Deng Beixi & Yang Jian

In May 2013, China, together with five other states, was granted observer status in the Arctic Council. By December that year, with joint efforts by Nordic and Chinese research institutes, the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center (CANRC) was established and has evolves from a nascent and immature conception to now a reality and functioning entity that is to eventually develop into a full-fledged platform for academic exchanges between China and Nordic countries. The initiative and development of CNARC has aroused attention from other Arctic and non-Arctic states, marking a highlight of international cooperation on Arctic issues.

Committed to increasing an in-depth and comprehensive awareness, understanding and knowledge of the Arctic and its global impacts and to promoting cooperation for sustainable development of Nordic Arctic and coherent development of China in a global context, CNARC is currently composed of 11 member institutes, 6 from Nordic states and 5 from China, all leading think-tanks and institutes in Arctic studies in their respective country and endowed with capacities to influence, coordinate and initiate Arctic research in their professional fields. CNARC is structured with an Assembly of Member Institutes, a Director and a Secretariat. The Assembly, formed by representatives from each member institute, convenes annually and operates by consensus. The Director and Secretariat are currently hosted at the Polar Research Institute of China, responsible for the routine operations of CNARC and carrying out advice for development from the Assembly.


CNARC facilitates China-Nordic cooperation in the following forms: 1) carrying out joint research projects in accordance with research themes in respect of Arctic climate change, Arctic resources, shipping and economy, as well as Arctic policy-making and legislation; 2) developing Arctic research networks and frontiers by providing opportunities for Chinese and Nordic scholars to conduct Arctic research through fellowship programs; 3) convening regularly the China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium and other workshops; 4) facilitating information sharing and cultural exchanges between China and Nordic countries in Arctic context.

As we may say, the Arctic is a region unique and vulnerable to global climate change and increasing human activities; the trans-regional nature of some Arctic issues, especially in terms of addressing climate change and exploiting shipping routes, requires joint endeavors and broader engagement of both Arctic and Non-arctic states. The Nordic Arctic, as an emerging Arctic geopolitical player, is also home to innovative theories on global governance and sophisticated technologies in ship-building, fishery, eco-energy and offshore oil engineering, leads globally in scientific research and social science studies with regard to the Arctic. China on the other hand, despite a relatively late start and lack of knowledge in the field of Arctic research, possesses advantages in capitals, markets and labor forces, which together lay the foundation for the future China-Nordic cooperation.

Given those circumstance, there is a need for a platform of academic cooperation between China and Nordic countries such as CNARC with the purpose of “building the bridge” and “filling in gaps of knowledge” so that the two parties would have an enhanced understanding of each other. From China’s perspectives, the establishment of CNARC will be helpful to China to understand major issues with regards to the Arctic governance, to figure out main concerns of the Arctic states, to make up for lack in knowledge, as well as to attempt to construct an innovative cooperative model between Arctic and non-Arctic states.

Smooth and fruitful progress has been achieved in the past few months. On one hand, the establishment of CNARC has accelerated and intensified frequent exchanges between China and Nordic countries, as well as among member institutes. For example, the international symposium “Asian Countries and the Arctic Future” held in Shanghai in April 2014, jointly organized by Shanghai Institutes of International Studies and Fridtjof Nansen Institute with the support of CNARC, addressed the topics of Arctic governance and the engagement of Asian stakeholders in the Arctic trans-regional cooperation. Representatives from Japan, Korea, India and Singapore were invited to join the debate. On the other hand, concrete activities are underway. In early June this year, the 2nd China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium took place in Akureyri, Iceland, gathering nearly 50 scholars and researchers from China and Nordic countries, along with government officials and business representatives, to address the topics of Arctic policies and governance, economy and maritime cooperation. With deliberate elaboration, CNARC launched its first fellowship program in May and upon prudent selection, two Nordic and two Chinese fellow candidates were granted the fellowship to advance their own research project that falls on CNARC’s research priorities for a one-month period in an institute within CNARC’s network.

There might be concerns over the openness and inclusiveness of the CNARC’s cooperative framework. In fact this framework is bound to be inclusive and comprehensive, as the experiences of China-Nordic Arctic cooperation will inevitably make a model for cooperation between China and other Arctic states. In the future, CNARC will serve as a platform for various actors in addition to China and Nordic states to promote international cooperation on Arctic governance.

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