International
Wikimedia Commons/ Timo Palo

China’s Busy Year in the Arctic

Having officially laid out its Arctic policy last year, 2018 was an eventful year for China in the far North.

January 2018 saw the first formulation of an official Chinese Arctic policy in the release of its Arctic White Paper. Besides laying out the country’s interests and intents in the region, the white paper made official a vocabulary that sought to emphasize Beijing’s growing role as a major stakeholder in the Arctic by announcing China to be a “near-Arctic state” — argued mainly on the grounds of (relative) geographical proximity and the adverse effects that a warming Arctic would have on China’s coastal areas and various industrial and agricultural sectors. The document also sought to fold the “Polar Silk Road” — a predominantly China-Russian partnership established a year prior — into the greater Belt and Road Initiative.

Fast forward 10 months and a blue book edited by the Ocean University of China seeks to assess the country’s level of participation in the governance of the Arctic, concluding that China now has become an “indispensable force in Arctic affairs.” The months between these two documents — and the year 2018 more generally — have greatly reflected this notion, with Chinese actors seemingly more confident in their ways of engaging in Arctic affairs. Consequently, last year was a year of several firsts that demonstrate China’s regional commitment across a range of different sectors.

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