Polar Silk Road
The Chinese government declared in a white paper titled “China’s Arctic Policy” that China is willing to work with all parties concerned to build a “Polar Silk Road” by developing Arctic shipping routes. By focusing economic cooperation on prospective investments in Arctic shipping routes and exploration of Arctic resources, China endeavors to contribute to the infrastructure construction and digitalization of the Arctic. China’s Belt and Road Initiative will bring opportunities for concerned parties to jointly build a “Polar Silk Road” and facilitate connectivity and sustainable economic and social development in the Arctic.
The Arctic shipping routes include sea routes that pass through the Arctic Circle to connect the three major economic centers of North America, East Asia and Western Europe through the Northeast Passage and Northwest Passage. The former is the shortest sea route between China and Europe.
More than 90 percent of China’s foreign trade is shipped by sea, but if cruising along traditional shipping routes, cargo vessels from China bound for EU member states must go through the Strait of Malacca, the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal to finally reach European ports. The Northeast Passage would cut the distance to about two-thirds of the traditional route.
Therefore, the opening and utilization of the Arctic shipping routes will promote overall growth of the Arctic economic circle and bring major changes to global trade and shipping patterns. Now, economic opportunities in the Arctic are increasing, but infrastructure there is weak and in need for the Chinese market, capital and technology.
Spitsbergen Island in northern Norway is located along the Arctic shipping routes. The emergence of the Arctic shipping routes would cut the distance of trade between China and EU member states to about twothirds of the traditional route. VCG