Marco Volpe

The Central Arctic Ocean is the marine area within the Arctic Ocean beyond national jurisdiction where, according to UNCLOS, no state is allowed to advance any sovereign claims. Today, the protection of marine ecosystems, exploitation of Arctic natural resources, commercial and fishing opportunities are all drivers which attract major powers' attention. The recently signed Treaty on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (2023) and the Agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (2018) have drastically changed the maritime regime in the Central Arctic Ocean. They both provide more room for non-Arctic stakeholders to participate in the management of the Central Arctic Ocean and they induce a profound reflection on how it will influence the strategies of Arctic and non-Arctic states.

Despite a good amount of literature in the English language that has shared skepticism over China's role in the Arctic, the limitation of China’s investment in the Arctic region has stimulated a reconsideration of China’s threatening role. However, it has mostly overlooked the evolution of the domestic debate and its potential to influence the domestic decision-making apparatus.

This paper aims to fill this gap by shedding light on how the Chinese domestic academic debate addresses the Central Arctic Ocean. Geopolitical purposes, military means, economic opportunities, environmental issues and governance are all themes that emerge from the analysis. The investigation focuses on the period 2014-2021. It draws the evolution of the topics discussed and offers a reflection on future actions the Chinese leadership might consider.

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