By Julia O’Malley
China currently has the widest research infrastructure of any non-Arctic states, which includes the Yellow River Station at Svalbard, the China Iceland Arctic Research Observatory, and the Xuelong and Xuelong 2 icebreakers.
In 2018, China published a document under the self-explanatory title “China’s Arctic Policy”, which states that the People’s Republic of China is a “near-Arctic state”, and the Arctic changes have clear consequences for “China’s economic interests in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, marine economy, and other industries. ”
According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic contains about 30% of still unexplored gas reserves and 13% of oil reserves. Executives in growing Chinese manufacturing are looking at the Arctic as the new resources they need to keep up with China’s economic growth. One of the advantages of the Arctic region in this matter is still a small number of any geopolitical risks compared to other regions rich in natural resources, such as Africa or the Middle East.
Beijing aims at legislative substantiation of the role of non-Arctic states in circumpolar research, economic development of the region, and the implementation of national policy towards the indigenous population.
China intends to conduct scientific research in the Arctic, protect the environment and habitats of indigenous peoples, contribute to the development of the region and participate in its governance. China expresses its respect to other countries, declares its readiness for cooperation, proclaims the mutually beneficial nature of relations, commitment to sustainable development. In the field of security, China declares its commitment to a policy of strengthening peace and stability, ensuring the security of maritime trade, and supporting the rights of all states to use the Arctic. Despite the existing and well-known problems with its own indigenous population, China relies on foreign organizations of indigenous peoples representing the Arctic region.
“Near-ecological” initiatives and projects related to the indigenous population are being implemented by Beijing through WWF China, which has a much higher level of trust and loyalty among the international community. The WWF China Foundation interacts with partner offices in the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, including within the framework of the activities of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Strengthening China’s status in the Arctic agenda through planning documents of the IUCN is considered by Beijing in the context of claims for membership in the Arctic Council. The next IUCN World Congress will be held in Marseille in the first decade of September.
China expects to enlist the support of international organizations of the indigenous peoples of the North, for which it seeks to establish and develop personal contacts with their representatives, as well as initiate cooperation in various areas. Support from the indigenous peoples of the North will allow Beijing to strengthen its role and representation on the Arctic agenda.