China in the Arctic: External Influence on Regional Governance (ArcGov)

The impacts of climate change in the Arctic include melting sea ice, coastal erosion, and changes in the social structures of Arctic communities. New governance structures have been established, and existing mechanisms rejuvenated to tackle the region’s pressing needs.

To understand how society is adapting to the rapid changes in the Arctic, we need to understand the dynamics of Arctic governance institutions and mechanisms. With Arctic issues rising on the global agenda, more actors located away from northern waters have started expressing their interest in, and opinions on, how best to govern Arctic issues. Of these, China is likely the most influential in decades to come. China’s Arctic interests are multifaceted, ranging from economic to scientific, as well as geopolitical.

Although China’s presence in the Arctic has been described, the effects of its engagement on Arctic governance have not been studied in depth. We, therefore, ask: What, if any, are the influences of China on specific Arctic governance mechanisms? What are the effects of this influence on the same governance institutions? And what implications do these findings have for Arctic governance more broadly? Drawing on theory-based approaches from political and management science, ArcGov will study how a state external to the Arctic influences the effectiveness of governance mechanisms for dealing with specific Arctic challenges.

We will examine Chinese influence on Arctic-related governance mechanisms across three levels, constituting three interdependent work packages: the international; the regional (Arctic); and the national/local (Norway). How does China – as a rising global superpower – influence or try to influence the existing and new governance structures that shape how the Arctic states adapt to and manage rapid environmental, economic and societal change? With its clear policy-relevant orientation, this project will provide new insights into the governance, regionalism, and institutional effectiveness in the Arctic and beyond.


Research Council of Norway and High North Center, Nord University

Project period

August 2021 – July 2025


High North Center Nord University, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, East China Normal University, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, Arctic Center Hokkaido University and The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security (TAI).