Beijing may be playing it cool, but it sees its current role in the contested High North as just the tip of the iceberg
Ryan Kilpatrick, South China Morning Post, 15 November 2016
WASHED by the shallow waters of the Tumen River that divides Russia and North Korea, China’s Hunchun has few tourist attractions other than a coin-operated set of binoculars, on an elevated platform, that lets the occasional visitor survey the three neighbours’ only junction. But if business expands along Arctic shipping routes linking the Atlantic and Pacific, this obscure city of little more than 200,000 could become “an international shipping centre equal to Singapore”, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, claimed last year.
China, having styled itself as a “near-Arctic nation”, is jockeying to play a greater role in the contested High North. Beijing attained permanent observer status to the intergovernmental Arctic Council in 2013, but experts say its ambitions are beyond those of a passive onlooker.
Though China does not have jurisdiction in the Arctic Ocean, it aims to be the power behind drilling for Arctic oil.
Michael Byers, AlJazeera.com, 22 August 2013
The Arctic may contain 10-15 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves, with most of that oil located in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. And China, thanks to its financial rather than military strength, could take the lion's share.
In the 1990 thriller The Hunt for Red October, the rogue captain of a Soviet submarine evades the U.S. and Soviet navies by threading his way through a narrow – but precisely charted – mid-ocean trench.
In real life, the Soviet navy’s charting efforts extended to the heart of the Canadian Arctic. Soviet-era charts, available today, show more depth soundings in the Northwest Passage than Canada’s most recent charts do.
The Cold War is over, but Russia still takes the Arctic seriously. Russian nuclear-powered submarines still sail under the sea ice, where Canada’s diesel-powered submarines cannot venture.
Arctic melting creates
new opportunities that China must cooperate with other countries to seize.
Wang Qian, China
Daily, 30 September 2012
China's fifth Arctic
expedition team suggested the country enhance cooperation with Arctic countries
to expand its research of Earth's northernmost region.
During the more than
80 days of expedition that started in July, the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Ice
Dragon) sailed the Northern Sea Route, also called the Northeast Passage. It
was escorted by the Russian nuclear icebreaker Vaygach, and both vessels
returned via what will become the Central Arctic Shipping Route.
The key issue is to find a balance between exploiting and protecting natural resources
Arctic affairs can be divided into those of a regional nature and those that have global implications. Those that are regional are properly resolved through negotiations between countries of the region. China respects the sovereignty and sovereign rights of arctic countries, and hopes that they can peacefully resolve their disputes over territory and sovereignty.
Canada's disregard for the impacts of selling oil sands to China will lead to the near-inevitability of another Exxon Valdez-type spill in U.S. waters
Michael Byers, Special to the Seattle Times, May 18, 2012
Twenty-three years after the Exxon Valdez spilled more than half a million barrels of oil into Prince William Sound, another threat looms over Alaska's remote and beautiful coastline — in the form of heavy oil exports from Canada to China.
China grows hungry for Arctic resources and shipping routes as northern ice melts.
China has already invested $25bn to build an oil pipeline from Sibera [EPA]
Michael Byers, AlJazeera.com, December 28, 2011
Vancouver, Canada - As the Arctic sea-ice melts, the Dragon looks to the north. China has a voracious appetite for oil, natural gas and minerals - of which the Arctic has plenty. The world's newest superpower is also the world's largest shipping nation, and well positioned to take advantage of shorter routes across an increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean.
There is no unclaimed land available in the Arctic, because Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States carved up the region centuries ago. But this fact doesn't discourage a resource-hungry China, which knows it can buy the access it needs.
Chinese state-owned companies have already invested tens of billions of dollars in Canada's northern tar sands. Three years ago, the Chinese government lent a Russian company $25bn so that it could build an oil pipeline from Siberia to China, which now carries 300,000 barrels per day. ...
Changing conditions in the far north have sparked excitement and unfounded concerns over potential conflict.
Michael Byers, Al Jazeera.com , December 22, 2011
Vancouver, Canada - "For the first time in my life, I'm trying to find ice."
Alex MacIntyre was standing on the bridge of the Akademik Ioffe as the Russian-flagged ice-strengthened cruise ship traversed the Northwest Passage last summer. A Canadian ice-pilot with four decades of Arctic experience, MacIntyre remembers when the route was choked with sea-ice that was 10 to 15 metres thick.
Twenty-two ships sailed through the Northwest Passage in 2011. On the other side of the Arctic Ocean, 34 ships traversed Russia's Northern Sea Route.
The Arctic Ocean, which exists in a precarious balance between ice and water, is more susceptible to climate change than anywhere else on Earth. A so-called "feedback loop" exacerbates the situation: As climate change warms the air and melts the highly reflective ice from above, it exposes more dark ocean water which acts like a solar sponge, absorbing more energy from the sun and melting the remaining ice from below.