Camilla T. N. Sørensen

The U.S., Russia and China are all assigning higher strategic priority to the Arctic and are strengthening their diplomaticand military presence and activities in the region. For the U.S. and Russia, it links up with the growing security tension in the surrounding regions, e.g. the North Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea region. However, the deepening great power competition with China also increasingly drives Washington’s diplomatic and military offensive in the region. For China, it is a question about ensuring access to Arctic sea routes and resources, e.g. energy, minerals and fisheries, and making sure that China gets a say in Arctic governance. The so-called “Arctic exceptionalism” – i.e. the Arctic as a low-tension region, where the great powers, despite conflicts in other regions, continue to cooperate and refrain from political and military coercion to get their way – is under pressure. This article analyzes how Arctic politics and security are increasingly intertwined with global security developments that are dominated by intensifying U.S.-China security dilemma dynamics. It further discusses the implications for China’s Arctic strategy pointing to how recent developments make it even more difficult for China as the only great power without Arctic territory to ensure its access to and influence in the region. Seen from the perspective of numerous Chinese Arctic scholars, this underlines the growing importance of strengthening China’s economic and strategic cooperation with Russia in the region.

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