China's View on Arctic Cooperation
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
It is my great pleasure to join you on the High North Study Tour. Let me thank the Norwegian side for the invitation and thoughtful arrangement. We have heard 6 presentations from Norwegian colleagues, which have given us a better understanding of Norway's policies and practices in managing ongoing changes in the Arctic. Let me take this opportunity to share with you China's views on Arctic cooperation, why China is interested in Arctic cooperation, how China views the current trend in Arctic cooperation, and what kind of cooperation should be developed between Arctic and non-Arctic states.
I would like to begin by explaining why China is interested in Arctic cooperation.
The first reason is China's geographical location. China is separated from Arctic by only one country, Russia. The most northern part of China is around 50 degree of north latitude. As a country located in north hemisphere, China is seriously affected by climate and weather in Arctic.
The second reason is scientific research requirement. Arctic is a unique place for global climate research and environment assessment. Airspace and outer space observation in Arctic is important for over Arctic flight and satellite.
Third, potential impacts on China. In case the Arctic shipping routes open someday, global shipping, energy activities and trade will be affected. We feel we are part of the world, changes in the Arctic will affect China.
China is a party to the Treaty concerning Archipelago of Spitsbergen. The Chinese government attaches great importance to Arctic scientific research. China established a scientific research station, the "Yellow River Station" in the Arctic region in 2004, and conducted three Arctic marine scientific expeditions in 1999, 2003 and 2008 respectively. China's scientific expedition ship, the Snow Dragon, is now in the Arctic region on the fourth marine scientific expedition.
China is now an ad hoc observer to the Arctic Council, and is applying for the observer status of the Council. China has Arctic scientific cooperation and governmental dialogue with Norway, and relevant cooperation with Canada and United States. China has Arctic scientific cooperation with Russia, but no governmental dialogue yet. China is looking forward to enhance cooperation with relevant parties, in particular Arctic States.
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Over the past 20 years, a series of notable changes have taken place in the Arctic. On gratifying change is that, cooperation has become the mainstream in Arctic affairs.
Arctic cooperation began with environmental protection, and along with cooperation on sustainable development, has had a positive influence within the region and beyond. The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy adopted at the Rovaniemi meeting in 1989 is a milestone in this regard. The Arctic Council, after its establishment, took on the responsibility to follow up on the strategy and continued to pay attention to the livelihood, culture and health of the Arctic residents and other issues concerning sustainable development. Cooperation in these fields have not only effectively enhanced environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic, but also made an impact internationally by promoting international negotiations on climate change, persistent organic pollutants and other issues.
Scientific cooperation is the basis for Arctic cooperation. For 20 years, Arctic scientific cooperation has seen rapid progress both bilaterally and in the International Arctic Science Committee and under the framework of Arctic Council. Spitsbergen Archipelago has become an international platform for Arctic scientific cooperation. The just concluded International Polar Year elevated and broadened the cooperation to an unprecedented level. Following the end of the International Polar Year, the momentum for scientific cooperation was maintained and led to continued progress in the building of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Network. Arctic scientific cooperation constitutes a solid basis for national and international policy-making and adoption of relevant measures on Arctic issues.
Shipping is a new area of Arctic cooperation. In recent years, Arctic ice and snow are melting faster, creating new opportunities for opening Arctic shipping routes. Under the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) program initiated by the Arctic Council, a comprehensive study has been conducted on Arctic shipping, and systematic recommendations have been made. On this basis, the Arctic Council has set out to prepare a legal instrument on Arctic search and rescue, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is drafting the Mandatory Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters in order to improve the legal framework for Arctic shipping cooperation. In case the Arctic shipping routes are going to be opened, there will be great potential for cooperation in research, rule-making, infrastructure construction and other related areas.
Reviewing Arctic cooperation over past two decades, we can draw the following initial conclusions on the trend in Arctic cooperation:
First, there is a strong and practical need to strengthen Arctic cooperation. Some of the Arctic issues are national, but many of them are regional, or trans-regional concerning climate change, shipping and so on, which require more comprehensive understanding of the causes and impact of natural and environmental changes in the Arctic.
Second, the areas of the Arctic cooperation are continuously expanding, creating enormous potential. Arctic cooperation began in such areas as environmental protection and scientific research and quickly spread out to the field of sustainable development. With the changes in the Arctic, there is huge potential for cooperation in shipping and other areas.
Third, Arctic cooperation is increasingly institutionalized and its model is becoming more mature. After years of hard efforts, the International Arctic Science Committee, the Arctic Council and other regional cooperation mechanisms have been established.
As a non-Arctic state, China is ready to discuss what kind of cooperation should be developed between Arctic and non-Arctic states.
Cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic states has already been part and parcel of Arctic cooperation, either bilaterally or within the frameworks of regional fora and international organizations, on scientific research, environmental protection and sustainable development. The accelerated ice and snow melting and the possible earlier availability of commercial shipping routes in the Arctic region makes it necessary for Arctic and non-Arctic states to explore ways to further develop their partnership of cooperation. Such a partnership should contain the following essential elements.
First, recognizing and respecting each other's rights constitutes the legal basis for cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic states. In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant international laws, Arctic states have sovereign rights and jurisdiction in their respective areas in the Arctic region, while non-Arctic states also enjoy rights of scientific research and navigation. To develop a partnership of cooperation, Arctic and non-Arctic states should, first and foremost, recognize and respect each other's rights under the international law.
Second, mutual understanding and trust provides the political guarantee for cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic states. Arctic states, with a larger stake in Arctic-related issues, should play a more important role in Arctic affairs. In the meantime, given the trans-regional implications of certain Arctic issues, non-Arctic states that fall under such influence also have legitimate interests on Arctic-related issues. With their interests intertwined, both Arctic and non-Arctic states play an indispensable role on this matter. To enhance cooperation, Arctic and non-Arctic states should, on the basis of respecting each other's rights, strengthen their communication, increase mutual understanding and trust, support and assistant each other, and seek areas of converging interests.
Third, addressing trans-regional issues though joint research endeavors represents the major field of cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic states. Enhanced cooperation in scientific research will enable Arctic and non-Arctic states to view trans-regional issues from a wider perspective, send a more comprehensive message to the international community, and facilitate the settlement of relevant issues. This model of cooperation has already yielded sound results in addressing such issues as climate change and Arctic shipping. The issue for Arctic Council members now is how to involve non-Arctic states in relevant research endeavors and discussions at an early stage and in depth.
Fourth, peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic region represents the shared objective of cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic states. The parties have different rights, interests and specific concerns with regard to Arctic-related issues. However, peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic serve the common interests of both Arctic and non-Arctic states. Arctic and non-Arctic states are partners, not competitors. We should continue to enhance mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation, and jointly uphold and promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic region.