Safety, stability, and prosperity of the Arctic is important not only for the region but also for the entire world. This region faces several challenges due to the fragile environment and logistics. The UN, EU, China and many countries of the world are now getting together to promote the sustainable development of the Arctic. Social, economic, and environmental development is the objective that would be accomplished in an integrated and balanced manner. Finland, Sweden, and China are working on infrastructure and transport along with the social and economic aspects of the Arctic.
Promoting sustainable economy
The EU aims to share its best practices and experiences on the circular economy with the Arctic states. Many EU agencies are also working to facilitate safe maritime activities in Arctic waters, known as the Blue Growth strategy. Blue economy includes aquaculture, marine biotechnology, seabed extraction, coastal tourism, and ocean energy. Due to the melting of the Arctic, new passages in Northwest and Northeast Arctic have opened up. This has generated the interest of countries like China who can now venture into the Arctic waters.
Retaining traditional livelihoods and knowledge
The indigenous people of the Arctic have survived for hundreds of years with their traditional knowledge. Tourism in this region will create new jobs and increase profits. The Cruise industry is growing in the Arctic due to the thawing of sea ice. Eco-friendly cruise ships that keep pollution levels down need to be used, as there might be a risk of sinking and grounding, oil spills, water pollution. Wastewater disposal may dirty the pristine waters of the ocean.
The tourism shipping industry in the Arctic is now subject to the EU standards of waste management and IMO regulations.
China’s policy of sustainable development in the Arctic
Along with other countries, China too has developed a policy for the sustainable economic development of the Arctic. According to a recently published white paper, China has pledged on cooperative governance, elaborating its vision of the “Polar Silk Road”.
This brings to mind China’s ‘Silk Route’ of yore, when Chinese silk merchants traded their silk all over the world. This route, which facilitated the trade various goods, was used by Eurasians, Africans and Arabs. Religions, technologies, and philosophies spread throughout the ‘Silk Road’ too. Cultural, political, and economic development of the entire world happened along the ‘Silk Route’.
The new route into the Arctic has opened up a new, historic opportunity; it presents countries with economic development in that region. However, there are also many challenges which have been wrought by changes due to the global warming and climate changes.
China’s aim is to jointly protect, develop, understand, and participate in governing the Arctic jointly with other countries. China has vowed to take part in the Arctic affairs following the principles of cooperation, respect, and sustainability – which also gets the required results. The country also promised to take into consideration all the other countries which are participating in the Arctic development effort.
The area of the Arctic Ocean is huge, so China and many other coastal countries share the maritime interests and rights as per international law.
China’s plan for the Arctic
China is encouraging its businesses to participate and develop the infrastructure of the route along with conducting trade voyages on the new Arctic route. China has conducted intense surveys regarding the safety and security of the route, which also includes the hydrographic surveys. This has enabled the country to improve the logistics, security, and navigation. China has also developed plans for the gas, mineral, oil and non-fossil energy abounding in the region.
There is a lot of scope for Chinese tourism and fishing industry, as they can venture into the new territory that has opened up while protecting the cultures, traditions and the natural ecology of the Arctic. The Chinese government has also promised to promote environmental protection and scientific research. Stability and peace are of utmost importance, and China has agreed to maintain peace and harmony in the region. The country will cooperate with other Arctic nations in search and rescue missions, early warning (maritime), information sharing and emergency response.
The Arctic has many economic possibilities and several countries worldwide are interested in a stake involving this new ‘Silk Road’ – including China. The region is fragile and all countries must resolve for its sustainable development, otherwise, we would lose an amazing natural resource.