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One important element of the $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2020, which US President Donald Trump signed into law in mid-December, is the directive to examine and monitor "Chinese military activities in the Arctic, as well as Chinese foreign direct investment in the Arctic."

在美国总统特朗普12月中旬签署的《2020财政年度国防授权法》中显示,美国将耗资7380亿美元,其中一项重要内容就是关于审查和 监测“中国在北极的军事活动,以及中国在北极的外国直接投资”。

The administration in Washington is right to be concerned about China''s increasing interest in the northern polar region. Two years ago, Beijing published a White Paper outlining its Arctic policy, which includes creating a "Polar Silk Road." If fully implemented, this policy will challenge the United States and Russia for primacy in the region, where beneath the glaciers lie vast quantities of coal and natural gas.


Two Chinese polar icebreaking research vessels, Xuelong and Xuelong II, are presently carrying out the regime''s 36th scientific expedition in the waters off Antarctica. The crews of these vessels will help complete China''s fifth Antarctic scientific station for the gathering of data and establishment of under-the-ice submarine deployments similar to those operated by Washington and Moscow.


China''s Dalian Naval Academy supports an aggressive strategy for both the northern and southern polar seas. China''s Ministry of Defense and State Council continue to publish papers expressing a desire to pursue a robust maritime program, including a "Freedom of Navigation" mission in the Bering Sea, slated for some time in 2020.


Beijing-administered airports in Greenland, however, could pose a strategic threat to America''s ally, Canada. Also at risk under such a scenario would be the US military facility in Thule, Greenland, which serves as an early-warning node for a nuclear attack on the North American continent. To counter this potential threat, the Trump administration and fellow NATO member state, Denmark -- which owns Greenland -- have preempted China''s plans by agreeing to finance the proposed airports. But China''s drive for eventual primacy in the Arctic region also extends to the Danish-owned, self-governing network of the 18 Faroe Islands, located midway between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean.


The US and China currently are competing for influence in the Faroe Islands, with Beijing offering to increase the importation of fish on condition that the islanders agree to utilize China''s wireless network system with fifth-generation technology (5G) administered by Huawei, and Washington attempting to block the use of Huawei networking equipment on the islands due to the company''s intelligence-gathering cooperation with the Chinese regime.


Although China is a latecomer to great-power competition in the Arctic, its Arctic profile could rise quickly if Moscow pools its efforts with Beijing. The Russian Air Force has long had a separate branch for polar aviation, and Russia maintains an extensive nuclear- and diesel-powered fleet of icebreakers. China''s friendly relations with Russia could lead to a powerful polar alliance.


If Moscow works in tandem with Beijing, China could emerge quickly as a potent competitor for influence in the Arctic. Let us hope that Washington is able to prevent this from happening.