The melting Arctic presents a geopolitical challenge and it is the last bit of unclaimed land left on our quickly heating globe. A report in the Worldcrunch analyses why China is suddenly so interested in the Arctic.
China is now becoming more involved primarily because of issues related to climate change, shipping and natural resources. China will also play an important role in exploiting the region's resources.
Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister Borge Brende says China's growing economic affairs and scientific community will demand that the country become increasingly involved in issues related to the Arctic.
Another reason Asian countries are paying more attention to the Arctic is because more shipping lanes could open as ice disappears. One of these paths is the Northern Sea Route, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean
, past Norway
, and then into the Pacific.
The Arctic region has oil reserves of more than 90 billion barrels, about 13% of the global total, according to a 2008 report from the U.S. Geological Survey. There are also 47 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, 30% of the world total.
Chinese companies are already interested. In 2013, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) agreed to buy one-fifth of the Yamal liquefied natural gas project in the Arctic from the Russian oil company Novatek Inc. No amount was announced.
A group of Chinese officials and scientists visited the Norwegian city of Tromso last month for the Arctic Frontiers conference, where 1,400 government officials, scholars and activists from 30 Arctic and non-Arctic countries gathered to discuss climate change and energy matters related to the Arctic.
At Arctic Frontiers, Sun Xiansheng, president of the Economics and Technology Research Institute at China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) speech was the most widely covered.
Newsweek announced that China was “going polar.” Xiansheng stated that although China didn’t have any independent oil and gas exploration projects in the Arctic, “We will cooperate with other companies if there’s a chance….We are just starting.” This shouldn’t have really been news to anyone, though, for almost exactly one year prior to his talk, China won the license to explore for oil off Iceland.
This week also coincides with celebrations in China of thirty years of polar expeditions and a permanent polar presence, as reports. Exactly three decades ago, on February 20, 1985, China opened its first permanent polar research station: the Great Wall Station in Antarctica.