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.

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