When, in 2018, the People’s Republic of China published its first Arctic strategy, claiming that the Middle Kingdom is a ‘near-Arctic state’, many a snigger could be heard throughout the world of Arctic diplomacy. Yet, it is quickly becoming clear that China has built a geostrategic presence in the Arctic that is not to be sniggered at. It is already reshaping circumpolar politics in fundamental ways. Therefore, this Clingendael report aims to answer the following questions:
- What are the long-term drivers behind China’s growing presence in the Arctic?
- How is China currently shaping Arctic relations?
- How should Europe and the Netherlands engage with China’s growing presence in the Arctic?
China’s Arctic strategy, in particular as it materialises in Iceland and Greenland, leads us to conclude that China’s growing presence in the Arctic is not a direct threat to European countries but rather a long-term strategic issue of great importance, but not great urgency. Above all, China shows the power of presence by claiming a seat at the table in the Arctic Council and by investing in strategic sectors and diplomatic relations with Arctic states. Europe's challenge will be to re-engage with Iceland and Greenland, and China's presence there, in a similar multi-layered way, coordinating short-, medium- and long-term strategies.
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