China has a substantial and committed effort to assert its influence over future of Arctic region
American policy makers should be aware that China’s recent interest in Arctic affairs is not an evanescent fancy or a passing political fad but a serious, new, incipient policy direction. China is taking concrete diplomatic steps to ensure that it becomes a player in the Arctic game and eventually will have what it regards as its fair share of access to Arctic resources and sea routes. China has already committed substantial human, institutional, and naval resources to its Arctic interests and will continue to do so, likely at an accelerated rate, in the future. The Polar Research Institute of China (Zhongguo Jidi Yanjiu Zhongxin), with a staff of 124 people headquartered in Shanghai, supervises three Chinese research stations in the Antarctic and one in the Arctic. It also manages the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon), a light, Ukraine-built, nonnuclear vessel with a displacement of twenty-one thousand tons, used in both Arctic and Antarctic scientific expeditions.96 Xuelong, the largest conventionally powered icebreaker in the world, reached eighty-eight degrees north latitude in August 2010, and its helicopter took Chinese Arctic researchers to the North Pole on 20 August 2010, a Chinese first. The Arctic and Antarctic Administration (Guojia Haiyangju Jidi Kaocha Bangongshi), under the State Oceanic Administration, also manages Chinese scientific research activity in the Arctic.97 China currently plans to build its own smaller (eight thousand tons displacement) sister icebreaker to Xuelong, at a cost of U.S.$300 million, and to have it operational by 2013. “Between the two ships,” the New York Times observed in May 2010, “China will have larger and more modern icebreakers than either the United States or Canada.”98 Russia, for its part, has over a dozen heavy icebreakers, seven of them nuclear powered.
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The Dragon Eyes the Top of the World: Arctic Policy Debate and Discussion in China . China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College: Newport, RI, August 2011 (45p). [ More (7 quotes) ]
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