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hebrandIn the last few years, China has become a polar power, writes Patrick . Beijing's interest initially focused on Antarctica, but its presence in the Arctic has accelerated in recent years, driven by global warming and melting ice. The term polar translates into Chinese by jidi (极地) which means the "extremes of the earth". The Arctic is therefore the "Far North", the Antarctic "the Far South". Long remaining ambiguous, the Chinese strategy for the poles now appears in official documents, showing its willingness to be a recognized actor in these regions of the world and to defend resolutely its interests.

China's presence in these extremes is recent. In 1925, China had signed, without enthusiasm, the Treaty of Paris on Spitzbergen, solicited by France. With the events that China went through, this signature felt into oblivion and it was only in 1964 that the State Administration of Oceans was created which progressively became interested in the polar environment. See more on next page

pozoFdPThe steady reduction of the Arctic ice means that all types of navigation in Arctic waters are substantially increasing, writes Fernando del Pozo:
• Trans-Arctic traffic, which some shipowners are already trying to convert into regular services, even building specialized ships, such as TeeKay which has commissioned the first LNG carrier with icebreaker capabilities, the Eduard Toll; also Russia's Rosatom group is actively planning to operate a container shipping line along the Northern Sea Route, to compete with the Suez Canal;
• Intra-Arctic, already very active, although almost exclusively between Russian ports, such as Dudinka in the Yenisey, serving the mining complex in Noril'sk; Yamburg, Noviy Port and Sabetta in the Ob, also in Siberia; and in European Russia Varandey serving the facilities in the Pechora. One exception to this Russian-only network is the Murmansk-Churchill Arctic bridge, which exports the wheat production of Manitoba, Canada, bringing in exchange Russian fertilizers; and
• Destinational (eco-tourism, scientific, research, fishing...), probably the type of shipping showing the biggest growth.

logoThe geopolitical significance of the Arctic region has been recognized for two centuries - first by the Russians, later by the Americans, writes Joseph E Fallon. Then and now, the principle reason to lay territorial claims to this inhospitable polar wilderness is not economic, but strategic. As J. Painter observed, "There can be no politics which is not geographical."

In 1763, Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov observed: "The power of Russia shall be increased by Siberia and the Arctic Ocean."
In 1935, U.S. General Billy Mitchell told the US Congress: "Alaska is the most central place in the world for aircraft. He who holds Alaska holds the world."

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