China’s Ambiguous Posture in the Arctic Region

The McGill International Review published an article titled, “China’s Ambiguous Posture in the Arctic Region”. The article reads in part as follows:

“Thawing ice in the Arctic region has opened a path for considerable economic opportunities in terms of commercial routes and resource extraction. Unsurprisingly, geo-strategic interests have quickly stepped in. Arctic countries, namely the US, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Russia, have submitted their territorial claims to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). These countries, along with six indigenous communities, also form the permanent members of the Arctic Council, an inter-governmental forum created to address regional issues. There are multiple questions that need to be addressed in the region such as research cooperation, environmental preservation, and legal territorial claims. In 2013, China, which considers itself as a “near-Arctic country,” gained the status of permanent observer at the Arctic Council.  China’s recent release of a white paper on its Arctic policy makes its well-known interests official, but this highlights a conflict with its position as a global leader in the fight against climate change.

“China has three related motives in mitigating global warming. First, there are considerable economic benefits to becoming a leader in clean technologies and “green” industrial development. Second, leading this fight paints a positive picture of China around the world, thus attenuating its aggressive stance on other issues. Third, environmental degradation is increasingly severe in China and threatens social stability, giving an impetus for the party-state to act. As a consequence, the country is taking the lead in the development of clean energy such as solar panels. While China produces about 24% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, it still has very low per-capita emissions figures. The country pledged to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 at the Paris Climate Accords and is on course to peak in 2027. Some analysts even argue that the country might do so before 2025.”

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