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Polar Geopolitics?

Polar Geopolitics?

Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes

Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds

The polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) have enjoyed widespread public attention in recent years, as issues of conservation, sustainability, resource speculation and geopolitical manoeuvring have all garnered considerable international media interest. This critical collection of new and original papers – the first of its kind – offers a comprehensive exploration of these and other topics, consolidating the emergent field of polar geopolitics.

Chapter 10: China, Canada and framings of Arctic geopolitics

Chih Yuan Woon

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


In a statement that complicates conventional understandings of geographical proximity, national security and sovereign rights, Chinese Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo upholds that ëthe Arctic belongs to all the people around the world as no nation has sovereignty over ití (Yin, quoted in Chang, 2010). Indeed, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China lacking an Arctic coastline, has no recognizable stake to this vast area; the five littoral states ñ Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States ñ do however, and their outer continental shelves remain to be resolved in part by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and its ërecommendationsí (Dodds, 2008; Powell, 2008). Ironically, Yinís exhortation casts into some doubt coastal state prerogatives in the Arctic, and the ambitions of China regarding the Arctic Ocean. For instance, political observer of Chinese affairs, Gordon Chang (2010) argues that Yinís statement debunks Chinaís traditional wait-and-see approach to Arctic developments insofar as the country is essentially forwarding a ëclaimí in the region albeit with recourse to the idea of the Arctic Ocean as a global common.

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