Arctic Yearbook 2012
Alexeeva and Lasserre
China’s Official Position Coexists with More Assertive Scholars’ Assertions
Until now China has not yet published any official Arctic strategy. On the contrary, the Chinese
government has always stipulated that it has no official strategy or any particular agenda in the Arctic
region (Spears, 2011). Beijing has adopted a very cautious approach and is vigorously denying having
any aggressive ambition and strategic intention toward Arctic shipping or natural resources
opportunities. For instance, Qu Tanzhou, Director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic
Administration, said that “China did not prospect for oil and gas resources in the Arctic area nor has
the capability or capacity to mine oil and gas there” (Interfax China, 2012).
The Chinese government explains its growing interest and presence in the Arctic mainly by the
necessity of doing research on the climatic changes occurring in the region (Zhang and Ren, 2012).
The air stream of the Arctic seems to be a major cause of the occurrence of extreme weather in
China. Therefore, the Arctic region in fact concerns China’s economic and social development and
security directly (Qin and Chen, 2001).
At the same time, Beijing has pointed out that according to the United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea, all the high sea areas and its resources are the common heritage of mankind, so
China has every right to participate in the exploration of the Arctic (Wang Q., 2010). Though not an
Arctic country, China is located in the northern hemisphere and is directly affected by all the changes
and evolutions in this area. Therefore, it is only natural that China should participate in international
Arctic dialogues and cooperation (Xu, 2012).
As for the sovereignty issues in the Arctic, the debate on limits to place on coastal states’ claims in
the Arctic Ocean is reflected in academic articles (Jia, 2010), but it is not specifically Chinese, as
German scholars notably reflected on it as well (Witschel, 2010). Chinese officials are avoiding any
detailed discussion on this matter, insisting that the respect for sovereignty is a guiding principle of
international relations and of China’s foreign policy.
However, a number of Chinese scholars and professionals seem to have a much less cautious point
of view on the matter. They suggest that the Chinese government abandon its neutral position and
formulate an assertive policy that could help China defend its interests in the Arctic (Jakobson, 2010:
6; Li, 2009; Zhang S., 2010). This rather radical opinion was published not only by leading Chinese
academic journals but also on internet sites of government news networks, such as
. In order to be published in such journals, all articles have to pass through a multilevel