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China plans to profit from Arctic melt

world Updated: Mar 09, 2010 00:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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China’s oceanic strategy is spreading beyond its territorial waters and the Indian Ocean, to the warming Arctic.

New research says that Chinese officials and academicians are making plans for China to ‘benefit’ from access to shorter shipping routes and energy resources as the Arctic sea ice melts in the coming decades.

“The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the Chinese government to allocate more resources to Arctic research,’’ says a latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

India’s first Arctic expedition was launched in 2007, nine years after China’s first foray into the region. China plans to send its fourth Arctic expedition this year and it’s building a hi-tech polar icebreaker to be operational by 2013.

China doesn’t have an official Arctic policy, but Beijing has already begun to talk about the common interests of mankind and rights for all in the Arctic. China will plan its Arctic policy cautiously and persistently, said SIPRI’s senior researcher Linda Jakobson who authored the report. “The government is very aware that because of its size and rise to great power status, its interest in the Arctic could cause jitters,’’ Jakobson said in Beijing on Monday.

Jakobson expects China’s oceanic administration to elaborate on the Artic ‘more than ever’ in its next five-year plan. The government is already studying a 10-point research paper on Arctic issues including the law, military and transportation. In future, she said, the unknown Arctic resources could cause international tension. China will plan collaborations with Arctic nations and possibly with Japan and South Korea who also stand to benefit from the shipping routes.

The report said that with nearly half of Chinese GDP dependent on shipping there could be much to gain if the shipping route from Shanghai to Hamburg is shortened by 6,400 km every summer.

“With insurance costs on the traditional route via the Suez Canal having risen more than tenfold due to piracy, the Nordic countries could become China’s new gateway to Europe,’’ it said.

Estimates for the Arctic becoming regularly navigable in the summer range from 2013 to 2060.