China emphasizes 'respect' in its Arctic policy, says Canadian scholar

Policy
China emphasizes "respect" in its recently released Arctic policy, seeking to work with the countries concerned to build a "Polar Silk Road," Adam Lajeunesse, a Canadian scholar, said.

XinhuaUpdated: February 6, 2018

China emphasizes "respect" in its recently released Arctic policy, seeking to work with the countries concerned to build a "Polar Silk Road," Adam Lajeunesse, a Canadian scholar, said.

Lajeunesse said the Chinese white paper on its Arctic policy, released on Jan. 26, is "full of discussions of respect for indigenous and local communities, environmental sustainability and long-term sustainable resource development."

Lajeunesse, an assistant professor at St. Francis Xavier University, said this in an interview. The co-author of a recent book, "China's Arctic Ambitions and What They Mean for Canada", also holds the Irving Shipbuilding chair in Canadian Arctic Marine Security Policy at the university's Mulroney Institute of Government.

That respect should be "reciprocal," in which all states should respect the sovereignty of Arctic countries. China should expect that respect to be mutual from Canada, said Lajeunesse, who holds a Ph.D. in the history of Canada's Arctic maritime policy.

He explained that Canadian prime ministers, dating back to Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre, who was in office from 1968 until, with a brief interruption, 1984, "have said very explicitly that Canadian Arctic waters are open and that Canada welcomes foreign shipping. It just has to be based on Canada's regulations and its environmental protection laws. And to this point, everybody has played ball, including the Chinese."

"What the Chinese have done with this policy is that ... they recognize everybody's sovereignty in the Arctic, and at the same time recognize international law and the freedom of transit without actually specifying who has sovereignty," Lajeunesse said.

In the white paper, China pledged cooperative governance and elaborated its vision for a "Polar Silk Road."

The document, "China's Arctic Policy", underscores that China has shared interests with Arctic states and a shared future with the rest of the world concerning the Arctic.

The land territories in the Arctic cover an area of about 8 million square km, with sovereignty belonging to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, respectively. The Arctic Ocean has an area of more than 12 million square km, in which coastal and other countries share maritime rights and interests according to international law.