Acknowledgements. The article has been supported by a grant of the Russian Science Foundation. Project no. 17-18-01110.
Abstract. For the past few years, the Arctic has become an indispensable element of the Chinese foreign policy discourse. This article is meant to explore the essence and the character of Beijing’s regional aspirations and how they relate to Russian regional strategy. Despite a genuine interest of Chinese organizations in contributing to transformations of the political and economic landscape of the Arctic, one could argue, that polar affairs so far do not constitute a matter of the first and foremost concern for Beijing’s diplomacy. The balance of regional interests between China and Russia is differing from one issue to another. The maximum synergy has been achieved in the LNG production area – here Russia is playing the role of an ideal supplier, while China provides maximum demand for this commodity and the lion’s share of required project financing. However, Russian oil & gas companies are well aware of risks emerging from over-dependency on Chinese investments. So, in the course of designing future Arctic projects (notably, the “Arctic LNG” by NOVATEK), they are explicitly pursuing the strategy of diversification of the potential investors’ scope. In contrast, the PRC’s involvement into the development of the Arctic shipping along the Russian northern coast turns out to be not so substantial as it might appear in the mass media. The COSCO’s core area of business is container traffic, and the Northern Sea Route so far is not ready to provide this type of cargo transportation in a regular and safe way. That is why China’s performance in the NSR is limited to shipments of metal constructions and spare parts for wind-power mills, which are of rather limited added value in comparison with the container traffic (though the number of the COSCO’s Arctic transits has been rising since 2015). Finally, in military-strategic terms, the Arctic might attract the attention of the PLAN’s Command in the long run (by the time of accomplishment of the latest (third) stage of the Chinese Navy reform, i.e. by 2050). The Arctic Ocean might potentially be of interest for Beijing as an additional (and maybe the safest) area for the deployment of SSBNs. In the future, China could be even potentially interested in the establishment of a naval base(s) on the Russian northern coast, so to maintain a regular character of SSBNs’ operations in the Arctic Ocean. However, a positive feedback from Russian authorities to such an idea is highly unlikely, taking into account basic principles underlying the Russian Maritime Strategy.
Keywords: Arctic, China, Russia, LNG, infrastructure, Northern Sea Route, military security
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