The strategic implications of China’s Arctic Road

A potential route for China’s “Polar Silk Road” as part of its Belt and Road Initiative
China’s maritime pathway through the Arctic, if it were to come to fruition, might look something like this, connecting China with Western Europe (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • China has proposed creating an Arctic link to Europe
  • Doing so would increase its influence in the region
  • That could tip the strategic balance, with consequences for Russia and NATO
  • Western opposition is likely to grow, though without a coordinated response

In 2017, the Chinese government released a document entitled “Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.” It included an idea for an Arctic link between China and Western Europe, complementing its other plans to construct infrastructure and trade routes connecting the country with Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. China’s ambitions were further developed in a white paper released in January 2018, which emphasized the importance of economic and scientific development in its Arctic strategy. While there is widespread interest in Chinese investments in infrastructure, there are also growing concerns over Beijing’s strategic intent, as well as skepticism over whether the plans will be realized and deliver significant economic and strategic benefits to China or others.

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