China has released a white paper outlining its vision for creating a “Polar Silk Road” that takes advantage of shipping lanes opened up by melting ice in the Arctic.
In the document, issued by the State Council Information Office, China vows to “strengthen technological innovation, environmental protection, resource utilization and the development of shipping routes in the Arctic.”
It also sets out plans to develop fossil fuel and renewable energy sources, as well as drive fishing and tourism in the region.
In recent years, Chinese companies have started investigating the commercial opportunities presented by Arctic shipping and resource development. Maritime conglomerate Cosco has already sailed vessels through the Northeast passage, while China’s state-owned Silk Road Fund has taken a 10% stake in Russia’s $27 billion Yamal LNG project.
The white paper states that China will utilize Arctic resources on the conditions of “respecting the traditions and cultures of the Arctic residents, including the indigenous peoples”.
The Arctic plan is an extension of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, which aims to promote economic growth by connecting China to the rest of the world via massive infrastructure projects.