Skip to main content

‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?’ China as a norm entrepreneur in the Arctic

  • Marc Lanteigne (a1)

The admission of China as an observer in the Arctic Council in 2013 was a significant step in the ongoing evolution of the country's Arctic policy, but Beijing is still concerned about being accepted as a regional player given its geography and arguably lack of an Arctic history. As the Arctic becomes more open to scientific and economic engagement, China wishes to develop the idea of the Arctic as more of an international space as opposed to strictly a regional one, and to allow non-Arctic states, such as China itself, to become accepted as Arctic actors. However, in order to avoid a backlash from the Arctic states and potential exclusion from the region's development, Beijing cannot effectively be a unilateral ‘norm-maker’ in the Arctic. Instead, China has sought to develop the identity of a regional ‘norm entrepreneur’, engaging the Arctic on many levels to promote the norm of partnerships between Arctic and non-Arctic actors to promote positive sum outcomes. Through engagement via several areas and governmental levels, Beijing hopes to succeed in being widely viewed as a ‘near-Arctic state’ which can contribute to new norms, and possibly new regimes, in an Arctic which shows many signs of becoming further internationalised.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      ‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?’ China as a norm entrepreneur in the Arctic
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      ‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?’ China as a norm entrepreneur in the Arctic
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      ‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?’ China as a norm entrepreneur in the Arctic
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Hide All
Acharya A. 2004. How ideas spread: whose norms matter? Norm localisation and institutional change in Asian regionalism, International Organisation 58: 239275.
Ackrén M. and Jakobsen U. 2015. Greenland as a self-governing sub-national territory in international relations: past, current and future perspectives. Polar Record 51 (4): 404412.
Anishchuk A. 2014. As Putin looks east, China and Russia sign $400-billion gas deal. Reuters 21 May 2014.
Council Arctic. 1996. Declaration on the establishment of the Arctic Council: joint communiqué of the governments of the Arctic countries on the establishment of the Arctic Council, 19 September 1996. Ottawa: Arctic Council. URL: (accessed 31 July 2015).
Arctic Journal . 2013. Unions upset over Greenland's revised mining law. Arctic Journal 21 October 2013, URL: (accessed 17 December 2015).
Bailes A. 2016. Security in the Arctic: definitions, challenges and solutions. In: Jakobsen L. and Martin N.. (editors). The new Arctic governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016: 1340.
Beck A. 2014. China's strategy in the Arctic: a case of lawfare? The Polar Journal 4 (2): 306318.
Bennett M.M. 2014. North by northeast: toward an Asia-Arctic region. Eurasian Geography and Economics 55 (1): 7193.
Bertelsen R.G. and Gallucci V.. 2016. The return of China, post-cold war Russia, and the Arctic: changes on land and at sea. Marine Policy 72: 240245.
Bird K.J., Charpentier R.R., Gautier D.L. and others. 2008. Circum-Arctic resource appraisal: estimates of undiscovered oil and gas north of the Arctic Circle. United States Geological Survey (Fact sheet 2008–3049). URL: (accessed 17 April 2015).
Bittner J. 2016. East vs. west in the Arctic Circle. The New York Times 28 April 2016.
Björkdahl A. 2005. Norm-maker and norm-taker: exploring the normative influence of the EU in Macedonia. European Foreign Affairs Review 10 (2): 257278.
Blunden M. 2012. Geopolitics and the northern sea route. International Affairs 88 (1): 115129.
Borger J. 2016. Russian attack jets buzz US warship in riskiest encounter for years. The Guardian 13 April 2016.
Borgerson S.G. 2013. The coming Arctic boom- as the ice melts, the region heats up. Foreign Affairs 76: 7689.
Breum M. and Chimnitz J.. 2013. No, Greenland does not belong to China. The New York Times 20 February 2013.
CBC News . 2015. China seeks to establish northern Canadian research outpost. CBC News 24 March 2015, URL: (accessed 30 July 2015).
CBC News / Associated Press . 2014. Stephen Harper bans Chinese media from Arctic trip. CBC News/Associated Press 22 August, URL: (accessed 8 September 2016).
Carr A. and Baldino D.. 2015. An Indo-Pacific norm entrepreneur? Australia and defence diplomacy. Journal of the Indian Ocean Region 11 (1): 3047.
Chang G.G. 2010. China's Arctic play. The Diplomat 9 March 2010. URL: (accessed 18 March 2015).
Checkel J.T. 2001. Why comply? Social learning and European identity change. International Organization 55 (3): 553588.
Chen Z. 2013. Arctic Council observer status guarantees China's legitimate rights. Xinhua 16 May. URL: (accessed 15 November 2015).
Chernenko E. 2013. РоссRUSSIAN TEXT?ия ограничивает полярный круг [Russia restricts the Arctic Circle]. Kommersant 14 May 2013. URL: (accessed 28 August 2016). CH
China, Maritime Safety Administration. 2016. 人民网: 《北极航行指南(西北航道) 2015》出版发行> [People's Daily Online: Arctic navigation guide (northwest passage) 2015 published]. People's Daily Online 19 April 2016. URL: (accessed 29 April 2016).
China News Network . 2010. 海军少将: 开发北冰洋 中国不可 ‘缺位’ [Rear Admiral: China cannot be ‘absent’ in developing the Arctic Ocean]. China News Network 5 March 2010. URL: (accessed 12 October 2015). CH
China, Arctic and Antarctic Research Administration. 2016. A brief introduction of R/V Xuelong. URL: (accessed 15 March 2016).
China, Polar Research Institute of China. 2016. URL: (accessed 20 September 2015).
China Foreign Ministry, 2012. President Hu Jintao arrives in Copenhagen for state visit to Denmark. 15 June 2012. Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic of China. URL: (accessed 21 November 2015).
China Foreign Ministry. 2013. 2013年3月15日外交部发言人华春莹主持例行记者会, 2013-03-15, [Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on 15 March 2013], Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China. URL: (accessed 2 May 2016).
China Foreign Ministry. 2016. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying's regular press conference on 20 April 2016. Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic of China. URL: (accessed 21 April 2016).
Côté F. and Dufresne R.. 2008. The Arctic: Canada's legal claims. 24 October 2008. Ottawa: Parliament of Canada. URL: (accessed 2 May 2016).
Denmark Government. 2016. ‘Dansk diplomatiog forsvar i enbrydningstid: Vejen frem for Danmarks interesser og værdier mod 2030 [Danish diplomacy and defence in times of change: the way forward for Danish interests and values to 2030]. May 2016. URL: (accessed 10 May 2016).
Dodds K. 2013. The Ilulissat declaration (2008): the Arctic states, ‘Law of the Sea’ and Arctic Ocean. SAIS Review of International Affairs 33 (2): 4555.
Doyle A. 2013. China plans first commercial trip through Arctic shortcut in 2013. Reuters 12 March 2013.
Fairhall D. 2010. Cold front: conflict ahead in Arctic waters. Berkeley: Counterpoint.
Finnemore M. 1993. International organizations as teachers of norms: the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and science policy. International Organisation 47 (4): 565597.
Finnemore M. and Sikkink K.. 1998. International norm dynamics and political change, International Organization 52 (4): 887917.
Galloway G. 2011. Harper stands firm on sovereignty as China eyes Arctic resources. Globe and Mail 29 August 2011. URL: (accessed 2 June 2016).
Gao Z. 2012. Legal issues of MSR in the Arctic: a Chinese perspective. Arctic Science, International Law and Climate Change 235: 141154.
Gardiner B. 2013. Iceland aims to seize opportunities in oil exploration. The New York Times 1 October 2013.
Gautier D.L., Bird K.J., Charpentier R.R. and others. 2009. Assessment of undiscovered oil and gas in the Arctic. Science 324 (5931): 11751179.
Goldenberg S. 2013. ‘China should have a say in future of Arctic’ Iceland president. The Guardian 16 April 2013. URL: (accessed 18 February 2016).
Graczyk P. and Koiurova T.. 2014. A new era in the Arctic Council's external relations? Broader consequences of the Nuuk observer rules for Arctic governance. Polar Record 50 (3): 225236.
Hasanat M.W. 2013. Reforming the Arctic Council against increasing climate change challenges in the north. Michigan State International Law Review 22 (1): 196240.
Hornby L., Milne R. and Wilson J.. 2015. Chinese group General Nice takes over Greenland mine. Financial Times 11 January 2015.
Iceland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2012. Memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of marine and polar science and technology between the Chinese State Oceanic Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, 20 April 2012.
Ingebritsen C. 2002. Norm entrepreneurs: Scandinavia's role in world politics. Cooperation and Conflict 37 (1): 1123.
Japan, Headquarters for Ocean Policy, 2015. Japan's Arctic Policy - 16 October 2015. URL: (accessed 15 January 2016).
Johnston A.I. 2013. How new and assertive is China's new assertiveness? International Security 37 (4): 748.
Katzenstein P.J. 1996. Introduction: alternative perspectives on national security. In: Katzenstein P.J. (editor). The culture of national security: norms and identity in world politics. New York: Columbia University Press: 132.
Knecht S. 2016. Procedural reform at the Arctic Council: the amended 2015 observer manual. Polar Record 52 (5): 601605.
Koivurova T. 2008. Alternatives for an Arctic treaty—evaluation and a new proposal. Review of European Community and International Environmental Law 17 (1): 1426.
Koyanagi K. 2016. For commodities markets, the bad times are just beginning. Nikkei Asian Review 28 April 2016. URL: (accessed 1 May 2016).
Korea, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2016. ROK, Japan and China to hold the first trilateral dialogue on Arctic cooperation. 25 April 2016. URL: (accessed 12 May 2016).
Kraska J. 2011. The new Arctic geography and US strategy. In: Kraska J. (editor). Arctic security in the age of climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 256257.
Lajeunesse A. and Lackenbauer P.W.. 2016. Chinese mining interests in the Arctic. In: Berry D.A., Bowles N. and Jones H. (editors). Governing the North American Arctic: sovereignty, security and institutions. Houndmills, UK and New York: Palgrave. 7499.
Lanteigne M. 2010. Northern exposure: cross-regionalism and the China-Iceland preferential trade negotiations. China Quarterly 202: 362380.
Lanteigne M. 2015a. There and back again. The Arctic Journal 19 August 2015. URL: (accessed 20 August 2015).
Lanteigne M. 2015b. Japan's Arctic policy: the paper chase. The Arctic Journal 26 October 2015, URL: (accessed 28 October 2015).
Lanteigne M. 2016. Chinese foreign policy: an introduction (3rd Edn.) New York and London: Routledge.
Lanteigne M. and Sverdrup-Thygeson B.. 2016. Towards the thaw: seeking clarity in China-Norway relations. The Diplomat 16 January 2016. URL: (accessed 17 January 2016).
Le Mière C. and Mazo J.. 2013. Arctic opening, insecurity and opportunity. London and New York: IISS Routledge.
Li X. 2014. Danish queen renews China ties. China Daily 25 April. URL: (accessed 1 September 2016).
Linklater A. and Suganami H.. 2006. The English school and international relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Liu N. 2016. Can the Polar Code save the Arctic?’ American Society of International Law 20 (7) URL: (accessed 15 April 2016).
Liu J., Chen Z., Francis J. and others. 2016. Has Arctic sea ice loss contributed to increased surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet? Journal of Climate 29 (9): 33733386.
MacDonald-Gibson C. 2013. From China to Rotterdam, and into the record books. The Independent 12 September.
Marson J. 2013. Russian natural-gas project gets funding from China. Wall Street Journal 29 April 2016.
McKeown R. 2009. Norm regress: US revisionism and the slow death of the torture norm. International Relations 23 (1): 525.
NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center). 2015. Arctic sea ice reaches fourth lowest minimum. 15 September, URL: (accessed 1 April 2016).
NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center). 2016. The Arctic sets yet another record low maximum extent. 28 March. URL: (accessed 1 April 2016). Shenghe takes 12.5 stake in GGG. 23 September 2016. URL: (accessed 18 October 2016).
Ning X. 2009. 地球未来的缩影 - 外交部长助理谈北极研究之旅 [A microcosm of the world's future-Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs talks about High North study tour]. Shijie Bolan [World Vision] 349 (19): 58, 59.
Paris C. and Chu J.. 2015. Chinese shipping group Cosco planning regular trans-Arctic sailings. Wall Street Journal 29 October 2015. URL: (accessed 12 December 2015).
Payne R.A. 2001. Persuasion, frames and norm construction. European Journal of International Relations 7 (1): 3761.
Peng Y. 2016. China charting a new course. China Daily 20 April 2016. < (accessed 21 April 2016).
People's Daily . 2013. 积极参与北极合作 (Active participation of Arctic cooperation). 22 March 2013. URL: (accessed 12 June 2015).
Raspotnik A. 2016. ‘Solar-Terrestrial’ interaction between Iceland and China. High North News 4 April 2016. URL: (accessed 5 April 2016). CH
Robinson R.W. Jr. 2013. China's ‘long con’ in the Arctic. MacDonald-Laurier Institute Commentary (September 2013), URL:'sLongConInTheArctic09-13Draft4-1.pdf (accessed 17 March 2016).
Røseth T. 2014. Russia's China policy in the Arctic. Strategic Analysis 38 (6): 841859.
Rothwell D.R. 1993. The Canadian-US northwest passage dispute: a reassessment. Cornell International Law Journal 26 (2): 331372. 2016. Russia submits revised claims for extending Arctic Shelf to UN. 10 February, URL: (accessed 11 February 2016).
Russia, Northern Sea Route Information Office. 2016.: (accessed 5 March 2016).
Saroka G. 2016. Putin's Arctic ambitions: Russia's economic aspirations in the far north. Foreign Affairs 5 May 2016. URL: (accessed 6 May 2016).
Shambaugh D. 2013. China goes global: the partial power. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press: 269306.
Sigurðardóttir L.H. 2016. Ekki vísun að fastri viðveru [Do not assume a permanent presence]., 30 June, URL: (accessed 12 September 2016).
SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). 2012. China defines itself as a ‘near-Arctic state’. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 10 May 2012. URL: (accessed 12 March 2016).
Smith L.C. and Stephenson S.R.. 2013. New trans-Arctic shipping routes navigable by midcentury. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110 (13). URL: (accessed 5 December 2015).
Solli P.R., Rowe E. Wilson and Lindgren W. Yennie. 2013. Coming into the cold: Asia's Arctic interests, Polar Geography 36 (4): 253270. CH
Stensdal I. 2014. Chinese climate-change policy, 1988–2013: moving on up. Asian Perspective 38 (1): 111135.
Stewart P. 2015. Five Chinese ships in Bering Sea as Obama visits Alaska. Reuters 2 September. 2015 URL: (accessed 5 September 2015).
Strader O. 2012. Arctic Council security agreement: preventing militarization and ensuring stability and security - part II. 18 January 2012. The Arctic Institute: Centre for Circumpolar Studies. URL: (accessed 5 February 2016).
Struzik E. 2013. China signals hunger for Arctic's mineral riches. The Guardian 4 June. 2013.
Sweden, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2012. Statement by H.E. Ambassador Lan Lijun at the meeting between the Swedish chairmanship of the Arctic Council and observers, 6 November 2012. URL: (accessed 2 May 2016).
Tan T. 2011. Freeze! You're in Mohe. China Daily 6 January 2012. URL: (accessed 5 April 2016).
Tang G. 2013. Arctic issues and China's stance. China International Studies 38: 2948.
Tîrnoveanu D. 2016. Russia, China and the far east question: are there any Chinese 49ers around? The Diplomat 20 January 2016. URL: (accessed 2 February 2016).
United Nations, United Nations Office on Human Rights. 2007. Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. September 2007.: United Nations Office on Human Rights. URL: (accessed 12 May 2016).
Vanderklippe N. 2014. For China, north is a new way to go west. Globe and Mail 19 January. 2014
Vanderklippe N. 2015. Chinese scientists look to Canadian Arctic for research outpost. Globe and Mail 18 March 2015, URL: (accessed 29 August 2016).
Vickers B. 2013. Africa and the rising powers: bargaining for the ‘marginalized many’. International Affairs 89 (3): 673693.
Wang X. 2013. 国家利益视角下的中国北极身份 [China's Arctic identity from the perspective of national interests], 太平洋学报 Pacific Journal 5: 8189.
Wilson P. 2016. Society, steward or security actor? Three visions of the Arctic Council. Cooperation and Conflict 51 (1): 5574.
Winger G. and Petursson G.. 2016. Return to Keflavik Station: Iceland's cold war legacy reappraised. Foreign Affairs 24 February 2016. URL: (accessed 1 March 2016).
Xinhua. 2013.专访:中国愿为北极地区可持续发展作出贡献 [Interview: China willing to contribute to sustainable development in the Arctic]. Xinhua 23 March 2013. URL: (accessed 7 June 2015).
Xinhua . 2004. Yellow River Station opens in Arctic. China Daily 29 July 2004.
Xinhua . 2015. China's energy giant willing to cooperate in Arctic resources extraction. China Daily / Xinhua 20 January, URL: (accessed 25 January 2015).
Xinhua . 2016. Chinese scientists complete 32nd Arctic expedition. Xinhua 13 April 2016.
Xu X. 2016. China to further explore Antarctic, deep sea this year. Xinhua 9 February 2016.
Yang Z., Cui J., Han S. and two others. 2013. 北极生态安全对中国国家安全的影响及应对策略 [Arctic ecological safety and China's national security and coping strategies]. 海洋环境科学 Marine Environmental Science 4: 629635.
Ye J. 2014. China's role in Arctic affairs in the context of global governance. Strategic Analysis 38 (6): 913916.
Yu J., Xie Z., Kang H and others. 2014. High variability of atmospheric mercury in the summertime boundary layer through the central Arctic Ocean. Nature 15 August, URL: (accessed 3 September 2016).
Zhang M. 2015. Keynote speech by Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming at the China country session of the third Arctic Circle assembly. 17 October 2015. Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic of China. URL: (accessed 5 December 2015).
Zhang X, Yang H. and Luo W. 2016. 我国北极航道开拓的战略选择初探, [Strategic thinking on China's involvement in the development of Arctic Sea routes], Chinese Journal of Polar Research 28 (2): 267276.
Zvezda. 2015. Шойгу: военное присутствие в Арктике – вопрос национальной безопасности [Shoigu: military presence in the Arctic - A matter of national security], Zvezda 25 February 2015. URL: (accessed 3 May 2016).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Polar Record
  • ISSN: 0032-2474
  • EISSN: 1475-3057
  • URL: /core/journals/polar-record
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 161
Total number of PDF views: 373 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 639 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 9th January 2017 - 17th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.