Staunton, Aug. 22 – In a blow to Moscow’s hopes, China has joined other international shipping powers in boycotting the northern sea route above Russia, reducing the chances that it will displace the Suez Canal as the primary east-west pathway and raising the specter that when China does return, it will muscle Russia out of the Arctic.
So far in 2022, Moscow has granted passage along the route to 889 ships. All of them are Russian, the result of a general pull out by Western countries and also by China. If the first was expected in Moscow; the second very much was not given Beijing’s past support for Rusisan projects there (https://thebarentsobserver.com/ru/promyshlennost-i-energiya/2022/08/kitayskie-perevozchiki-obhodyat-rossiyskuyu-arktiku-storonoy).
The absence of Chinese ships is striking because there had been an increasing number until this year and because Chinese yards had helped to build many for Russia, almost becoming Moscow’s partner in the development of what some believe Beijing views as “a reserve silk road” for its shipping (newsite.gecon.ru/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Korabel.ru-2-22-pp-50-58.pdf).
Not surprisingly Moscow is upset and playing down this development, especially as looming behind it are fears that China all along has planned to help Russia there and elsewhere until it is in a position to push Russia aside and dictate its own conditions along this route. (For discussions on those fears, see this author’s articles at jamestown.org/program/china-moves-toward-becoming-dominant-player-on-northern-sea-route/ and jamestown.org/program/china-helping-russia-on-northern-sea-route-now-but-ready-to-push-moscow-aside-later/.)