The workshop focused on governance, international law, shipping routes and future prospects for economic development in the Arctic region.
China seeks permanent observer status in the Arctic Council, an issue which came up repeatedly during the workshop. China argues that the implications of the changing Arctic environment are both global and regional, and therefore views its participation in Arctic governance as justified.
Nordic nations have the potential to forge a special Arctic relationship with China
The Arctic Council has received 10 permanent observer status applications, which are expected to be resolved at the next Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting. Workshop participants from all Nordic countries reiterated Nordic support for China's permanent observer status.
‘This has been a truly unique opportunity for Nordic and Chinese experts, diplomats and officials to engage with each other. To my knowledge the workshop was the first of its kind held in China’, says Linda Jakobson, a member of the SIPRI Arctic research team and East Asia Program Director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.
China follows Arctic developments closely
Last month's visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to Iceland and Sweden sparked speculation about the emerging superpower's ambitions in the far north. China's interest in the Arctic has certainly grown considerably in the past few years.
Chinese Arctic specialists now refer to China as a 'near-Arctic state' and at the workshop the term 'stakeholder' was also used. The Chinese government has recently increased investment in Arctic research and commissioned a second Arctic ice-breaker.
In a 2010 SIPRI report, China prepares for an ice-free Arctic, Jakobson encouraged the Arctic Council's Nordic members to grasp the opportunity to forge a unique relationship with China by engaging with Chinese officials and academics on Arctic issues.
Videos of interviews with Dr Yang Jian of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies; Senior Arctic Official, Ambassador Andreas von Uexküll; and Finland's Arctic Ambassador, Hannu Halinen who participated in the workshop, are now available on SIPRI's YouTube channel.
Today’s conference formed part of SIPRI Arctic Futures, a research project funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) aiming to build social and political science capacity on Arctic issues in Sweden.