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China signals ambition to create 'Polar Silk Road'

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China has shed light on its plans to extend the Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes opened up by the effects of global warming, as reported in Reuters.

Releasing its first official policy white paper on the issue, China announced that it would support enterprises to create infrastructure and undertake commercial trial voyages, initiating the development of a ‘Polar Silk Road’.

While not an Arctic state, China has nevertheless been active in the region in recent years; in 2013 it became an observer member of the Arctic Council and has also recently acquired a significant state in the Yamal LNG project in Russia.

The creation of a ‘Polar Silk Road’ would reap significant benefits for China – the state-run newspaper China Daily has reported that shipping through the Northern Sea Route would be nearly three weeks quicker than the traditional route via the Suez Canal.

The white paper also revealed that China is seeking development of gas, oil, mineral resources and other non-fossil energies in the region. It said it would do so “jointly with Arctic states, while respecting traditions and cultures of the Arctic residents including the indigenous peoples and conserving natural environment”.

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