|China Operates the Largest Non-Nuclear Icebreaker in the World
Stevie Boy Harper is dead keen on exporting Athabasca bitumen to China, just as much and as fast as he can. But why is Steve suddenly so fond of China, except perhaps for the way it might let Canada game the U.S. on bitumen prices?
It wasn't long ago that Steve was ready to denounce China and its totalitarian ways at the drop of a hat. He wasn't reluctant to tell anyone that he didn't like the People's Rep or what it stood for. Now, somehow, China is Steve's BFF.
But what is the state of Chinese-Canadian relations? There does seem to be some serious friction. We have China in the crosshairs when we buy the F-35 stealth light attack bomber. We're rushing headlong to join America's military "pivot" to Asia. America wants to get in China's face and we want in on America's action.
That said, maybe our concerns about China are misplaced. Rather than focusing on military power projection in East Asia, maybe we should be looking to the role China wants in our own far north. A recent report, from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, "The Arctic Policies of Canada and the United States, Domestic Motives and International Context," suggests that China may be prepared to challenge Canadian Arctic sovereignty
Canada, together with Russia, strongly opposes involving new actors in the Arctic, arguing that Arctic affairs are best left to the Arctic states. This attitude has frustrated a number of actors who perceive that they have a legitimate interest in the region and should be allowed to observe or participate in the Arctic cooper ation. The Canadian attitude to Arctic out siders is clearly illustrated by its reluctance to accept new observers on the Arctic Council. Negotiations on observers—decisions on which are based on consensus—have dragged on for years, with no agreement as to whether ad hoc observers such as China and the European Union (EU) should be granted permanent observer status. Canada has openly opposed granting the EU permanent observer status because of the latter’s ban on imports of seal products, while the current permanent participants—six organizations representing indigenous groups—fear marginal ization if large actors like the EU and China are granted a permanent seat at the table.
Recent statements by China have led to Canadian unease over China’s motives in the Arctic and a fear that it may even be willing to challenge Canada’s sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.8
...Canada’s inclination to exclude is visible not only in the framework of the Arctic Council. In discussions with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, Harper stated that he saw no role for NATO in the Arctic and that those non-Arctic members of NATO that sought such a role were looking to increase their influence where ‘they don’t belong’.
Although national security was named as a top priority in the USA’s 2009 presidential directive, it is clear that the US Government does not anticipate any military confrontations in its Arctic areas in either the short or medium terms. Although this view is shared by most observers, a forum to discuss military security is needed to avoid suspicion and misinterpretations. The Arctic Council’s mandate is limited on this issue and Canada has made it clear that NATO is not the venue for these discussions. Canada and the USA can still address military issues bilaterally through NORAD and multilaterally through the annual meetings of Arctic defence chiefs that Canada has initiated.
And the Chinese have been pretty open about their views of China's interests - resource, commercial and military - in the Arctic.
Chinese researchers are publicly encouraging the government to actively prepare for the commercial and strategic oppor-tunities that a melting Arctic presents. Li Zhenfu of Dalian Maritime Uni-versity has, together with a team of specialists, assessed China’s advantages and disadvantages when the Arctic sea routes open up. ‘Whoever has control over the Arctic route will control the new passage of world economics and international strategies’, writes Li, referring both to the shortened shipping routes between East Asia and Europe or North America and to the abundant oil, gas, mineral and fishery resources presumed to be in the Arctic.
...Li points out that the Arctic also ‘has significant military value, a fact recognized by other countries’. In a rare open-source article about the Arctic by an officer of the People’s Liberation Army, Senior Colonel Han Xudong warns that the possibility of use of force cannot be ruled out in the Arctic due to complex sovereignty disputes.
If China is poised to become a strategic rival to Canada in the Arctic even to the point of wielding military muscle in the far north, why is Canada focusing on East and Southeast Asia? Why are we so driven to buy a hyper-expensive, underperforming warplane that is so obviously unsuited to the very place we will most need an airpower presence? And why are we allowing China to snap up Tar Sands assets and building them a pipeline to access this strategic resource? This may be of genuine and highly lucrative benefit to foreign-owned oil companies that dominate the Tar Sands but are their interests, China's and Canada's coterminous?