AuthorSteff, Reuben
PositionBook review


Author: Anne-Marie Brady

Published by: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2017, 290pp, 23.99 [pounds sterling].

In this book, University of Canterbury Professor Anne-Marie Brady delivers an impressive expose of Chinas rapidly growing influence and 'undeclared foreign policy' in the world's polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctica). It contains an overview of China's history of involvement in these regions and of how China's 'Party-State-Military-Market' organisations frame and propel China's behaviour there. It also considers what China's polar efforts mean for the future of global governance and what they say about Beijing's views of its own place in the global order. The book's eight chapters are given real heft owing to Brady's understanding of the Chinese language. This affords her the ability to read between the lines of Chinese-language sources, and to pepper her chapters with insights from interviews with Chinese experts who provide more candid assessments than China's official polar discourse or propaganda organs allow.

China's interests in the regions are their immense economic, political and military-strategic potential, and Beijing's desire to ascend to super-power status, with access to the polar regions viewed as essential towards this end. Indeed, the deep seabed, outer space and polar regions have been identified by Beijing as 'new strategic frontiers', ripe with opportunities for exploitation. As such, Chinese scientists dub the Arctic a 'black treasure house', containing an estimated 22 per cent of the globe's total undiscovered oil and natural gas, as well as fishing, tourism, freshwater and bio-prospecting opportunities. China, located far from these regions, asserts that the Arctic and Antarctica are part of 'humanity's heritage', with one spokesperson explaining that China's population equals one-fifth of the global total and, as such, they ask 'why shouldn't we get a fifth of the interest in the Antarctic and Arctic?'

China's interest is also geopolitical, and it has moved to include the regions in the naval branch of its Belt and Road infrastructure initiatives. Furthermore, as climate change reduces ice in the Arctic, it will open up new navigable trade routes, enabling Beijing to reduce its dependence on shipping through the naval 'chokepoint' of the Strait of Malacca, and also reducing the ability of the United States and its allies to blockade the Chinese mainland during a future...

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