Tuesday, June 04, 2013
China Stakes Its Claim to the Arctic
It's our fault if we don't listen for China has been loud and clear that it considers it is entitled to a powerful, potentially military presence in the Arctic and a stake in Arctic ocean resources.
To date, China’s economic ambitions in the Arctic have been largely thwarted by Arctic states wary of the country’s claim that the Arctic “is the inherited wealth of all mankind,” and that China has a role to play in its future because it is a “near-Arctic state.”
Iceland, for example, twice rejected a Chinese plan to buy a 115-square-mile farm along its northern coast for a proposed golf course resort; the island nation, which is located at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, feared that the proposal was part of a thinly veiled plan to build an Arctic port.
Canada has also been unsettled by China’s reluctance to recognize its assertion of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.
“It’s not because the Arctic countries have stopped being suspicious of Chinese ambitions,” explains [Rob] Huebert [of the University of Calgary and a member of Canada's polar commission]. “The reality is that China is too ambitious and too big to ignore. The fear is that they would just continue going after what they wanted in the Arctic even if their application was rejected. Who is going to stop them?”
How effectively members of the Arctic Council will be able to influence or constrain the ambitions of China and other Asian powers in the Arctic is an open question.
“The Chinese know that they need us for the resources, but they have also made it clear that when it comes to their core interests, it doesn’t matter who their friends and allies are — they will do what they need to do,” observes Huebert.
Officially, China, whose northernmost territory is as close to the Arctic as Germany’s is, says it does not covet the Arctic for its resources, but rather has a genuine interest in the fate of the region.
Chinese resource companies have invested $400 million in energy and mining projects in Arctic Canada [Harper gave China an Arctic toehold when he approved the Nexen takeover] and they’re promising to invest $2.3 billion and 3,000 Chinese workers in a mammoth, British-led mining project in Greenland.