“China’s Assertion of Sovereign Authority in the Global Commons and the Escalation of Legal Warfare in the Arctic” by Jeff Dwiggins
© Kapok Tree Diplomacy. June 2013. All rights reserved. Jeff Dwiggins. PREVIEW
“After the Northwest Passage is opened up … the sea route between Europe, Asia, and North America will be shortened by 5,200 to 7,000 nautical miles. Whoever controls the Arctic sea route will control the world economy and a new internationally strategic corridor.” Li Zhenfu
Competition among Arctic states is heating up over access to the Arctic’s undiscovered but potentially vast deposits of oil, natural gas and rare earth minerals. Moreover, the diminishing thickness and range of sea ice that could eventually make the Northern Sea Route significantly more accessible for cheaper and faster transoceanic shipping has also attracted the geopolitical interest of several non-Arctic states, most notably China. The undeveloped resources are located almost exclusively in the legal territorial waters of Arctic states like Russia, Denmark, the United States and Canada. These states have already made credible territorial claims to the United Nations and are prepared to protect their interests militarily if necessary. So how will China assert its rights and interests in the Arctic without getting into a military conflict?
This essay will examine how China will redefine the Clausewitzian battlefield and utilize legal warfare (sometimes called lawfare) as an “offensive weapon” to “seize the political initiative” and shape international public opinion about the Arctic and sovereign territorial claims through non-military means, negotiations, diplomacy and international law to project power and accomplish its core national strategic objectives. It will examine China’s use of legal warfare as a preferred strategy for addressing critical challenges to China’s assertion of rights and interests in the Arctic, including the competing sovereignty and territorial claims by Arctic states and the risks, costs and uncertainty of harvesting the resources themselves. Read more