Arctic Yearbook 2012
Commentary: China and Arctic Affairs
Arctic affairs, yet non-Arctic countries also have their interests and responsibilities to
assume. As an important international body leading the governance of Arctic issues, the
Arctic Council should provide an inclusive and open platform that can bring in all the
positive forces to facilitate good governance for the Arctic and for the planet. Such is the
rationale behind China’s bid for permanent observer status in the Arctic Council.
Indeed, China has no direct interest and does not seek to gain its influence in the Arctic
region. Peace-keeping, environmental protection and technologic advancement in the region
are compatible with the interests of all nations, including China. As a signatory of the
Svalbard Treaty and the UNCLOS, China enjoys the legitimate rights that are prescribed by
the treaty and the convention. Therefore, China’s scientific activities that are carried out
according to international law should be viewed as an indispensible part of the world’s
undertaking to explore answers and solutions to the region’s environmental problems.
The most pressing issue of Arctic governance is to strike a balance between exploiting
natural resources and protecting natural and social ecology. When the possibility increases in
exploiting natural resources and commercial shipping along the Arctic sea routes, it will
undoubtedly have some impact on China’s economy, especially on its foreign investment,
trade, shipping and energy supply. As a big economy that heavily relies on trade and foreign
energy supplies, China has to estimate the possible changes and their consequences and
make preparations accordingly.
Generally, China should abide by three principles when it gets involved in Arctic affairs and
protects its interests: act according to the relevant international law; follow the trend of
globalization; and maximize bilateral interests between China and the Arctic countries. It is
China’s belief that cooperation with the Arctic countries not only provides more opportunity
for China to make contributions to the region, but also demonstrates China’s resolution as a
protector of the environment and strong supporter of Arctic governance.