalists] as nuts. To me, they represent the real voice of China.” (Pillsbury 2015, 3)

40FANG 2014; emphasis added.   

41 NI and LI 2016. For extended translation of key passages in this article, see Appendix Item A.  

42 The term in Chinese used here, quanqiu qihou nuanhua, does indeed mean “global climate warming” and not “global warming” or “climate change.”

43 TANG 2013. For a more extended and contextual translation of two key paragraphs from this article, see Appendix Item B.

44 Wishnick 2017, 29  

45 LI 2014. For much more extensive translation and commentary on this article, see Appendix Item C.

46 Haijun Junshi Xueshu Yanjiusuo 海軍軍事學術研究所. The English-language abstract published in the article gives the English name of the academy as “Institute of Naval Military Science,” but this is incorrect.

47 The Chinese title can be seen under YANG 2015a in the bibliography, along with other pertinent information.

48 YANG 2015a  

49 YANG 2015a

50 YANG 2015a

51 Actually, it will be necessary for this support to be at more than “a certain level.” This is because “Russia, after the United States, is the other great polar power in the world today. China finds working with Russia on Arctic issues challenging, but ultimately, China has to find a way to co-operate with Russia, because Russia is China’s main gateway to the Arctic.” (Brady 2017, 232)  

52 That Chinese scientific investigations in the Arctic are conducted mostly for larger geopolitical, geostrategic, and future resource extraction purposes and advantage has been admitted or acknowledged by many Chinese officials. (Brady 2017, 102-03, 131, 139-40, 152-53, 163, 172-73, 262) Chinese polar science is in fact largely second-rate and derivative; on this see Brady 2017, 171-73 (138-76).

53 YANG 2015a

54 On the geostrategic significance of being “free to roam,” see Mearsheimer 2015. Here Mearsheimer recommends that the purpose of American power should be to “maintain U.S. dominance in the Western Hemisphere and prevent China from achieving regional hegemony in Asia.”

55 YANG 2015a. See Appendix Item D for much more extensive translations of, and commentaries on, key passages in this article.  

56 Wishnick 2017, 32

57 YANG 2015b. Accessed March 1, 2018.

58 http://www.mod.gov.cn/topnews/2017-04/28/content_4779420.htm Accessed March 1, 2018.

59 The committee apparently selected prize-winning papers for their political content and orientation and their expressed fealty to current Chinese dictator XI Jinping.

60 “Jianshe yu woguo guoji diwei xiangcheng di qiangda haijun di zhanlue sikao 建设与我国国际地位相称的强大海军的战略思考”  

61 http://www.mod.gov.cn/topnews/2017-04/28/content_4779420.htm Accessed March 1, 2018.

62 I draw attention to LI Zhenfu here not because I wish to “amplify the voices of the most aggressive Chinese analysts” (Lackenbauer et al 2018, 9), but because LI is, as best the author can determine, among the few Chinese scholars commenting at all about what involvement the Chinese military might eventually have in Arctic affairs. LI’s opinions have a certain influence in Chinese policy-making, but as always, they are his own and are not necessarily shared by the Chinese communist party-state. The extent to which they have a bearing on incipient policy directions is not entirely unclear.

63 LI et al 2015  

64 LI 2009, 100; emphasis added.

65 LI 2011, 32. For context and analysis of this suggestion, see Wright 2011, 9, 22-23, and 40 n.25.

66 Brady 2017a, 31  

67 LI et al 2015, 32  

68 LI et al 2015, 34. See Appendix Item E for much more complete translations of, and commentary on, key passages from this article.

69 SUN 2013, 5

70 Lackenbauer et al 2018, 77. The citation here is to page 55 of my son’s 2013 master’s thesis for the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. This was something I had told Timmy, and for a time I believed it to be accurate. I was wrong. I had been deceived.   

71 http://military.people.com.cn/n1/2018/0601/c1011-30027391.html Accessed July 26, 2018.

72 See, for example, WANG 2008.  

73 Mahan 1948, 129, 132

74 Brady 2017, 237

75 Holmes and YOSHIHARA 2009

76 PLAN Headquarters Intelligence Service 2013, translator’s preface (no page number given)  

77 TANG 2015, 44  

78 TANG 2015, 48. For more complete and extensive translations of key passages in the article, along with commentary on them, see Appendix Item F.  

79 http://mil.firefox.sina.com/17/0625/18/S12CLHIY0V5K6NDX_2.html Accessed Sept. 18, 2018.

80 This statement is, of course, patently absurd on its face.

81 Likewise patently absurd.

82 https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/1673068268170252507.html Accessed Feb. 18, 2018.

83 Lackenbauer et al 2018, 182 n. 69 lists several such studies (which the volume downplays).  

84 Sommer 2013

85 Koizumi 2017. Koizumi here means Franz Joseph Land.

86 Scharkov 2015

87 Grynszpan 2017  

88 http://mobile.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2013/09/17/la-russie-rouvre-une-base-militaire-dans-l-arctique_3478811_3214.html Accessed Feb. 19, 2018.

89 Siedler 2013

90 Rodman 2018

91 Brady 2017, 235

92 Brady 2017, 220

93 Pillsbury 2015, 12  

94 Brady 2017, 224-25

95 Brady 2017, 224-25

96 Brady 2017, 242

97 Brady 2017, 225  

98 French 2017, 185. For more on China’s vastly greying population, see Gray 2017 and Deloitte 2017.

99 On China’s pushiness in the Arctic, see Appendix Item H.

100 On these break-ins see, inter alia, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11995384 and https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/101568957/new-zealand-political-dissident-upsets-the-apple-cart-over-chinas-influence Both accessed Feb. 19, 2018. See also the NYT report dated 21 September 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/21/world/asia/new-zealand-break-ins-academic.html Accessed 21 September 2018.  

101 Wright 2014, 23. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

102 Rodman 2018  

103 Hai Zhongguo zhi xin buke you; fang Zhonggong zhi xin buke wu 害中國之心不可有, 防中共 之心不可 無.  

104 IAI Searcher   

105 NI and LI, 2016.  

106 The term in Chinese used here, quanqiu qihou nuanhua, does indeed mean “global climate warming” and not “global warming” or “climate change.”

107 TANG 2013  

108 https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/nat_arctic_strategy.pdf Accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

109 https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/Strategy/cg_arctic_strategy.pdf Accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

110 https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2016-Arctic-Strategy-UNCLAS-cleared-for-release.pdf Accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

111 All translations in this section are of passages in LI 2014.  

112 The fourth item seems to be missing from the article!  

113 LI 2014  

114 The English-language title of the article given in the article itself is “Changes in World Geo-strategic Situation and Countermeasures after the All-year-open of Arctic Channel,” but this is of course clumsy and inaccurate.  

115 Weiyu choumou 未雨綢繆  

116 Actually, it will be necessary for this support to be at more than “a certain level.” This is because “Russia, after the United States, is the other great polar power in the world today. China finds working with Russia on Arctic issues challenging, but ultimately China has to find a way to cooperate with Russia, because Russia is China’s main gateway to the Arctic.” (Brady 2017, 232)

117 Many Chinese officials have admitted that Chinese scientific investigations in the Arctic are conducted mostly for larger geopolitical, geostrategic, and future resource extraction purposes and advantages (Brady, 2017, 102-03, 131, 139-40, 152-53, 163, 172-73, 262). Chinese polar science is in fact largely second-rate and derivative; on this see Brady 2017, 171-73 (138-76).  

118 The Chinese here is Beiji Zhanlue Silingbu 北極戰略司令部, which does mean “Arctic Strategic Command.” This is presumably the Northern Fleet Strategic Command or the Arctic Joint Strategic Command and North Unified Strategic Command.

119 YANG 2015a, 11  

120 LI et al 2015, 32

121 LI et al 2015, 32  

122 LI et al 2015, 34  

123 LI et al 2015, 34  

124 TANG 2015, 44  

125 TANG 2015, 45-46

126 TANG 2015, 48  

127 TANG 2015, 48  

128 Here Johnston adds a footnote: “If one includes the Sino-Vietnamese naval clashes in the Spratlys in 1988, then the figure rises to 75%.”

129 Johnston 1995, 256

130 Scobell 2003, 198; emphasis added.  

131 WANG 2011, 208

132 Fey 2009, 83

133 狗與本地人不得入內?

134 On China’s debt-trap diplomacy, see Pomfret 2018.

135 On the fatuousness and fallaciousness of China’s territorial claims on the Senkakus, never made until 1971, when “after decades of complete ignorance the two Chinese governments in Taipei and Beijing both suddenly discovered that they owned the Senkaku islands,” see Turton 2013.  

136 https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017_China_Military_Power_Report.PDF?ver=2017-06-06-141328-770 Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

137 For details on the Chinese submarine’s intrusion, see Dutton 2009, 4.

138 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2004/11/13/national/chinese-submarine-intrusion-considered-an-act-of-provocation/#.WmlQFIJlBBw ; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46479-2004Nov12.html ; http://articles.latimes.com/2004/nov/17/world/fg-sub17 All accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

139 On which see, inter alia, Edel and Robinson 2018 and Hamilton 2018.

140 On which see Brady 2017b https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11995384 (accessed Aug. 30, 2018) and https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2133969/new-zealand-investigates-claims-chinese-link-break-ins. (Accessed Aug. 30, 2018.) China has even also begun attempts at interfering with political freedoms in Germany; on this see https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/opinion/china-germany-tech-manufacturing.html Accessed Jan. 25, 2018.

141 Chinese communist propaganda euphemistically refers to the years of the Great Leap Forward famine as “the three years of natural disasters,” but this is a smokescreen, a red herring designed to distract attention from the truth that the famine was caused by Mao’s madcap agricultural policies and the unwillingness of anyone (except possibly PENG Dehuai) in the Chinese government to go or speak against these policies. Long ago, Nobel Laureate (economics) and Harvard professor Amartya Sen (Sen 1981,10) showed that the causes of famine are not food shortages or natural calamity, but rather factors well within the realm of human control. The opening sentence of his classic book on famines is “Starvation is  the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat.” He later stated further (Sen 1999, 16) that “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy – be it economically rich (as in contemporary Western Europe or North America) or relatively poor (as in post-independence India, or Botswana, or Zimbabwe).”

142 YANG 2008, 3. This is now the best and most definitive study of the Great Leap Forward famine. YANG Jisheng, a mainland Chinese journalist who worked for Xinhua News Agency (China’s state-run news outlet and propaganda arm) until his retirement in 2001, had his faith in the Communist Party of China shattered in 1989 in the wake of the Tiananmen Massacre.

143 According to Statistics Canada, the total population of Canada in 2016 was 35,151,728. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/12-581-x/2017000/pop-eng.htm Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

144 Clodfelter 2001, 2,.956

145 SONG 2011

146 Kristof 1989. The best single volume on the Tiananmen Massacre is probably still Brook 1998.

147 http://www.tiananmenmother.org/index_files/Page480.htm Elsewhere, the website maps out the locations of where victims were murdered. Accessed Feb. 1, 2018.

148 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/02/world/asia/china-ding-zilin-tiananmen-mothers.html Accessed Feb. 1, 2018.  

149 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/china Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

150 https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/human-freedom-index-2017-web.pdf Accessed Aug. 28, 2018.

151 https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/china/report-china/ Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

152 Among the lies his jailers told him was that he was now completely forgotten in Hong Kong and that nobody in the world remembered or cared about him any longer. The liars’ purpose was to wither away his psychological stamina and health, but much to his credit, he never did break or crack.

153 Fiskesjö 2017 weighs Beijing’s coerced confessions and show trials in the balance and finds them more than wanting.

154 http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1089079.shtml Accessed Feb. 12, 2018. The English-language Global Times newspaper is a pro-Beijing rag and informal propaganda mouthpiece for the CCP.

155 https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/25/opinions/gui-minhai-china-caster-intl/index.html  

156 On the incident, see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/world/asia/chinese-tourists-sweden-vacation.html. (Accessed September 21, 2018.) For a detailed and credible Swedish account of what really happened, see http://inbeijing.se/bulletin/2018/09/17/all-the-details-you-need-on-the-chinese-tourists-who-were-brutality-handled-by-swedish-police/ (accessed September 20, 2018). According to this account, an anonymous source within the Swedish government official said that “this case would have passed by unnoticed had it not been for the continuous demands from Swedish authorities and media to release Gui Minhai, the publisher who has been locked up in China without a trial for almost three months.”

157 On China’s egregious violations of the human rights of ethnic Uighurs see, inter alia, Clarke 2018, Samuel 2018, and Vanderklippe 2018.

158 https://www.cfr.org/blog/partys-never-over-wu-bangguo Accessed Feb. 8, 2018. The translations here of the Five Things are my own.  

159 https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-06-03/7-things-you-cant-talk-about-china Accessed Feb. 8, 2018. The translations here of the Seven Things are likewise my own.

160 China’s score profile is on page 64 of the World Justice Rule of Law Index 2017-2018 Report, downloadable at https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/wjp-rule-law-index/wjp-rule-law-index-2017%E2%80%932018 Accessed Jan. 31, 2018.  

161 LI Xuejiang tuila shijian 李學江推啦事件

162 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harpers-northern-tour-ends-with-tussle-involving-chinese-reporter/article13941949/ Accessed Jan. 31, 2018.

163 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/stephen-harper-bans-chinese-media-from-arctic-trip-1.2744310 Accessed Jan. 31, 2018.

164 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/stephen-harper-bans-chinese-media-from-arctic-trip-1.2744310 Accessed Jan. 31, 2018. Extensive video footage of the LI Xuejiang scuffle was previously available on the Internet, but for whatever reason, most of it is apparently no longer available as of this writing (Jan. 31, 2018).  

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About the Author

David Curtis Wright (Department of History, University of Calgary) earned his PhD from Princeton University in East Asian Studies. His research and writing interests include imperial Chinese history, the Mongol conquest of China, Taiwan under Qing and Nationalist Chinese rule, and China’s interests in the Arctic. He is co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Chinese Military History, now in its seventh year, and a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.  

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Canadian Global Affairs Institute

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In all its activities the Institute is a charitable, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization that provides a platform for a variety of viewpoints. It is supported financially by the contributions of individuals, foundations, and corporations. Conclusions or opinions expressed in Institute publications and programs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Institute staff, fellows, directors, advisors or any individuals or organizations that provide financial support to, or collaborate with, the Institute.

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