Could China’s resistance to climate change action have to do with its hopes to gain an economic advantage as the Arctic melts? A study by a Sweden-based research institute claims that the rising world power sees potential for new shipping routes and oil and gas exploration in the region.
The prospect of a clear shipping route from Shanghai to Europe and America during the summer months has China allocating vast resources to Arctic research studies, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Study author Linda Jakobson, a resident of China for 15 years and an expert on Chinese politics and policy, says academic advisors are encouraging the government to consider the political, economic and military advantages that could be gained. The Arctic is thought to contain untapped energy resources that could be accessed as the world warms.
An unimpeded passage through the Arctic would not only shorten the route from Shanghai to the port city of Hamburg, Germany, by 6,400 kilometers, but would also lessen insurance costs associated with the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia.
But government officials are cautious not to appear overly eager, says Jakobson, "wary that active overtures would cause alarm in other countries due to China's size and status as a rising global power.”
While China currently lacks the technology needed to extract deep-sea oil, and Russia — which controls many of the resources in Arctic waters — lacks both technology and capital, a partnership between the two could pave the way to more power for both.
Jakobson believes that China and Russia may cooperate with Japan, North Korea and South Korea so that all could “benefit enormously from shorter commercial shipping routes and possible access to new fishing grounds and other natural resources."