Staunton, March 4 – In a step certain to spark concerns in Moscow and other capitals, China today formally announced that it plans to open “a Polar Silk Road” over the next five years and expand its presence in the Antarctic as well (reuters.com/article/us-china-parliament-polar-idUSKBN2AX09F and idelreal.org/a/31135430.html).
Beijing has included these goals in its new five-year plan, formalizing what has long been China’s moves and what was in fact outlined in a Chinese government strategy document in 2018. The inclusion of these projects in its five-year plan, however, signals just how important they are to China and its willingness to challenge other powers in both polar regions.
In a related development reported today by The Barents Observer which underscores just how important the polar regions are to China, how long this has been the case, and the kind of moves it has hitherto sought to operate under the radar screen of the West, Beijing in 2018 tried and failed to purchase an airfield in northern Finland (thebarentsobserver.com/ru/klimaticheskiy-krizis/2021/03/kitaycam-ne-dali-kupit-aerodrom-v-laplandii-dlya-nauchnyh-poletov-v).
Picking up on a report by Finland’s state broadcaster YLE Lappi (yle.fi/uutiset/3-11819140), The Barents Observer says that China wanted to purchase an unmanned airport in Kemijarvi but that Helsinki intervened to prevent that from happening because the field is located next to a Finnish military artillery range.
Local Finnish officials said the Chinese said that they “wanted to conduct research on the Arctic icecap” and needed a field in Scandinavia that would allow Chinese airplanes to land and take off on flights originating in China and traversing the Arctic Ocean.