New publication: Chinese Policy and Presence in the Arctic

The Finnish China Law Center is pleased to introduce the new book entitled ‘Chinese policy and presence in the Arctic’ edited by Professor Timo Koivurova and Dr. Sanna Kopra from the University of Lapland.

The book was built on and developed from the report titled ‘China in the Arctic; and the Opportunities and Challenges for Chinese-Finnish Arctic Co-operation.’ The report was published in February 2019 as part of the project ‘Finland’s Arctic Council chairmanship in the times of increasing uncertainty’ funded by the Finnish Government’s Analysis, Assessment and Research Activities unit. It drew ample attention among the media and government officials from Finland and abroad, signaling an increased interest in China’s role in the Arctic. This has encouraged the authors to diversify and expand their approach to the theme.

The book offers an overview of China’s economic engagements in the Arctic, China’s policy regarding Arctic governance, and how it has evolved during the past years. It also discusses China’s interests and strategies in the region, and the initiatives the country has offered. It should be noted that the book is centered around economic and governance aspects, rather than the geopolitics implications of China’s involvement in the Arctic and its interaction with other players in the region.

‘Chinese policy and presence in the Arctic’ is the first comprehensive account of China’s endeavors in the Arctic region. ‘The book is unique in the sense that it does not follow the predominant alarmist approach which views China as a threat, but attempts to provide an objective analytical analysis of Chinese Arctic policy’, said Dr. Sanna Kopra. Since extensive reviews of China’s policy and presence in the Arctic are scarce, the book poses as a valuable contribution to the current collection of scholarly work on the topic and a must-read for students and scholars of China studies and Arctic affairs.

The book also offered an opportunity for the authors to focus on the environmental issues relating to China’s presence in the Arctic. The chapter ‘China, Climate Change and the Arctic Environment’ examines in great detail China’s ecological footprint in the Arctic and its role in international efforts to tackle climate change and pollution. ‘This is something that has not been discussed in this length in the existing literature’, added Dr. Sanna Kopra.

The book is available on the publisher’s website at

China’s Arctic Policy – The ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative and the Nordic Countries

On 22 August 2018, the Finnish China Law Center, in collaboration with the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki, hosted a guest lecture titled ‘China’s Arctic Policy – The ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative and the Nordic Countries’.

The lecture was delivered by Egill Thor Nielsson, Executive Secretary of the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center (CNARC), Visiting Scholar at the Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) and Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), and Affiliated Researcher at the Institute of International Affairs, University of Iceland.

The event was free and open to the public.


China published its first Arctic Policy White Paper in January 2018 following years of preparation, including an introduction of a proposed ‘Polar Silk Road’. Prior to this, China joined the Arctic Council as an observer in 2013 and included the Arctic region in its Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative in June 2017.

What does it mean that China’s so-called ‘Belt and Road’ initiative has entered the Arctic region? How is this likely to affect potential Arctic investment and trade and influence legal developments?

This lecture will focus on China’s Arctic engagement, cooperation with the Nordic countries (including through the platform provided by CNARC), and its impact on Arctic developments in an evolving world order.

The event will be of interest to researchers, policy-makers, civil servants and those from civil society, as well as business people with an interest in both the Arctic region and in China’s overseas activities.

Egill Thor Nielsson, Executive Secretary of the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center, will speak in the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, on 22 August 2018. Photograph supplied.



Lecture by Dr Sanna Kopra on her new book ‘China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change’ (Routledge 2018)

On 14 August 2018, Dr Sanna Kopra gave a public lecture on her recently published book, China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change (Routledge 2018) at the University of Helsinki, one of the Finnish China Law Center’s 10 member institutions.

Dr Kopra spoke at the Aleksanteri Institute (Unioninkatu 33) in the University of Helsinki, one of the world’s largest and best-known centres in the field of Russian and Eastern European studies.

The event was free, open to the public and registration was not necessary.

Cover of Dr Kopra’s new book, China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change (Routledge 2018). Picture credit:

About the speaker

Dr Kopra is a specialist on China and environmental responsibility. Her publications include academic articles and popular science texts on China’s climate policy, Arctic governance, sustainable development and international environmental responsibility. Her professional positions include Postdoctoral Researcher in the Aleksanteri Institute and Member of Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), both located in the University of Helsinki.


Dr Kopra speaking at another recent event about her book. Photo credit: Lena Gorbacheva, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki.

About the book

Based on a premise that great powers have unique responsibilities in international society, Dr Kopra’s book explores the way China’s rise to great power status transforms the notions of great power responsibility in general and in the context of international climate politics in particular. The book produces empirical knowledge on the Chinese party–state’s conceptions of state responsibility and the influence of those notions on China’s role in international climate politics.

Regarding theory, the book builds on and contributes to the English School of International Relations and argues that the international norm of climate responsibility is an emerging attribute of great power responsibility. The book also discusses the way China will act out its climate responsibility in the future and ponders broader implications of China’s evolving notions of great power responsibility for climate change. Thus, it seeks to shed new light on the transformations China’s rise will yield and the kind of great power China will prove to be.

University of Lapland Arctic Center Participation in the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center (中国 – 北欧北极研究中心)

Logo of the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center. Courtesy of

The University of Lapland, a member institution of the Finnish Center of Chinese Law and Chinese Legal Culture, is widely recognized as a leader in education and research on Arctic issues, including Arctic law.

The University’s Arctic Centre, located in the northern Finnish city of located Rovaniemi, is a national and international hub of information and a center of excellence.

The Centre conducts multidisciplinary research into changes in the Arctic region, including on environmental and minority law and Arctic governance. Members of the Arctic Centre staff serve as experts around the world.

The Arctic Centre is a member of the European Polar Board, an independent European Organization of Directors and Managers of the major European National Polar Programmes.

In recognition of its importance and influence on Arctic issues, the Centre is also a member of the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center (中国 – 北欧北极研究中心).

Established in Shanghai on 10 December 2013, the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center (CNARC) is composed of six Chinese and eight Nordic institutions that influence and coordinate Arctic research.

CNARC’s purpose is to provide a platform for academic cooperation to increase awareness, understanding and knowledge of the Arctic and its global impacts, as well as to promote cooperation for sustainable development of the Nordic Arctic and the development of China in a global context.

One of the key research themes for CNARC is Arctic policy-making and legislation. This is an increasingly important issue given the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, questions concerning the use of Arctic resources, and challenges and opportunities associated with economic cooperation and shipping in the Arctic.


Northern lights shimmering over the city of Roveniemi, home of the University of Lapland and the Arctic Center. Photo credit


CNARC holds annual Symposia on issues of relevance to its mandate. This year’s symposium took place in Dalian, China, from the 24 – 26 May 2017  under the theme ‘Towards the Future: Trans-regional Cooperation in the Arctic Development and Protection’. Thematic sessions included Europe-Asia connectivity, the relationship between the Arctic and non-Arctic regions, and global governance of the Arctic Ocean.

More broadly, the University of Lapland was a pioneer of China-law related education and research in Finland. Its ongoing China law-related education and research activities and achievements can be found in the Finnish China Law Center’s recently published Report on its First Four Years (2013-2016).


Book launch on the role of Finland and China in Arctic Law and Governance!

In 2014, the Northern Institute of Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM, Arctic Centre) at the University of Lapland initiated a project to study and compare Arctic Law and Governance in Finland and in China, in cooperation with researchers from Wuhan University, China. The project identified similarities and differences between the positions of Finland (as an EU Member State) and China on Arctic law and governance.

In February 2017, a book titled Arctic Law and Governance: The Role of China and Finland was published as a result of the project. The book compares Finnish and Chinese legal and policy stances in specific policy areas of relevance for the Arctic, including maritime sovereignty, scientific research, marine protected areas, the Svalbard Treaty and Arctic Council co-operation. The book offers general conclusions on Finnish and Chinese approaches to Arctic governance and international law, as well as new theoretical insights on Arctic governance. “As an observer of Arctic Council, China shall play a greater and more responsible role in protecting the Arctic and promoting cooperation with Arctic countries,” Qin Tianbao, main Chinese partner of the Project and editor of the newly published book, concludes.

Mr. Qin is a Luojia Professor of Law, Director of the Research Institute of Environmental Law, Professor of the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies and the European Studies Centre at Wuhan University, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese Journal of Environmental Law. “One of my research fields is Arctic law and policy. Considering the esteemed reputation of our Finnish colleagues and our existing cooperation, we reached agreement to conduct comparative study.” Mr. Qin is planning to continue conducting comparative research between China and Finland in the future as well, in the field of marine environmental issues in the Arctic. “This project was very successful, and we hope to continue such cooperation.”

Timo Koivurova is the Principal Investigator for the project, is a Research Professor and the Director of the Arctic Centre of University of Lapland, Finland. We ask him about the key findings of the project. “China, while a global great power, is not a principle actor in the Arctic region specifically. At the same time, actors like Finland play above (and more than) their global weight in Arctic governance. As a consequence, a variety of Arctic-focused cooperative linkages have been established between small Nordic states and the global great power. China and Finland appear in fact to share a number of perspectives on Arctic affairs, despite asymmetry in country’s positions and different pathways to their interests in the Arctic region and Arctic cooperation. That includes interest in Arctic economic development, consequences of climate change in the Arctic, as well as countries’ Arctic expertise. In terms of political rhetoric, the discourses on economic possibilities and environmental vulnerability are visible in both countries. In turn, China and EU (and Finland) may diverge on the conservation of marine biodiversity in Arctic high seas.”

Mr. Koivurova has specialized in various aspects of international law applicable in the Arctic and Antarctic region. His research work addresses the interplay between different levels of environmental law, legal status of indigenous peoples, law of the sea in the Arctic waters, integrated maritime policy in the EU, the role of law in mitigating/adapting to climate change, the function and role of the Arctic Council in view of its future challenges and the possibilities for an Arctic treaty. He has been involved as an expert in several international processes globally and in the Arctic region and has published on the above-mentioned topics extensively. This newly-published book adds one more to the list. We had a privilege to interview Mr. Koivurova about the highlights and main findings of the project. Read the full interview here.

The book, “Arctic Law and Governance: The Role of China and Finland,” edited by Timo Koivurova, Qin Tianbao, Sébastien Duyck and Tapio Nykänen, is available for purchase on the publisher’s website.

Author: Cristina D. Juola