China on Friday outlined its plan to extend its Belt and Road initiative to the Arctic with the “Polar Silk Road”. In a policy white paper the State Council Information Office issued, China said it would invite companies to develop infrastructure along the shipping lanes now accessible because of global warming and use the routes for commercial voyages, Reuters reported.
“China hopes to work with all parties to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ through developing the Arctic shipping routes,” the white paper said.
A lot of Beijing’s interest in the Arctic comes from its stake in Russia’s Yamal liquefied natural gas project, which is expected to supply China with four million tonnes of LNG a year. China is an observer member of the Arctic Council despite being a non-Arctic nation, and its increased interest in the region has Arctic countries worried about its long-term objectives.
“Some people may have misgivings over our participation in the development of the Arctic, worried we may have other intentions, or that we may plunder resources or damage the environment,” Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said. “I believe these kinds of concerns are absolutely unnecessary.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the One Belt, One Road project in 2013 in a bid to boost China’s economic and geopolitical footprint. The ambitious plan aims to connect major Eurasian economies through infrastructure development, trade and big investments in fields such as road and rail development, oil and gas and special economic zones.
The One Belt, One Road project includes the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India has been opposed to the development as the stretch would pass through the disputed territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.