After years of speculation, it was made official in 2017 that the Arctic Ocean would be added to China’s expanding ‘Belt and Road’ trade initiative, an event which marked a watershed development in Beijing’s rapidly expanding Arctic interests. Although scientific diplomacy officially remains at the forefront of China’s Arctic diplomacy, economic concerns are starting to make themselves more known, as evidenced by energy cooperation with Russia, extractive industries partnerships in Greenland, and growing enthusiasm for Arctic shipping to Europe and potentially North America. As the largest economy without Arctic territory, China has had to walk a fine line between being viewed as a revisionist actor in the region and being pushed away from developing economic opportunities as the Arctic becomes more accessible due to climate change. China has sought to develop an identity as an Arctic partner and stakeholder, and in many ways this middle path has been successful, given China’s rising stature in many parts of the Arctic. However, signs of pushback from the United States are becoming more evident, especially in regards to Sino-Russian partnerships in the Arctic, and as a result, China may now be seeing the Arctic through more of a strategic lens, and there is now the significant possibility of Beijing, assisted by Russia, developing its own distinct institutions and diplomacy in the region.
About the Speaker
Marc Lanteigne is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Tromsø: The Arctic University of Norway. His research interests include China and East Asia foreign policy, China’s engagement and cooperation with regional and international organisations, Sino-European and Sino-Arctic relations, and trade politics and China’s commercial diplomacy. He is the author of China and International Institutions: Alternate Paths to Global Power (2005) and Chinese Foreign Policy: An Introduction (Fourth edition 2019), and the co-editor of The Chinese Party-State in the 21st Century: Adaptation and the Reinvention of Legitimacy (2008) and China’s Evolving Approach to Peacekeeping (2012). As well, he has written chapters and articles on subjects which include China’s Asian diplomacy, evolving strategic policies in East Asia, including maritime security, free trade and responses to non-traditional security, and economic affairs.