China’s Interests in the Arctic

  • September 15, 2015
  • Commander William G. Dwyer III

China has been active in the Arctic for many years conducting climate research and expeditions. Over the last few years, China has made overtures for greater involvement in Arctic affairs and governance seeking full membership status in the Arctic Council and further collaboration with Arctic nations. China's interest in the Arctic is driven by the need to fuel and feed the world's largest population and most powerful economy. This study begins with a review of China's historical activities in the Arctic then argues that its recently intensified interest there is driven by two factors: natural resources and new maritime trade routes. Next, it suggests venues for increased Chinese participation in the governance structures for the Arctic and concludes with recommendations of concrete steps that the United States can take to encourage China's responsible behavior in this dynamic international sphere of cooperation. The United States, as the incumbent chair of the Arctic Council in 2015, will need to work with the Chinese government to ensure both responsible stewardship and activities in the Arctic.