Political Tensions Rise As China Pushes Into Arctic Region
May 20, 2021 at 08:48 AM EDT
Political tensions are rising as China moves to take a more significant role in the Arctic. A new assessment from risk consultancy firm Control Risks says that China has developed a "prominent presence" in the Arctic region since joining the Arctic Council as an observer in 2013. The Arctic Council is made up of eight Arctic nations — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. It is an intergovernmental group that seeks to promote cooperation among the Arctic states as well as inhabitants of the Arctic. The Arctic Council’s goal is to ensure that the Arctic region, which faces harsh climates and extreme weather conditions, is protected and sustainably developed. In 2018, Chinese officials in Beijing announced plans to build what they call a "Polar Silk Road," which would be a network of Arctic shipping routes. China has also previously referred to itself as a "near-Arctic state," a proposition that ignited controversy. Arctic states, including Canada, are increasingly concerned about China "playing a much more assertive role unilaterally" in the Arctic, according to the Control Risks report. At the same time, Russia, which is facing Western sanctions targeting energy exploration in the Arctic, is getting funding from China. Russia has "expanding interest" in developing large energy projects in the Arctic, but doesn’t have the necessary capital, the report says.