In the June 30, 2023 Economist video Ukraine war: will China be the real winner? The Economist's Beijing bureau chief David Rennie begins:

China's leader Xi Jinping when this war ends China will be in Prime position to take advantage of a new world order1 that is emerging.

and after about 03:12 he says:

When China looks at the globe, to look at areas where it could advance its interests because it is so much more dominant over Russia, look at places like the Arctic where Russia has actually been quite wary of letting China take advantage of melting sea ice creating new shipping lanes; new opportunities to build ports, as climate change unlocks the Arctic. But maybe Russia won't be in the same position to say no when China comes knocking.

This war in one corner of Europe is reshaping the map of the world order.

Question: What demonstrates that "Russia has actually been quite wary of letting China take advantage of melting sea ice..."?

Is it as simple as China offering to build new ports "for" or "with" Russia? Has Russia denied China's interest in the arctic in other ways?

1"new world order" yikes!

  • 1
    Just to comment on the world order. Its a nice scare phrase, but isn't anything. We have a current world order. The world order has changed many times throughout history. Roughly speaking, the world order is the ranking of influential entities on the global stage. It tends to ripple more when higher ranking entities dramatically shift places. We found ourselves in a new world order after the fall of the Third Reich. We had another new one with the dissolution of the USSR. Any time powers at the top move places, its more or less a new world order.
    – David S
    Jul 20, 2023 at 22:13
  • @DavidS a really good point! I think that those who obtain the most power/influence will then embrace the concept (at least catch-phrase) of "world order" more readily, but it really means "at a minimum, maintain our advantage or level of influence if not continue to increase it". Wait, is world politics like a game? Who'da thunk it? :-) I have somewhere a recent quote from a high level US spokesperson where they come right out and say that China's attempt to influence world order is a problem - essentially saying "we don't want them to grow more powerful" which is exactly what China asserts.
    – uhoh
    Jul 20, 2023 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


(You want to search for "Arctic Council" on this kinda stuff).

In the good old days in April 2022... War on the Rocks had this to say:

Despite these Arctic project collaborations, Moscow views China’s growing presence in the Arctic with distrust. With vast territory and a more-than-20,000-mile coastline in the Arctic circle, Russia has a strong interest in preventing external powers from influencing Arctic affairs, and thus sees China’s claim to “near-Arctic state” status and advocacy for non-Arctic states to have a greater say in Arctic affairs as an unwelcome push for “internationalization” of the region. Tensions between the two nations surface at times. In 2012, for instance, Russia blocked Chinese research vessels from conducting surveys along the Northern Sea Route during China’s fifth Arctic expedition. Up to 2013, Moscow persistently opposed granting China observer status on the Arctic Council. Even after the 2014 Crimea crisis, when Russia began to demonstrate a warmer posture toward China’s role in the Arctic, Moscow’s suspicions remained in place. In 2020, Russia arrested the head of the Arctic Civic Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg on the charge of passing classified information to China. Beijing clearly knows Russian distrust.

But there seems be a thaw of sorts, April 2023 China-Russia Arctic Cooperation in the Context of a Divided Arctic | The Arctic Institute – Center for Circumpolar Security Studies is more circumspect about this rivalry.

(Keep in mind that Russia is more or less suspended from the Arctic Council since June 2022)

It starts out with reminding essentially of the history of caution Russia has:

Although the active support and strategic leadership of the leaders of China and Russia have provided the basis for effective Arctic cooperation between the two countries.9) In fact, for a long time, the Russian local level has always been wary of foreign forces developing the Arctic region, worrying that the entry of foreign companies will affect the dominance of domestic companies, damage the ecological environment, and threaten regional security.

But then goes on to talk of budding bromance:

The impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine has spread to the Arctic region. The Arctic 7 have refused to collaborate with Russia, and the Arctic is forming a confrontation between Arctic 7 and Russia. In order to break through this predicament, Russia, which has been squeezed out by other Arctic countries, has to look to China for its Arctic cooperation. For China, Russia’s enthusiasm for Arctic cooperation is certainly a good opportunity, but China also needs to be vigilant that the deepening of its Arctic cooperation with Russia will not affect its relations with other Arctic countries. At the same time, from the perspective of long-term interests, China’s future Arctic development cannot be separated from the Arctic Council, and actively promoting the normal operation of the Arctic Council is necessary and important for China.

Keep in mind, global warming has been causing Arctic interest to heat up for a while (due to the potential for future ice-free access):

  • Russia planted a flag by sub on the North Pole and claims some continental shelf.

  • USA has some kind of free-navigation-between-Canadian-islands spat going on with Canada.

  • There is some kinda squabble between Denmark and Canada re. an island between Greenland and continent (though it might have made the news because it was resolved ?).

  • 4
    There are so many good puns in this answer, it is frankly amazing
    – SirHawrk
    Jul 6, 2023 at 9:42
  • 1
    For the record, the Hans Island dispute between Denmark & Canada was resolved about a year ago. But it's entirely plausible that the growing importance of the Arctic was one factor that led to the dispute finally being resolved after almost 50 years. Jul 6, 2023 at 18:00

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