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.

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