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Arctic Issues and China's Stance

CIIS Time: Mar 4, 2013 Writer: Tang Guoqiang Editor: 姜志达


Tang Guoqiang



The Arctic[1] issue continues to heat up over the past years, causing more attention from Arctic countries and concerns from non-Arctic countries. This paper intends to provide some perspectives on the value of the Arctic region, related international laws and cooperation mechanisms, Arctic countries’ polar strategy and China’s stance on the Arctic.




The Arctic has abundant resources and important values in scientific research, transportation and military affairs. The Arctic countries attach increasing importance to the Arctic development.


1. The Arctic is rich in energy, mineral and biological resources.

In 2009, United States Geological Survey estimated that potential undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves in the Arctic accounted for 13% and 30% of respective world potential reserves, with 80% of them located offshore. According to statistics, current oil and gas production in the Arctic accounts for 10% and 25% respectively of the global output. The Arctic minerals include gold, copper, iron, lead, platinum, nickel, zinc, diamonds, etc. The coal reserve in the Arctic accounts for 9% of the world total. The Arctic region has abundant cod fish, snappers, salmons and Arctic shrimps, making the region one of the major biological protein bank in the world. The climate change has caused the fish to move northward from traditional fishing grounds in Alaska and the North Sea, and the Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea and other waters in the region will become new and major fishing grounds.


2. The scientific research in the Arctic is of importance to the understanding of the Earth.

The Arctic shows the fastest response to the global climate change. The climate warming over the past 30 years has shrunk one fourth of the Arctic sea ice in summer time, and reduced the winter ice caps and permanent ice caps by half. Changes in Arctic atmosphere, oceans, land, ecology and society exert important impacts on the climate as well as the economic and social development in the Northern hemisphere and in the world. The ice-melting in Arctic will raise the sea level, and the shrinking sea ice will reduce the refraction of the sun, and the thinner ice cap will speed up the release of methane and other greenhouse gases. All this will further accelerate the global climate change. Therefore, countries in the world, especially in the northern hemisphere, pay great attention to the Arctic scientific research work.

3. The accelerated melting of the Arctic ice advances the possibility of commercial use of three major sea routes in Arctic.

At present, there are three passages: the Northwest Passage which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific by crossing the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the Northern Sea Route which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific vie the Russian waters in the Arctic, and the Arctic Bridge which links Canada’s Cape Churchill to Russia’s Murmansk. The first two of the three routes are navigable in summer time, and the section from Northern Europe to Northwest Russia is navigable throughout the year.

With the continued warming of the global climate, it is estimated that the Northern Sea Route will be navigable throughout the year in 50 years time. By that time the voyage from Northeast Asia to Europe or to the east coast of America via the Arctic routes will be 40% shorter than that via the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal, and the transportation costs will be reduced by 20-30%. In 2012, there were 45 transits through the Northern Sea Route, compared to four transits in 2010. DNV, the Norwegian classification institution, has estimated that there will be 430 transits through this route in 2030. This will have a significant impact on global shipping and trade. However, some experts believe that since the climate change is uncertain, the use of the routes is difficult to predict and maybe not so fast to be navigable.


4. The Arctic region also has important military and strategic value.

The Arctic is situated in a strategic location linking Asia, Europe and North America. Military experts believe that to dominate the Arctic is to control the commanding point in the world military affairs. During World War II, some channels in the Arctic waters were important strategic routes used by the Allies against Germany, and a great portion of Allies’ assistance was shipped through the Arctic waters to the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the Arctic became the forefront of the US-Soviet confrontation. It was the preferred route for both American and Soviet fighters and their cruise missiles to attach each other and the best nuclear submarine bases. With the end of the Cold War, the military tension in the Arctic relaxed. At present, the United States deploys the first anti-missiles defense system in Alaska and establishes its space defense fortress in the Arctic. Russia deploys most of its advanced strategic nuclear submarines in the Arctic to maintain its nuclear deterrence.

The global warming has resulted in major changes in the Arctic natural conditions, and the Arctic countries have begun to pay attention to the development of the Arctic. Regarding the Arctic as the “new Middle East” in energy resource, the “new lifeline” in global economy and the “new commanding point” in world military affairs, they have increased inputs in scientific research and political, economic and military activities, and make efforts to dominate the future Arctic affairs.




There is a basic international legal regime for the Arctic region. However, the coastal states in the Arctic have quite a few disputes concerning attribution of some Arctic waters.


1. There is no integrated system of international law for the Arctic, however, a basic legal framework is provided by international laws including a series of conventions for dealing with Arctic issues.

(1) Documents of regional international laws and regional cooperation system, such as the Protection of Polar Bears Agreement concluded by five Arctic countries, the non-legal binding Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy adopted by the Environment Council of Ministers of the Arctic, and the Arctic Council — the regional sustainable development mechanism.

(2) International environmental convention suitable to the Arctic. Since the Arctic region is mostly affected by climate change, reduced ozone layer and persistent organic pollutants (POPS) and other global environmental problems, the Arctic countries have played an important role in the making of the most of the international environmental conventions.

(3) The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and international legal documents by the International Maritime Organization, including directions for vessels sailing in polar icy waters adopted especially for Arctic navigation conditions. The UNCLOS relates to all aspects of maritime delimitation, marine environmental protection, navigation and marine scientific research, and provides the basic rights and obligations of coastal states and other countries. In 2008, foreign ministers from five Arctic Ocean countries published the Ilulissat Declaration, confirming the basic legal status of the Law of the Sea in the Arctic.

(4) The Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen. The Treaty, while recognizing the full and absolute sovereignty of Norway over all the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, stipulates the principle of equality of citizens of any of the signatory countries and the principle of peaceful use of the Islands, thus making the Treaty a unique Arctic legal regime.

In addition, the UNCLOS and the Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen constitute important legal basis for non-Arctic countries in their participation of Arctic activities.


2. Although the UNCLOS, the Treaty concerning the Archi-pelago of Spitsbergen and others have established the basic international legal framework for the Arctic, there are still some disputes which make the legal status of some Arctic waters uncertain.

(1) Disputes over attribution of some Arctic waters. Part of the adjacent maritime boundaries among Arctic countries has not been delineated, and there are also serious differences over the continental shelf attribution of the Arctic Ocean. (a) Russia and the United States concluded in 1990 the “Schevardnadze-Baker Treaty” over the Bering Sea, by which two-thirds of the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea belong to the United States. However the Russian Parliament believes the treaty would affect resource allocation in the Baring Sea so that it has not ratified the treaty. (b) The United States and Canada have not delineated their maritime boundaries over the Beaufort Sea, with the controversial area of 21,000 square kilometers. (c) In order to expand jurisdictional waters, the Arctic coastal states use straight baselines to determine territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. The United States and European countries have made objections to straight baselines practice of Russia, Canada and Denmark.

Norway and Russia had long-standing differences over attribution of the Barents Sea waters, with the disputed sea area of 175,000 square kilometers. The negotiations between the two sides lasted for 40 years. In 2010, the two countries reached an agreement on the delimitation of the Barents Sea, agreeing to divide the disputed areas into two roughly equal parts, with the west part belonging to Norway while the east part belonging to Russia. On this basis, the two sides agreed to make arrangements on fishery cooperation in the related waters and cross-border oil and gas development. This was a positive development.

(2) Disputes over outer continental shelf. Russia, Canada and Denmark consider the Lomonosov Ridge under the Arctic Ocean extension of their mainland, and claim the sovereign rights over the 200 nautical miles outer continental shelf. Canada has claimed its sovereignty over parts of the Arctic waters since the 1950s. In 2001, Russia handed in its continental shelf application to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), and claimed that nearly half of the Arctic seabed including the North Pole to be Russia’s continental shelf, covering an area of 4.12 million square km and accounting for nearly half of the area outside of 200 nautical miles. The CLCS returned the application back to Russia for lack of evidence. Russia is expected to continue its application. The United States and Canada conducted joint geological surveys in the Arctic Ocean. As a result, the US claims that its outer continental shelf in the Arctic extends far northward which covers an area twice as large as California, and it might overlap with the area which Russia claims.

In 2006, Norway submitted to the CLCS its outer continental shelf application covering the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and other waters. In April 2009, the CLCS made recommendations to Norway on the outer limits of the outer continental shelf, thus Norway becoming the first Arctic country to have delineation of the outer continental shelf.

(3) Disputes concerning the Arctic sea route jurisdiction and the rights of passage. Russia and Canada step up jurisdiction over Arctic navigation routes through their domestic legislations. In particular they delineate parts of waters in the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage as internal waters by claiming historical rights and using straight baselines, and request foreign vessels to navigate with permission. The United States, in the name of the freedom of navigation, regards the internal waters claimed by Russia and Canada to be international waters and challenges Russian and Canadian jurisdiction by passing the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage without permission. For years the United States and Russia have not be able to reach an agreement. The United States and Canada, through consultations, reached the Arctic Cooperation Agreement in January 1988. According to the agreement, the US vessels, subject to permission, could navigate in Canada’s northern waters including the Northwest Passage. The agreement also states that both sides reserve their respective positions on the legal status of the Northwest Passage. In addition to the United States, the European Union officially lodged its objection to Canada’s practice of delineating the Northwest Passage as its internal waters.

(4) Disputes over the Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen. When the Treaty was concluded in 1920 for the purpose of solving the controversy between Russia, Norway and other countries over mineral ownership on Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, it recognized Norway’s sovereignty while providing that citizens of any of the signatory countries enjoy free access to the islands and the equal rights to engage in economic activities.

However, due to the compromising nature of the treaty, there have been constant disputes in practice. (a) Russia and Iceland insist that citizens of signatory countries could engage in commercial fishing and oil and gas resource development activities in the islands’ exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. Norway, however, insists that equal economic activities are limited to the land and territorial waters of the islands. Recently the United Kingdom and Spain have officially supported the position of Russia and Iceland. (b) According to the Treaty, citizens of signatory countries, subject to notification, could engage in economic activities on the Islands. However, the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act published by Norway in 2002 stipulated that many commercial activities are subject to Norwegian permission. Russia believes that the Act seriously undermines the substantive rights of signatory countries to economic activities on the Islands.

Owing to the fact of uncompleted delimitation on exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and, in particular, the outer continental shelf, the uncertainty of legal status concerning the marine areas in the Arctic is likely to affect future cooperation in the Arctic region. The countries concerned should abide by the UNCLOS and other relevant international laws and agreements and, based on scientific data, resolve disputes through peaceful consultation and negotiation.

Moreover, the accelerated ice-melting not only brings new opportunities such as opening of Arctic waterways and economic development in the region, but also poses new challenges to fragile Arctic ecological environment. The international community should also, on the basis of the existing international law, consider making more and targeted mechanism to protect the safety of the Arctic navigation and prevent and reduce any environmental impacts which might be caused by navigation.




On Arctic affairs, the Arctic countries are cooperative and competitive to each other while taking acceptable as well as cautious attitudes to non-Arctic countries’ participation.

The Arctic countries attach great importance to the Arctic affairs, and they have formulated, one after another, their Arctic strategies and policies. They emphasize regional cooperation, and in particular the cooperation in Arctic scientific research, environmental protection and sustainable development, which are coordinated by the Arctic Council. For instance, eight Arctic countries reached the Arctic Air and Sea Search and Rescue Cooperation Agreement in the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in 2011; decided to set up a permanent secretariat of the Council in Tromso, north of Norway; and is formulating Arctic oil spill response agreement. It can be seen that the cooperation mechanism among the Council members is strengthened and their sense for further cooperation is increased. However, due to different situation and position, there are also different emphases in their respective Arctic strategies.

The United States introduced its new Arctic policy in January 2009. It prioritizes the assurance of navigation freedom, makes the prevention of terrorist attacks against the Arctic and the reduction of terrorist crimes and hostility in Arctic as the homeland security interests, plans to build missile defense and early warning systems in the Arctic, tries to resolve disputes concerning boundary delimitation and define the America’s continental shelf, continues its leading role in the Arctic scientific research and ensures the balance between the Arctic development and environmental protection.

Russia published its Arctic principle, policy and long-term program in 2008 and introduced the Arctic strategy in 2010. Both of them took the establishment of Russia’s competitive advantage in Arctic energy development and shipping as its Arctic strategic focus. At the same time, Russia strengthened infrastructure construction along the Northern Sea Route and its jurisdiction in order to control firmly its dominance over the Route, and announced the formation of the Arctic military force to safeguard the security of its Arctic area. Russia plans to have the outer limit of its continental shelf to be defined before 2015 so as to lay the foundation for the Arctic development.

In 2010 Canada issued the Arctic foreign policy statement. Among the four priority policies, to exercise Canada’s sovereignty over its Northern area is the number one and “non-negotiable priority.” Canada had slated US$ 109 million, to be spent before 2014, for research to substantiate extended continental shelf claims.

Denmark published in 2011 the Arctic Strategy 2011-2020. Its priorities are: supporting and strengthening the development of Greenland, ensuring Denmark’s important position in Arctic affairs, solving disputes through international law and cooperation mechanism and carrying out cooperation. Denmark plans to submit to the United Nations its application for extension of the continental shelf to 200 nautical mines in 2014.

Finland and Sweden, as non-Arctic-coastal states and the EU members, published their respective Arctic strategies in 2010 and 2011. The two countries put the emphasis on important role played by the Arctic Council in Arctic affairs. They also stress that the EU should develop its Arctic policy and support EU to become an observer of the Council.

The Iceland Parliament adopted in 2011 the resolution of Arctic policy. The priorities are: to promote and consolidate the Arctic Council’s role in decision-making, to ensure Iceland’s position as an Arctic coastal state so as to exert its influence on regional development and on international decisions on regional disputes, and to solve differences in Arctic affairs through the UNCLOS.

Norway specified that the Arctic affairs are one of the top priorities in Norway’s foreign policy when it worked out its High North strategy in 2006. And in 2009, Norway put forward seven main policy priorities. It is committed to increase High North activities and strengthen presence in the Arctic, improve monitoring, emergency response and maritime safety system in Northern waters, ensure navigation safety and environmental protection, strengthen important cooperation with Russia and promote NATO’s active involvement in Arctic affairs.

It can be seen that due to clashes of interests among the Arctic countries, continued efforts are required to have more mutual trusts and intensified cooperation. In recent years, the Arctic countries have increased their military presence and military activities in the Arctic region and carried out frequent unilateral, bilateral and multilateral military exercises to highlight their sovereignty and power or to show determination to defend their interests.

The Arctic policy of the EU should be mentioned here. In October 2008, the European Parliament passed a resolution which recommended working out the Arctic treaty by following the mode of the Antarctic Treaty. In November, the European Commission issued a policy document on “the EU and the Arctic region,” advocating “multilateral governance of the Arctic.” In December 2009, the European Council adopted the Arctic decision, prioritizing on Arctic energy development and the use of navigation routes, emphasizing the protection of fragile Arctic environment and sustainable use of resources and promoting actively multilateral governance of the Arctic. In July 2012 the EU published a new document on its Arctic policy in which the EU initiated policy objectives and action proposals for more investments in the Arctic. In order to remove misgivings from the Arctic countries, the EU stopped mentioning “multilateral governance.”

Being wary of the Arctic governance discussed by non-Arctic states, the Arctic countries stress that the Arctic region, without being in a legal vacuum, has applicable international laws including the UNCLOS so that there is no need to have a comprehensive Arctic treaty. However, new rules and regulations concerning Arctic navigation and fishery activities could be considered.




The Arctic cooperation mechanism is getting mature; the Arctic Council is the most important regional intergovernmental forum.

The Arctic cooperation in various fields has started following the end of the Cold War. The cooperation began in the field of scientific research and environmental protection and expanded rapidly to the field of sustainable development. Of late, energy development, the use of navigation routes and other issues are put on the agenda for cooperation.

At present, there are many regional intergovernmental organi-zations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and sub-regional mechanisms which are devoted to Arctic scientific research and sustainable development and cooperation. Established in 1990, the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) is the most influential organization for scientific research cooperation, with the aim of encouraging and supporting Arctic scientific research by providing scientific advices and funds. In addition, the Arctic Scientific Committee, founded in 1984, and the Ny-Alesund Science Managers Committee, founded in 1994, is also important Arctic research organizations. The Arctic Council was established in 1996 and is the most important regional intergovernmental forum for discussions on Arctic environment and sustainable development. Besides, there are other sub-regional mechanisms for cooperation such as Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

Eight Arctic countries are official members of the Arctic Council; six Arctic indigenous organizations like the Saami Council are permanent participants; non-Arctic states, intergovernmental organi-zations and the NGOs participate in the Council’s activities as observers. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland, and the United Nations Environment Program and other organizations are observers of the Council. China, Korea, Japan, Italy and the European Commission are applying for observer status, now they participate in the Council’s work as ad hoc observers. Singapore and India have also applied to be observers. In recent years, the Arctic Council worked to formulate relevant international regulations. In 2011, it worked out the Arctic Sea and Air Search and Rescue Cooperation Agreement – the first time for the Council to develop a legal-binding international instrument. In addition, the Arctic countries in the Arctic Council have strengthened their coordination to exert their influence on negotiations of climate change, shipping code in the Arctic and mercury treaty. With the increasing importance of the Arctic-related relations, the Arctic Council will play a greater role.

On the one hand, the Arctic countries hope to see non-Arctic states’ participation in pragmatic cooperation in specific fields to solve Arctic-related problems; on the other hand, they are concerned that their dominance over Arctic affairs would be sidelined. Therefore the Arctic countries have doubts over non-Arctic states’ participation in the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Council, according to the rules of procedure, should consider in April 2009 applications from China, Italy, Korea and the European Commission for observer status. However it was reported that certain Council members had misgivings to the EU’s Arctic policy, claiming that the EU’s restrictions on imported seal fur have affected livelihood of indigenous people. Therefore the Arctic Council decided to postpone the acceptance of new observers. However, the public opinion believed that deep-rooted reason for this postponement was that the Arctic countries felt uneasy about the EU’s proposition of multilateral governance of the Arctic.

The Arctic Council, at its ministerial meeting in May 2011, drew up new regulations on criteria and procedure for accepting observers as well as the role of observers. Some of the seven criteria for observers are: to accept and support the objectives of the Arctic Council; recognize the Arctic states’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic; recognize that an extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean, including notably the law of the sea; respect the values, interests, culture and tradition of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants; and to have demonstrated their Arctic interests and expertise relevant to the work of the Arctic Council. Public opinion believed that the Arctic Council actually raised threshold for new observers as a result of more cautiousness about accepting new observers, and it shows the Arctic countries have deep doubts over the non-Arctic states. The forthcoming ministerial meeting in May 2013 is expected to consider again applications of new observers.




China respects Arctic states’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and juris-diction according to international law, and wishes to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation on Arctic-related issues with various parties.

1. China attaches importance to changes in natural environ-ment in the Arctic, and actively cooperates with countries concerned to engage in Arctic scientific research.

The Arctic is a region most sensitive to the global climate change. Natural changes in the Arctic will be reflected in global climate and especially that in the northern hemisphere. Since China is a country in the northern hemisphere, the cold air activities in the Arctic region and changes in atmospheric circulation in high altitudes have a direct impact on weather and climate in China, and have significant influence on China’s ecological environment, agricultural production and other social and economic activities. The sea level rise in the world caused by speedy melting of Arctic ice affects economic and social development in China’s east coast. Because the Arctic affairs are related to many natural, economic and social aspects in China as well as China’s sustainable development, China attaches great importance to Arctic affairs.

China has to learn more about Arctic climate change and to understand impacts on China by such climate change. The Arctic expedition and research are of great importance to China. They will help China understand the Arctic impact of the global atmospheric circulation and physical process and mechanism for weather and climate, improve the weather forecast accuracy on natural disasters and short-term climate prediction so as to enhance China’s capability in natural disaster reduction and prevention.

Starting its Arctic scientific research in the 1990s, China officially joined the Arctic International Scientific Committee in 1996, and has conducted a total of five comprehensive researches on the Arctic Ocean from 1999 to 2012. In 2004, a Chinese scientific research station, the “Yellow River Station,” was established in the Arctic region, and in 2005 China hosted the Arctic Science Summit Week. Over the years, China has conducted research on high-altitude physics, climate change, ecological and marine aspects in the Arctic, and has established a preliminary observation system and formed a high-quality team of experts. China has also actively participated in various activities of the International Polar Year. China cannot have conducted all these Arctic research without cooperation with the Arctic countries.

The Arctic ecological environment is greatly affected by global problems such as climate change and POPS. The Arctic countries have taken effective measures to protect Arctic environment and played a positive role in global environmental cooperation. China has acceded to major international conventions on environment and is fulfilling obligations of relevant treaties.


2. China is concerned about potential impact on global shipping and trade brought about by Arctic ice melting, and hopes to engage in pragmatic and win-win cooperation with the Arctic countries.

The Arctic countries in their Arctic strategies emphasize they would make efforts to develop the Arctic, to develop energy resources under the condition of protecting environment, to make use of the Arctic passages while ensuring the safety of navigation, and to conduct intercontinental and transoceanic maritime transportation so as to contribute to the world economic development. Since the Arctic ice melting and the Arctic navigation are of global significance, it is natural and reasonable for non-Arctic countries to show their concerns over the Arctic issues.

China, being a major developing country, has become the second largest economy in the world. To achieve modernization, China has to realize industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization. However, China is not self-sufficient in oil, gas and other resources. For a long time to come, China will continue to rely on imported oil and gas. If in the future the Arctic becomes the “new Middle East” in world’s energy resource, China is willing to import energy resources from this “new Middle East” in the Arctic in order to diversify its energy imports. Like its normal trade cooperation with other countries and regions, China will follow the principle of equality and mutual benefit and win-win cooperation in carrying out cooperation with Arctic energy resource countries.

For the same reason, if in the future the Arctic routes are navigable, this will add another dimension of cooperation between China and the Arctic countries. Because the voyage from America and Europe to Asia will be greatly shortened, the European and North American countries will certainly make good use of the Arctic routes to conduct their trade with Asia, and this will also be the case for China and other Asian countries. The voyage from Rotterdam to Shanghai via the Northern Sea Route will be 22% shorter than the one via the Suez Canal. The voyage from the north tip of Norway to Lianyungang Port in China via the Northern Sea Route is 6,500 nautical miles long while the one via Suez Canal is 12,180 miles. To navigate the Northern Sea Route is fuel-saving and cost-efficient and brings benefits to all parties. Of course, all the countries must comply with related guidelines and regulations for Arctic navigation.

In short, either in trade and investment of energy resource, or in the use of Arctic routes, the international law, the regulations on trade and investment and guidelines for Arctic navigation must be abided by.


3. China wishes to become observer in the Arctic Council to have close cooperation with both Arctic and non-Arctic states and make its contribution to the peace, stability, environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council is the most influential regional inter-governmental forum on Arctic issues. Of late, cooperation on Arctic affairs is both deepening and broadening, and becomes more and more institutionalized. It is now a mainstream in Arctic affairs. The Arctic issues are mainly regional issues, but there are also trans-regional issues like climate change, shipping and others which require strengthened cooperation at both regional and international levels. China has the right to engage in Arctic scientific research and navigation and has the willingness and capability to contribute to the work of the Arctic Council. This has been generally recognized by the Council members. China is willing to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation on Arctic issues with the countries concerned.

The Arctic Council takes an open attitude to non-Arctic states and relevant international organizations. The Arctic Council should make an early decision on accepting new observers. It will help establish a cooperation mode between the Arctic and the non-Arctic countries in which they work together and jointly solve cross-regional problems through positive interactions.

Since 2007, China has participated, as an ad-hoc observer, in the activities of the Arctic Council, and China’s participation is widely welcomed. China has always supported the purpose and objectives of the Arctic Council, respects Arctic states’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction according to international law, appreciates the active role played by the Arctic Council in Arctic affairs, takes an active part in the Council’s work and makes its best efforts to contribute to the Council’s work. At the same time, China and the Arctic countries conduct bilateral exchanges and dialogues to discuss how to strengthen cooperation on the Arctic scientific research. China’s policy, position as well as practice on the Arctic affairs are welcomed and recognized by other countries and are in line with the criteria, procedure and role for observer status.


4. China is willing to promote the establishment of a win-win relationship of cooperation between the Arctic and non-Arctic states.

So far as the relationship between the Arctic and non-Arctic states is concerned, the Arctic states have bigger interests since they enjoy sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic region, and they should, as a matter of fact, play a bigger role in Arctic affairs. Non-Arctic states have the rights to navigation and scientific research, and they have reason to show their concerns for the Nature’s change in the Arctic and the opening of the Arctic routes. The Arctic and non-Arctic states have common interests in cross- regional issues, and they should increase their communication and cooperation. To recognize and respect their respective rights in the Arctic region and concerns on the Arctic issues should constitute the basis for dealing with the relations between the Arctic and non-Arctic states. China, as a non-Arctic state, takes part in the Arctic affairs mainly through international cooperation and in particular through cooperation with the Arctic states. China should make efforts to promote the establishment of a cooperative partnership of mutual respects, mutual trust and mutual benefits between the Arctic and non-Arctic countries.

    In conclusion, China’s Arctic policy should be a component part of China’s foreign policy. Its basic elements should be: in the spirit of peaceful development of the Arctic for the benefit of mankind and on the basis of mutual respects and enhanced understanding and trusts, China will develop a normal relationship of win-win cooperation with the Arctic countries and the international community in the common endeavor to maintain and promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic, so as to make the Arctic part of the harmonious world.

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