China today laid down its vision for a ‘Polar Silk Road’, vowing to develop the Arctic as a shipping highway.
Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages in the region.
“China hopes to work with all parties to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ through developing the Arctic shipping routes,” the paper, issued by the State Council Information Office, said.
China has been an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013 and its lead maritime conglomerate Cosco has been trialling a number of voyages from northern China to Europe via the Arctic in recent years.
China also has a major stake in Russia’s Yamal liquefied natural gas project which will supply China with 4m tonnes of LNG a year. The country has also been linked with making port investments in countries such as Iceland to further its Arctic shipping ambitions to Europe.
Shipping through the Northern Sea Route can shave almost 20 days off the regular time using the traditional route to Europe through the Suez Canal.
China’s Polar Silk Road ambitions can be seen as an extension of its Belt and Road initiative, which aims to connect China to Europe, the Middle East and beyond via massive infrastructure projects.