Arctic Yearbook 2012
China and the Arctic
editorial review, so it seems highly unlikely that these opinions could be made public in these media
venues without prior authorization from all kinds of commissions and political institutions. The
publication of such incautious opinions could be indicative of Beijing’s willingness to become a more
active player in the Arctic. The growing number of such articles in the print media and on the
Chinese news websites might also be an attempt to prepare public opinion for this eventuality.
what extent, therefore, are these viewpoints reflective of the government’s?
One may also reflect on contentious comments by Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, former president of the
Chinese Naval Strategy Institute, that the Arctic belongs to all the people around the world and that
no nation has sovereignty over it. “The current scramble for the sovereignty of the Arctic among
some nations has encroached on many other nations’ interests,” he observed, arguing that China
should play an indispensable role in Arctic exploration as it shelters one-fifth of the world’s
population (Yin, 2010:11).
Whether the military is pushing the government to be more assertive in the Arctic, or whether the
government is using the military to fly its own kite, is not clear (Blunden, 2012:126)
Also radical are
Li Zhenfu’s declarations that China could stake a claim in the Arctic. Indeed, Li does not explicitly
explain his rationale for this, but argues that in the face of “out-of-control” Arctic littoral state claims
on the Arctic, China should consider “the possibility of our country's open declaration of sovereignty
over the Arctic and Arctic sea routes, as well as territorial claims.” (Li Z., 2010)
It seems distinctly
unlikely, however, that Beijing would push Arctic claims subsequent to a definitive international
resolution of Arctic sovereignty issues; and the trend seems towards resolution rather than growing
conflicts (Wright, 2011), as attested to by the 2010 treaty between Russia and Norway, and the 2012
fast developing negotiations between Canada and Denmark on Hans Island (Humphreys, 2012),
which is the last land dispute in the Arctic and is over a 1km
island in the Nares Strait.
It must be noted, though, that not all Chinese scholars that wrote on political aspects of the Arctic
defended an assertive position from China. Liu Huirong and Liu Xiu (Liu and Liu, 2010), for
instance, hint that Canada’s position is legitimate, while Mei Hong and Wang Zengzhen (Mei and
Wang, 2010) produce a rather balanced analysis of Canada’s claims.
An Active Diplomacy
In parallel with the development of a large-scale research program in the Arctic, China is also
developing its bilateral, mostly commercial and economic relations with small Arctic states, in