China seeks to exploit Arctic with Polar Silk Road trade route

China wants to create a trade route through the Arctic, hoping to shave 20 days off transit for cargo. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is slated to head north to the Arctic, Reuters reported. Global warming has opened up new shipping lanes that China plans to exploit.

Dubbed the Polar Silk Road in a state-funded Chinese white paper entitled “China’s Arctic Policy,” it calls for other enterprises to put forth infrastructure projects and start testing the waters through trial voyages to measure the viability of the Polar Silk Road as a trade corridor. The State Council Information Office (SCIO) stated in the white paper, “China hopes to work with all parties to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ through developing the Arctic shipping routes.”

China’s interest has expanded into the Arctic in hopes of playing a major role in shipping to this part of the globe. It could lead to economic and social progress among coastal states found on the route, according to plans that Xinhua Net translated in an English-language report.

As the area is not close Mainland China, President Xi Jinping is reported to have urged government to cooperate with Russia for the “Silk Road on Ice.”

It has yet to be confirmed if it will be related to a previous deal sealed between the neighbors with funding from China’s Silk Road Fund. The deal includes China reportedly buying a 9.9% stake in a plant that produces liquified natural gas (LNG). The plant is located at the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic and owned by Russia’s state-owned LNG producer, Novatek. The deal’s estimated valued is $1.2 billion with China becoming the main buyer of the LNG to be produced.

Possible shipping routes along the Polar Silk Road has already being explored and traversed by another state-owned enterprise, China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO). The Northern Sea Route would slash shipping time by “almost 20 days,” off routes through the Suez Canal, according to the Reuters report.

With the BRI initially focusing on the original Silk Road that existed in the imperial days of China, extending the road farther north gives the modern route an identity distinct from the early days when the route traded mostly silk and horses in Eurasia.

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