Global Asia - - IN FOCUS -

The Arc­tic con­nec­tion

The open­ing of arc­tic sea routes will in­crease con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween asia and europe. None­the­less, both the com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties and se­cu­rity chal­lenges at­tached to the arc­tic are of­ten ex­ag­ger­ated. The North­ern sea Route has been writ­ten into China’s belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, sig­nal­ing an in­ter­est on the Chi­nese side, but it will take many years, if not decades, be­fore this sea route is com­mer­cially sus­tain­able. also, it is only ship­ments in and out of ports in Ja­pan, south Korea and cities north of shang­hai in China that will save fuel and time sail­ing the arc­tic route in­stead of through the suez to europe.

Fur­ther­more, China’s and asia’s en­try into arc­tic af­fairs is un­likely to al­ter the se­cu­rity pol­icy con­fig­u­ra­tion in the re­gion. For the Pla Navy to op­er­ate in the arc­tic Ocean, it first has to sail along the Ja­panese coast, pass through the nar­row ber­ing strait, then en­ter into Rus­sian wa­ters. an in­creased Chi­nese foot­print in the arc­tic is hardly fea­si­ble with­out Rus­sian con­sent, and de­spite im­proved ties, China’s arc­tic en­gage­ment is still looked upon with sus­pi­cion in Moscow, a con­cern bei­jing is keenly aware of. More­over, in the big pic­ture of Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy, the arc­tic is rather low on the list of bei­jing’s pri­or­i­ties.


In a chang­ing geopo­lit­i­cal land­scape char­ac­ter­ized by in­ten­si­fied sino-us ri­valry and Rus­sian as­sertive­ness, the strate­gic the­aters of asia and europe are now more closely con­nected than at any point since the end of the Cold War, and this has to be re­flected in the grand strat­egy of the ma­jor pow­ers. al­though the asian the­ater has re­placed the euro­pean as the new nexus in in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics, europe can still play a role in asian se­cu­rity. as of yet, how­ever, euro­pean cap­i­tals don’t have an over­ar­ch­ing strat­egy for

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