The Chinese Pole

Policy Options

May 1, 2013

China’s interest in securing permanent observer status in the Arctic Council and its growing icebreaker capabilities have spawned reactions from Arctic states ranging from warm enthusiasm to extreme caution.  Many analysts assume that China is a revisionist territorial actor that is motivated by resource concerns and that could potentially dominate the Arctic Council, and Western commentators view China’s Arctic ambitions with more apprehension than they view those of any other state. In Canada, this apprehension dates back to an oft-cited myth that China’s research icebreaker, the Xue Long, arrived in Tuktoyaktuk without notice in 1999 and that Canada lacked (and lacks) the capacity to control its Arctic domain.

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About the Authors

P. Whitney Lackenbauer is associate professor and chair of the department of history at St. Jerome’s University (University of Waterloo). An expert in Arctic sovereignty and modern Canadian military, diplomatic and political history, he is currently leading a collaborative research project on the internationalization of the Arctic Council.