Reflections on the Compatibility of China’s Practices in the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea: A Focus on Historic Maritime Claims

Ms Yuanyuan Ren1

1The University Of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, United States

This paper examines the compatibility of China’s positions and practices in the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea (SCS), particularly with respect to the application and interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). A special focus is placed on historic maritime claims that are interconnected with several controversial issues such as the freedom of navigation and the implementation of archipelagic regime in the two maritime areas. In the SCS, a central controversial issue is China’s “historic rights” claims over the maritime features and waters within the so-called “nine-dash line.” In the Arctic, Canada and Russia have long asserted sovereignty over some Arctic waters on the basis of “historic titles.” Since China has repeatedly expressed its respect for the Arctic states’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdictions in the Arctic, it is interesting to explore China’s approach to Arctic historic claims. This paper argues that China’s practices in the Arctic Ocean and the SCS have been largely compatible. However, this does not mean that these practices are all in accordance with international law. It concludes with a discussion of the limitations of China’s approach to the law of the sea in the two maritime areas.


Yuanyuan Ren

S.J.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin Law School, the United States. I received my PhD in international law from Fudan University Law School (2012) and LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School (2014). I served as an assistant professor at the Polar Strategic Studies Division of Polar Research Institute of China from 2012 to 2013 and was a Fox International Fellow at Yale University from 2010 to 2011. My research areas include Polar law and policy, WTO law and China’s treatment of international law.

Causes (and Effects) of China’s Belt and Road Policies in the Arctic

A/Prof. Marc Lanteigne1

1UiT: The Arctic University Of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

In mid-2017, the Chinese government officially confirmed that it was seeking to add the Arctic Ocean region to its expanding roster of sea routes to be included in the Belt and Road Initiative, despite previous assertions that the economic engagement of the Arctic was at best a long-term policy. This was followed by the first governmental White Paper issued by Beijing on the Arctic which elucidated China’s economic interests in the region, including in the areas of shipping, resource extraction and infrastructure. What prompted this change in strategy on China’s part, and now what specific roles will the BRI play in the development of the Arctic from an economic but also a political and legal standpoint? Central to Beijing’s entrance into the region, considering China’s status as a non-Arctic state, and regional sensitivities to revisionist behaviour, has been an identity-building exercise which can be observed on several levels and sectors. The common thread being that Beijing sees itself as a partner in the future development of the Arctic. However, to succeed, China has had to walk a fine line with relations with one Arctic great power, Russia, and risk considerable pushback from another, the United States.


Dr Marc Lanteigne is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UiT: The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, specialising in Chinese politics and international relations, including in the Polar Regions. He has written several books and articles on China and East Asia affairs, including ‘Chinese Foreign Policy: An Introduction’ (fourth edition published in 2019), and China and International Institutions: Alternate Paths to Global Power’. He has previously taught in Canada, China, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

China’s Engagement in the Antarctic Governance Under Xi Administration: From “Symbolic” to “Substantial“

Dr Liu He1

1Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, China

In the era of President Xi Jinping, China is emerging from a “Polar Power” to “Polar Great Power”, it clearly defines the polar regions as “Strategic New Frontier”. China’s engagement in the Antarctica have evolved from “symbolic” to “substantial”: its interests have diversified in recent years; its Antarctic policy has changed from vagueness to unambiguousness; its recent policy initiatives and Antarctic activities are characterized by “contributing Chinese solutions”, “displaying Chinese commitment”, and “infusing Chinese positive energy”.


Therefore, these questions need to be examined about what the intentions of China’s increasing engagement with Antarctic governance are: it aims to act in ways commensurate with its rising global status and international influence or challenge existing governance structure, what China’s ambition towards the Antarctica under Xi administration and what China’s policy would be towards Antarctica in the future.


My presentation aims to answer these questions, and it includes three main parts: firstly it touches upon the Antarctic Treaty System and current governance regime in the Antarctic region; then examines China’s early involvement in Antarctic affairs, and explores its Antarctic motives, policy and interests in the early years; thirdly moves on to analyze China’s engagement in Antarctic governance under Xi administration.


Dr. Liu HE currently is a lecturer at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. Prior to joining SHUPL in 2018, Liu had worked at Shanghai Jiao Tong university (as a post-doc researcher), Wuhan University (as a lecturer), University of Cambridge (as a visiting scholar), University of Canterbury (as a visiting scholar), University of  Pennsylvania (as a visiting PhD student).

Her researches primarily focus on Antarctic politics, Antarctic governance and Key player’s Antarctic policies and practices. She has published more than 10 journal papers, book chapters and monograph in the field of polar law and politics.

Global Co-Management and the Emergent Arctic: The Arctic Council’s East Asian Observer States and Indigenous Permanent Participants – Opportunities for Engagement and Collaboration

Dr Barry Zellen1

1United States Coast Guard Academy, Waterville Valley, United States

With its expansion of membership in recent years to include Asian states as Council observers, the Arctic Council (AC) is now truly a global forum for Arctic governance with stakeholders from the global North and South. As the polar ice thaws and new sea lanes emerge, East Asian AC observers are poised to be among the most active users of the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage – bringing with them their maritime expertise, industrial capabilities and global economic outlook to the Council. For indigenous permanent participants of the Arctic Council, East Asian participation brings as well the opportunity to directly interface with representatives of industrialized-maritime East Asia. With settled land claims having now transformed the entire North American Arctic, the AC’s expanded membership may help facilitate a new level of economic globalization and integration for the Inuit – from the national to the international level. This paper will look at the emerging relationships between the AC’s indigenous permanent participants and its more recent East Asian observer states, and the institutional learning processes under way among the East Asian observer states as they gain experience navigating the new regulatory and co-management structures of post-land claims Arctic North America.


Barry Scott Zellen joined the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Study and Policy as its Class of 1965 Arctic Scholar in January 2019. He holds his doctorate from the University of Lapland, his master’s from U.C. Berkeley, and his bachelor’s from Harvard University. Zellen lived and worked in the Western Arctic region for over a decade serving as executive director, general manager and managing editor of several Aboriginal media organizations. He has published over a dozen volumes in Arctic studies, international relations theory, and strategic studies. He will be a 2020 Fulbright Scholar at the University of Akureyri.

The US-China Trade War and the Future of International Polar Law

Dr Nengye Liu1

1University Of Adelaide, Adelaide University, Australia

In recent years, international polar law is growing rapidly to catch up with significant changes in the Polar Regions. The United States has played a leading role in driving several developments so far, such as the establishment of Ross Sea region Marine Protected Areas (RSrMPA) and the adoption of the 2018 Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO Agreement). China, as a rising power, has been actively involved in Polar governance as well. Nevertheless, the United States and China now enter into an era of strategic rivalry, particularly in trade and technology. This paper therefore aims to examine the impact of a new type of US-China relations on international polar law. It first assesses American influence on China in the RSrMPA and CAO Agreement, especially how did the United States persuade China to support these initiatives. Then the paper turns to give an overview about US-China competition in the Polar Regions, especially in the Arctic. The paper concludes with some predictions about where international polar law would head for in the context of escalating US-China strategic rivalry in the foreseeable future.


Dr Nengye Liu is a Senior Lecturer at Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide, Australia. Dr Liu’s current research centres on China’s role in global ocean governance, with particular focus on the Polar Regions. He has co-edited two books, published more than 30 refereed articles and book chapters in leading journals, such as Marine Policy, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Ocean Development and International Law, International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce, and presented research results in 30 countries across five continents.

About provides delegate registration, website and app solutions, and financial management for conferences, conventions and scientific meetings.

Terms & Conditions

All registrations and bookings are subject to our standard term and conditions.

Contact Us

Please contact the team at with any questions regarding the conference.
© 2017 - 2020 Conference Design Pty Ltd. is a division of Conference Design Pty Ltd.