DW Documentary (April 1, 2023) – Following the rise of China’s power in Africa, are we on the verge of seeing a Chinese Arctic? Certainly, the country is seeking to expand its influence in this geopolitically important area. The US is worried, while Russia smells business.
But what are China’s plans for the region? In 2013, the “Yong Sheng” made history: It was the first Chinese cargo ship to reach Europe via the Arctic. This promising route, which Beijing soon dubbed the “Polar Silk Road,” made the “Yong Sheng” a symbol of Chinese ambitions in the far north. Increasingly self-confident, China is now expanding its sphere of influence bit by bit in the Arctic – a place of high geopolitical significance.
The country’s influence is spreading, with projects that include investments in gas resources in the Russian Arctic on the Yamal Peninsula. In January 2018, China initiated the “Polar Silk Road” project. Now, the country is pursuing a rapprochement with Iceland and Norway through businessmen. China maintains a research station on Spitsbergen and has even started to define itself publicly as a country “close to the Arctic” – a status from which China hopes to derive new rights.
The Arctic seems a long way from Beijing. But Chinese president Xi Jinping has understood how important this region is. China’s need for resources is driving Xi Jinping to negotiate with the major Arctic powers, who largely view him with suspicion. The new geopolitics of the Arctic are playing out not only in world capitals and in the media, but also on the ground: Emissaries, entrepreneurs, and mediators are traveling to the strategic region.
This group includes Chinese nationals as well as Norwegians, Icelanders, Swedes and Americans. China is expanding. After “Chinafrica,” will we now also speak of “Chinarctica”? China, it is said, has time on its side. And in the meantime it is openly dreaming of superpower status. The Americans are worried, the Europeans are hesitant and the Russians are eager for investments. But what are China’s real goals?