China Accepts Rules in the Arctic

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-7-76-83

A. Zagorskii (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation


Analyzing the White Book of China’s policy in the Arctic, the author argues, that its provisions indicate Beijing’s readiness to accept the terms of participation in regional affairs as formulated in 2011 in criteria for admission of observers to the Arctic Council. International maritime law, particularly provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provide a common denominator and a framework for identifying the balance of interests of coastal states and China, as well as other interested non-Arctic actors in the region. Beijing claims to respect sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of coastal states in the Arctic Ocean, and uphold the current Arctic governance system based on the UNCLOS. In return, it expects Arctic states to respect rights and responsibilities of non-regional actors, including China, as provided for by international law. This would be the basis for defining the balance of interests of concerned actors, maintenance of status quo in the region, and guidance from Beijing to domestic actors to observe established rules. The publication of the White Book triggered a controversial debate against the background of concerns raised particularly with respect to expansion of activities of Chinese state enterprises in the Arctic. While most concerns can be addressed in a rational and cooperative manner, it is particularly Beijing’s posture on the use of maritime routes in the Arctic Ocean which requires further clarification.


Arctic, China, Russia, Arctic governance, shipping, security



1. Full Text: China’s Arctic Policy. The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 26.01.2018. Available at: (accessed 30.01.2018).

2. Nong Hong. China’s Interests in the Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges. Examining the implications of China’s Arctic policy white paper. Washington, Institute of China-America Studies, 2018. 26 p.

3. Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) Report to Ministers, Nuuk, Greenland, May 2011, Arctic Council. Available at: (accessed 13.12.2018).

4. Arctic Council Rules of Procedure as adopted by the Arctic Council at the First Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting Iqaluit, Canada September 17–18, 1998. Revised by the Arctic Council at the Eighth Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting Kiruna, Sweden May 15, 2013. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 12.12.2018).

5. China’s View on Arctic Cooperation. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. 30.07.2010. Available at: (accessed 11.11.2018).

6. Keynote Speech by Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming at the China Country Session of the Third Arctic Circle Assembly. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. 17.10.2015. Available at: (accessed 11.11.2018).

7. Gao Feng. China’s Key Arctic Policy Challenges. The Arctic in World Affairs. A North Pacific Dialogue on Building Capacity for a Sustainable Arctic in a Changing Global Order (2017 North Pacific Arctic Conference Proceedings). Corell R.W., Kim J.D., Kim Y.H., Young O.R., eds. Busan, Republic of Korea, Korea Maritime Institute; Honolulu, Hawaii, East-West Center, KMI/EWC series on The Arctic in World Affairs, 2017, pp. 55-57.

8. Wishnick E. China’s Interests and Goals in the Arctic: Implications for the United States. Washington, U. S. Army War College Press, 2018. 96 p.

9. Makhmutov T.A. et al. Aziatskie igroki v Arktike: interesy, vozmozhnosti, perspektivy [Asian Players in the Arctic: Interests, Opportunities, Prospects]. Moscow, NP RSMD, 2016. 56 p.

10. Suokas J. China eyes economic, strategic benefits in the Arctic. GBTimes, 23.11.2018. Available at: (accessed 23.12.2018).

11. Petrovskii V.E., Filippova L.V. Strategiya Kitaya po osvoeniyu Arktiki i perspektivy rossiiskokitaiskogo sotrudnichestva v regione [China’s strategy for the development of the Arctic and prospects for Russo-Chinese cooperation in the region]. Kitai v mirovoi i regional’noi politike. Istoriya i sovremennost’, 2018. vol. 23, no. 23, pp. 171-182. DOI:10.24411/2618’6888’2018’10013

12. Pilyasov A.N. Magnit globalizatsii – arkticheskaya politika Kitaya [The magnet of globalization – China’s Arctic Policy]. Arktika: ekologiya i ekonomika, 2018, no. 3(31), pp. 112-122. DOI:10.25283/2223-4594-2018-3-112-122

13. Lajeunesse A. Finding “win-win” Сhina’s Arctic policy and what it means for Canada. University of Calgary SPP Briefing paper, 2018, vol. 11(33). 13 p. Available at: (accessed 23.12.2018).

14. Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service 41153, 13.12. 2018, 117 p. Available at: (accessed 23.12.2018).

15. Koivurova T. et al. China in the Arctic and the Opportunities and Challenges for Chinese-Finnish Arctic Co-operation. Helsinki, Prime Minister’s Office, 2019. 106 p.

16. Svalbard Treaty. The Governor of Svalbard, 02.08.2016. Available at: (accessed 15.11.2018).

17. Adapting to Change – UK policy towards the Arctic. London, FCO, 2013. 33 p.

18. Käpylä J., Mikkola H. On Arctic Exceptionalism. Critical reflections in the light of the Arctic Sunrise case and the crisis in Ukraine. Helsinki, FIIA, 2015. 22 p.

19. Grieger G, China’s Arctic Policy: How Chinа Aligns Rights and Interests. Brussels, European Parliamentary Research Service, 2018. 10 p.

20. Lanteigne M. ‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?’ China as a norm entrepreneur in the Arctic. Polar Record, 2017, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 117-130. DOI:10.1017/S0032247416000759.

21. Jakobson L, Lee S.-H. North East Asia eyes the Arctic. The New Arctic Governance. Jacobson L., Melvin N., eds. SIPRI. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 111-146.

22. Sakhuja V., Narula K., eds. Asia and the Arctic: Narratives, Perspectives and Policies. Singapore, Springer, 2016. Available at: (accessed 15.11.2018).

23. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s greetings to the Participants of Event Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Ilulissat Declaration. MFA of Russia. 23.05.2018 (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 15.12.2018).

24. The Ilulissat Declaration. Arctic Ocean Conference. Ilulissat, Greenland, 27–29 May 2008 (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 11.12.2018).

25. Ye Jiang, China’s Role in Arctic Affairs in the context of Global Governance. Strategic Analysis, 2014, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 913-916.

26. Moe A., Schram Stokke O. Asian Countries and Arctic Shipping: Policies, Interests and Footprints on Governance. Arctic Review on Law and Politics, 2019, vol. 10, pp. 24-52. DOI:10.23865/arctic.v10.1374

27. IMO approved the proposals of the Russian Federation and the United States on shipping in the Bering Strait. RIA Novosti, 25.05.2018 (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 13.11.2018).

28. Intelligence Risk Assessment 2018. An assessment of developments abroad impacting on Danish security. Copenhagen, Danish Defence Intelligence Service, 2018. 59 p.

29. Konyshev V.N., Kobzeva M.A. Politika Kitaya v Arktike: traditsii i sovremennost’ [China’s policy in the Arctic: Tradition and modernity]. Sravnitel’naya politika i geopolitika, 2017, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 77-79. DOI:10.18611/2221-3279-2017-8-1-77-92

30. MacDonald A.P. China’s Arctic Engagements: Differentiating Reality from Apprehension. Available at: (accessed 09.02.2019).


Registered in system SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Zagorskii A. China Accepts Rules in the Arctic. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2019, vol. 63, No 7, pp. 76-83.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment

Current Issue
Submit an Article

Dear readers!
Please note that free access to full-text issues of the Journal is being opened at our WEB-site after 6 months of the date of publications.The work on deepening the open archive of full-text issues will be continued.

Dear colleagues, authors and readers!
We kindly request you to turn to editor-in-chief and executive secretary directly concerning reviewing scientific publications in our journal. Only editor-in-chief takes decision on order and publication the reviews!

Dear readers!
This is to inform the researchers of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations that electronic versions of the I, II, III issues of 2020 of French magazine Politique étrangère are now available. Those who are interested, please personally address to the editorial staff of MEMO Journal (room 18-17) with an electronic media.

In response to the challenges of our time the Editorial board continues to open new thematic rubrics:

“World Energy Sector after Pandemic”. We plan to publish articles presenting in-depth analysis of influence of Pandemic on the global energy sector and forecasts of further developments in its various branches.

“Civilization processes of modern development” is a new rubric opened by MEMO Journal in 2020. It will be devoted to the analysis of the influence of civilizational factors and inter-civilizational interactions on the political and socio-economic development of the world at whole, regions and countries.

“Africa today and tomorrow”The rubric devoted to contemporary issues of Africa which is attracting growing interest of the world's leading actors. We plan to publish the articles analyzing the status of statehood, socio-economic and political development of the countries of Black continent, as well as the integration processes between them.


"World Eсonomy and International Relations" announces a contest for the best joint academic publications of domestic and foreign researchers and experts in topical issues of the world economy and international relations. The winners will be selected according to the results of peer reviewing and discussion at the Editorial Board. The articles will be published in priority order.


The print version of “World Economy and International Relations” journal is distributed by advance subscription only, and is not offered for retail sale. To subscribe please address to any post office in Russia by referring to the Federal Postal Service Union Catalogue, section “ARSMI”, the journal index is 70542. The subscription may be made for the whole subscription period or starting from any nearest available month for desired number of issues.

To purchase the full-text electronic version of the journal’s issue/article please address to the WEB portal of Scientific electronic library or URL:

In journal
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 |

The author’s opinions may not coincide with the position of editorial