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China prepares for an ice-free Arctic
Linda Jakobson
SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security no. 2010/2

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The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months as a result of climate change has impelled the Chinese Government to allocate more resources to research in the High North. Several Chinese academics have encouraged their government to be aware of the political, economic and military implications of shorter shipping routes and untapped energy resources. However, Chinese officials advocate cautious Arctic policies for fear of causing alarm and provoking countermeasures among the Arctic states.

China’s insistence on respect for sovereignty as a guiding principle of international relations deters it from questioning the territorial rights of Arctic states. Furthermore, China is aware that its size and rise to major power status evoke jitters, but at the same time it is striving to position itself so that it will not be excluded from access to the Arctic.

Smaller Arctic Council members have an opportunity to lay the foundation for a unique relationship with China by engaging Chinese officials and academics on Arctic issues—ranging from climate change and maritime rescue operations to commercial shipping routes and resource exploration.


I. Introduction
II. China’s expanding polar research capabilities
III. China’s commercial and strategic interests in the Arctic
IV. China and Arctic politics
V. Conclusions

About the author

Linda Jakobson (Finland) is the Acting Programme Director and Beijing-based Senior Researcher of the SIPRI China and Global Security Programme. She previously worked for 10 years at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), most recently as Director of its China Programme and Senior Researcher. She has lived and worked in China for over 15 years and has published six books on Chinese politics, foreign policy and East Asian society. Her current research focuses on China’s foreign and security policy as well as regional security issues in North East Asia.

Publisher: SIPRI
16 pp.
March 2010


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