China outlined its plan to develop a "Polar Silk Road" in its first official Arctic policy white paper released on Friday in a move that the foreign ministry said clarifies China's "close involvement in Arctic affairs."
The paper represents the Chinese government's first document on Arctic policies and clarifies China's role as being "closely involved in Arctic affairs," foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily briefing on Friday.
China has been engaged in the Arctic since the 1990s. And the white paper will guide future activities in line with international expectations, Hua noted.
"China hopes to work with all parties to build a 'Polar Silk Road' through developing the Arctic shipping routes," said the paper, issued by the State Council Information Office on Friday.
"China, as a responsible major country, is ready to cooperate with all relevant parties to seize the historic opportunity in the development of the Arctic to address the challenges brought by changes in the region," the paper reads. South Korea, Japan, the UK, France and Germany have all released their own Arctic policies and China's Arctic policies will help strengthen cooperation, Hua said.
"The white paper explains the reasons for China's participation in Arctic affairs, which honors its international responsibilities and is consistent with international laws," Dong Yue, a research fellow at the Polar Research Institute of the Ocean University of China, told the Global Times on Friday.
"It states China's basic principles in conducting activities in the region: respect, cooperation, win-win results and sustainability."
Dong said China would respect the existing order, international rules and laws as well as the sovereignty and interests of relevant countries.
"China's activities in the area will not go against the existing governance system or international morality," he said.
Being committed to the existing framework of international laws and rules, the white paper reads, China would like to build and maintain "a just, reasonable and well-organized Arctic governance system."
The white paper also said that China would like to "jointly understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, and advance Arctic-related cooperation under the Belt and Road initiative."
China has proposed win-win results and sustainability as it is a practice of the Chinese leader's vision of building a community with a shared future for human beings, Dong said.
Some countries and overseas scholars have been hostile toward China's activities based on their biases, Dong said.
Instead of simply claiming sovereignty over an area, China's proposals on dealing with shared problems including the Polar Silk Road, aim to deepen knowledge of the Arctic and better develop and protect the region.
The white paper could help dispel the "China threat in the Arctic area" theory and enhance mutual trust between China and Arctic countries, Ding Huang, an expert on polar research from Wuhan University, told the Global Times.
"China could not be absent from Arctic affairs since it is geographically located near the area and any changes, including climate and environmental changes, will affect China," Ding said.
"And as an influential member of the international community, China has a responsibility to deal with Arctic affairs," he noted.
China would not interfere with Arctic countries' affairs and would ask Chinese companies, organizations and individuals to strictly abide by relevant international laws and regulations, Ding said.
China calls for peaceful utilization of the Arctic and commits itself to maintaining peace and stability in the region, according to the white paper.
China supports peaceful settlement of disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests in line with such treaties as the UN Charter and general international law, and strives to reinforce cooperation with the Arctic States in maritime and air search and rescue, maritime early warning, emergency response, and information sharing, according to the white paper.
Xinhua contributed to the story