(China’s Resource Risks) Despite its enthusiasm, China’s efforts to become a key voice in Arctic affairs have been met with skepticism, even alarm by Arctic states, and few of its investment initiatives have borne fruit. Are China’s fortunes turning with strategic partner Russia assuming on May 20, 2021 the role of chair of the Arctic Council, a two-year rotating position? For China, an observer in the organization since 2013, Russia’s new status provides opportunities as well as risks.
While Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called China his country’s priority partner in the Arctic, he was quick to clarify that he meant the Russian Arctic, not the Arctic Council where Russia intends to focus on engaging Arctic states. China also has garnered praise from Russia’s Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation, Nikolay Korchunov, for its “restraint” compared to the Western countries the official accused of militarizing the Arctic. It remains to be seen, however, whether Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council will lead to China’s in-depth participation in Arctic governance and greater Sino-Russian economic integration and development in the Arctic, as Tianjin scholar Liu Feng and National Marine Information Center (Ministry of Natural Resources) researcher Liu Rui have predicted.
Sino-Russian relations have been deepening since the 2008 global financial crisis, a trend that has accelerated since the United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia after its takeover of Crimea in 2014. For China, Russia’s reduced options for investment and technology for its Arctic LNG projects had a silver lining–Chinese companies have been able to purchase stakes in the two Yamal LNG projects and cooperate with Russia on several other related projects. […]
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