China actively pursuing Arctic science and expanding relations with Arctic countries
[ Page 40 ]
While Arctic coastal states will play a dominant role in the Arctic, non-Arctic states that benefit from Arctic hydrocarbons and ice-free shipping routes will also seek a role. China, in particular, has focused financial, scientific, and political capital in the Arctic. As the world’s largest shipping nation, with 46 percent of gross domestic product40 derived from the shipping industry, China is aware that any changes to world shipping routes will have “a direct impact on [its]...economy and potential trade with respect to both imports and exports.”41 China is concerned that “the advantage of the Arctic routes would substantially decrease if Russia were to unilaterally charge exorbitant service fees for ships passing through its EEZ waters”42 and thus is advocating strong international cooperation within multilateral governing structures. In response to future Arctic opportunities, China has built the world’s largest non-nuclear-powered icebreaker, Xuelong (Snow Dragon), which has completed four scientific expeditions to the Arctic Circle to conduct oceanographic surveys and scientific research.43 In September 2010, the Polar Institute of China concluded an agreement on polar research cooperation with the Norwegian Polar Institute, to which China will contribute advanced instruments and laboratories, and will build a research center and a new ice- class research vessel.44 China has already engaged Canada in bilateral meetings to confront poten- tial issues that could arise from the changing Arctic environment; it is also eager to build relations with the Nordic countries in hopes of establishing cooperation between Chinese and Norwegian companies in extracting Arctic energy resources.