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Yang Jian is Vice President of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies
China and Arctic Affairs
Yang Jian
2012 has witnessed increasing Chinese involvement in Arctic affairs. In April, Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao visited Iceland and Sweden, and signed an agreement on collaborative
Arctic scientific investigation with Iceland. In July, China launched its fifth Arctic scientific
investigation and its research ice-breaker
took the Northern Sea Route as its transit
route for the first time. Reasonably, questions concerning China’s intention and interests in
Arctic affairs are widely speculated.
For China, Arctic affairs can be divided into those of a regional nature and those of global
implications. It has been China’s position that the former should be properly resolved
through negotiation between countries of the region. China respects the sovereignty and
sovereign rights of Arctic countries, and hopes that they can collaborate with each other and
peacefully resolve their disputes over territory and sovereignty.
In contrast, China maintains that global Arctic affairs need to be handled through global
governance and multi-party participation, because such trans-continental issues as climate
change, ice melting, environmental pollution and ecological crisis all pose serious challenges
to humankind as a whole and cannot be solved by any single country or region. Instead,
solving them requires that all nations work together to provide the necessary public goods
that Arctic governance entails. Certainly, countries of the region bear more responsibilities in