China at the Top of the World

SONY DSCInternational pressure and foreign investment are giving China leverage in the Arctic.

by John McNeil

China has created a simple shortcut from Asia to Europe — it purchased the world’s largest icebreaker and plowed its way through the Arctic Circle, covering 17,000 km in 85 days and shaving 40 percent of the distance off the usual commute. Media from around the world acknowledged the August journey of the Snow Dragon, the first of its kind. However, the Chinese have found themselves on diplomatic thin ice with some of the Arctic nations whose domestic waterways Beijing unilaterally declared international channels as they navigated from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

While a much faster, much less expensive route from Asia to Europe would make it easier for Chinese manufacturers to bring their products to market in Europe, the Chinese claim commerce is merely a secondary benefit. The ostensible purpose of the voyage was to conduct scientific research. The Polar Research Institute of China partnered with scientists in Iceland to …

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