Throughout the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis this year, the People’s Republic has faced heavy pressure from the United States and its allies over its refusal to blindly follow Washington and Brussels’ dictates to slap sanctions on Moscow and reject the country’s energy supplies, and to declare neutrality instead.
NATO Military Committee Chairman Rob Bauer and Chinese Ambassador to Iceland He Rulong got into a tense exchange Saturday at the Arctic Circle Assembly. The organization, designed to facilitate dialogue among government officials, business leaders, environmental groups, scientists, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders on issues affecting the Arctic, held its annual meeting in Reykjavik between October 13-16.
At the event, Bauer suggested that China does not “share” the alliance’s “values,” and suggested that the country “undermines the rules-based international order.”
Chided by Ambassador He, who accused the Dutch admiral of making a speech “filled with arrogance and also paranoia” and defended Chinese activities in the Arctic region, Bauer shot back, accusing Beijing of undermining “the principle of sovereignty and the importance of the internationally recognized borders in the world” by staying neutral on the Ukrainian crisis. “So why is it possible then that China still is not condemning Russia’s attack in Ukraine?” Bauer asked.
Ambassador He explained that China sees the crisis in Ukraine based on an “international, historical and also current [context] with the long-term perspective,” and stressed that China’s position has been and will continue to be the role of “peacemaker in the world.”
Separately at the event Gao Feng, Chinese Foreign Ministry special representative for Arctic affairs, told forum attendees that Beijing will not support attempts to exclude Russia from the Arctic Council –the eight-member organization dedicated to Arctic issues, notwithstanding Western pressure.
“The Arctic Council is based on a declaration and there is no procedure on how to leave the Council. I doubt that the chairmanship can be transferred to anyone or that Norway can take over the chair without Russia from a legal point of view,” Gao said
China will not support Norway’s takeover of the chairmanship of the Arctic Council if Russia, which was supposed to be the chair until 2023, remains semi-banned, and may not take part in Council meetings in the future, the diplomat added. Russia was excluded from taking part in some Arctic Council activities earlier this year on the pretext of the crisis in Ukraine.
China Won’t Support West’s Militarization of Arctic
Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Relations at Renmin University, stresses it would be foolish to try to exclude Russia from various international cooperation platforms.
“The West is using the Ukrainian conflict to block international cooperation, including in the Arctic,” Wang said in an interview with Sputnik.
“The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has its difficult historical causes. Attempts to use the situation to exclude Russia from cooperation in multi-stakeholder mechanisms are not only irrational, but exemplify very well the strategic intensions of those who stand behind such attempts,” Wang said.
Commenting on Rob Bauer’s claims that China ‘doesn’t share the bloc’s values,’ the academic characterized these remarks as an example of “doublespeak.”
“Russia is currently a full-fledged member of the Arctic Council, while China is an observer to the body. Within the framework of the Arctic Council, all sides share the same idea. Just because our political system and ideology differs from that of other countries, it should not be compared with the ‘values’ of an international multilateral mechanism like the Arctic Council, deliberately misleading people and creating controversy,” Wang stressed.
China has resisted and will continue to resist all efforts to politicize and militarize the Arctic, the scholar said.
“China supports cooperative and mutually beneficial cooperation on international issues. Global warming, the opening of new shipping routes, the development of a number of strategic scientific and resources-based projects related to Arctic development are receiving more and more attention. After incorporating Finland and Sweden, NATO’s voice on these issues [will] strengthen significantly. NATO is not only trying to squeeze Russia – the Arctic Council’s largest member, but to limit the influence of China – hoping to turn the Arctic into a zone of conflict with China and Russia, gradually politicizing and even militarizing the region. This is something China strongly opposes,” Wang concluded.