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Chinese ice breaker

Implications for the High North rules-based order

China’s Hybrid Arctic Strategy

July 2021, Number 11.03

“Assigned the role of spoiler in what some deem to be an unfolding Arctic great game, Beijing has incrementally bolstered its High North strategic interests. This popular assessment of Chinese strategic ambitions in the Arctic is apt; however, the development and delivery of China’s Arctic strategy is hybrid in nature. The Arctic is not a lawless, strategic vacuum in which Beijing is inserting itself to take advantage of the region’s shipping and resource riches. Rather, it is a zone of functional governance structures and adherence to agreed international laws. While rising great powers, such as China, are seeking to erode the existing rules based order elsewhere on the globe (for instance, the South China Sea), when it comes to the Arctic, the Chinese strategy will be less overt. China’s hybrid Arctic policy model uses cooperative stateto- state, multilateral and environmental narratives to disguise aggressive and assertive ambitions. Obfuscating Beijing’s strategic intent with cooperative efforts, including its efforts to craft the Arctic as a “global common,” allows China to operate beneath the threshold of overt strategic challenge...”

Excerpt from Elizabeth Buchanan, “China’s Hybrid Arctic Strategy,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 11, No. 3, 2021: 54-59.

Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan is a lecturer of strategic studies with Deakin University for the Defence and Strategic Studies Course at the Australian War College. She is a nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy at West Point and is the inaugural co-director of the Modern War Institute’s Polar Security Research Initiative-Project 6633. She holds a Ph.D. in Russian Arctic strategy from Australian National University. She was the visiting maritime fellow at the NATO Defense College and is a polar affairs contributor for Janes Intelligence Review. Her book, Red Arctic, will be published by the Brookings Institution Press in November 2021.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.