Arctic Law

Arctic Law and Governance in People’s Republic of China and in Finland

In 2014, the Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM), Arctic Centre, led the project ‘Artic Law and Governance in People’s Republic of China and in Finland’ to study and compare Arctic Law and Governance in Finland and in China. From the scientific point of view, the project was to fill in knowledge gaps related to the topic, especially in Arctic International Law.

The Arctic entered the spotlight of international political and legal developments due to climate change, melting sea ice, and the new possibilities for alternative international shipping routes or extraction of hydrocarbons and minerals. At the same time, the rising role of China in global economy, international relations and international law, had engendered questions about Chinese Arctic interests and the effects Chinese involvement may have on regional governance.

“Comparing Chinese legal perspectives on Arctic governance with those espoused by traditional Arctic players, like Finland, is timely and highly relevant for policy-makers, researchers and general public. It is very intriguing to study for example how the rising global economy like China adjusts its policies and practices to the prevailing frameworks of Arctic law and governance, or is China going to challenge these”, said the director of NIEM and research professor Timo Koivurova from the Arctic Centre.

The general project objective was to identify similarities and differences between the positions of Finland (as an EU member state) and China on the Arctic law and governance. The project first undertook comparative studies on Finnish and Chinese legal and policy stances in specific policy-areas of relevance for the Arctic, including maritime sovereignty, scientific research, marine protected areas, Svalbard Treaty, and Arctic Council participation.

“Comparison enables us to draw general conclusions on Finnish and Chinese approaches to Arctic governance and international law. This new point of view provides fresh theoretical insights on Arctic governance”, told researcher Adam Stepien from the NIEM.

The project was implemented in 2014 within the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law in the Arctic Centre, at the University of Lapland with Research Professor Timo Koivurova as the Principal Investigator, in close cooperation with researchers from Wuhan University and Shanghai Jiaotong University under the leadership of Professor Tianbao Qin. Besides publications, the results of the project included a 4-month research visit by a Finnish scholar at a Chinese university and a seminar organized in China.


Timo Koivurova, Qin Tianbao, Sebastien Duyck, and Tapio Nykänen (eds) (2017) Arctic Law and Governance: the Role of China and Finland. Hart Publishing, Oxford. Available on the publisher website.

Project Leader

Timo Koivurova
Research Professor, Director
Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law
Arctic Centre, University of Lapland
Rovaniemi, Finland
+358 40551 9522

Main project partner in China

Prof. Dr. Tianbao Qin
Associate Dean
School of Law, Wuhan University
Secretary-General, China Society of Environmental and Resources Law (CSERL)
Luojia Shan; Wuhan, 430072, China