China’s role in Arctic governance ‘cannot be ignored’

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/22 23:13:41

Region connected to Beijing’s military, energy security

Photo taken on August 20 shows the outdoor scene of Tian En vessel of China's COSCO Shipping Specialized Carriers Co Ltd during its journey among floating ices through the "Polar Silk Road." A Chinese ice-class cargo ship crossed the Bering Strait on August 17, starting its maiden voyage in the Arctic's Northeast Passage, a waterway known as the "Polar Silk Road." Photo: Xinhua

China has become a "rule maker" in the global governance of the Arctic, a blue paper said Thursday, calling on the country to "stay calm" and respond with action in the face of the hyped-up "China threat" theory.

Jointly released by Beijing-based Social Sciences Academic Press and Qingdao-based Ocean University of China on Thursday, the blue paper said China's role in promoting global governance in the region cannot be ignored.

In terms of global governance of the Arctic, China's role has shifted from a "rule follower" to a "rule maker," said the blue paper.

China has led the governance philosophy and is taking the initiative in shaping the global governance agenda in the Arctic, it stressed.

China is a "near-Arctic country" geographically. The natural conditions and changes in the Arctic have a direct impact on China' s climate system and ecological environment, which in turn affects China's economic interests in the fields of agriculture, forestry, fisheries and oceans, the blue paper said.

Arctic countries also have concerns, of which China is aware, said the blue paper, stressing that maintaining regional security and promoting world peace has been the basic rule of China's diplomatic policies.

The associate editor of the blue paper, Dong Yue, who is the deputy head of the Law School of Ocean University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday that the paper's call for China to "stay calm" means China won't take any "radical" action.

The paper said that China holds the principle of respecting the sovereignty of Arctic states, not hurting their basic rights and guaranteeing the decision-making powers of the Arctic Council. China has been an observer member at the council since 2013.

The "China threat theory" may mean other countries will unfairly raise the threshold for Chinese enterprises to become involved in the development of the Arctic, Zhang Xia, director of the Shanghai-based Polar Strategy Center at the Polar Research Institute of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China's resource development in the Arctic region is conducted via trade and cooperation with Arctic countries, Zhang stressed.

The security in the region is closely related with China's energy, ecological, military and scientific security, said the blue paper.

The land territories in the Arctic cover an area of about 8 million square kilometers, whose sovereignty is held by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US, the Xinhua News Agency reported in January.

The Arctic Ocean has an area of more than 12 million square kilometers, in which coastal and other countries share maritime rights and interests according to international law, said the Xinhua report.

Polar bears play on the Arctic sea ice. Photo: VCG

The new growth point

The Polar Silk Road will be a new growth point for China and its participation in regional affairs will boost the integration of Eurasian economies, the blue paper pointed out.

The Polar Silk Road, a shipping route that traverses the Arctic Circle connecting three major economic centers - North America, East Asia and Western Europe - will help China to save transportation costs of up to $127 billion a year if the route becomes fully operational, the blue paper said.

Chinese enterprises are encouraged to participate in infrastructure development along these routes and conduct commercial trial voyages in line with the law, said a white paper titled "China's Arctic Policy" released in January by the State Council Information Office.

The Polar Silk Road will offer China a channel to explore energy resources, which will facilitate the country's exploration of a new "overseas energy base" in the Arctic region, the blue paper said.

With 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas reserves, the Arctic's potential reserves could turn the region into a frontier for rapid economic development in the 21st century, it said.

Zhang of the Polar Strategy Center told the Global Times that Arctic shipping routes currently have only limited use due to the region's extreme climate conditions and the icebreaking requirements of ships.

According to the blue paper, China's Arctic expeditions started in the 1990s and nine had been conducted by 2018.

Newspaper headline: China ‘key to Arctic devt’

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