China and the Arctic: Critical Minerals, Environmental Politics and Climate Change

China’s rise and its geopolitical, economic and normative implications have increasingly been felt in the Arctic. Describing China as a “near-Arctic state”, Beijing has gradually levelled up the importance of the Arctic in its overall grand strategy. The event focuses on how Chinese investment practices and other economic activities impact on regional biodiversity and environmental politics. In the context of Xi Jinping’s ambitious pledge for China to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, the experts analyse the Arctic dimensions of China’s climate policies against the backdrop of Beijing’s ambition to frame China as a responsible great power. This includes the strategic importance of the Arctic’s critical mineral deposits in the context of accelerating technological competition between the US and China, and resulting negative environmental externalities.

The panel is part of the events series, China and the Arctic: Climate Change, Security and Governance, which assesses China’s environmental, geopolitical, and economic and normative influence in the Arctic to provide actionable advice for considered and holistic policy responses for regional stakeholders, the UK and their partners. The events series is a joint initiative of LSE IDEAS China Foresight and the Arctic University of Norway (UiT). The recording of the second panel "China and the Arctic: Great Power Competition, Security and Regional Responses" is available here. Access the recording of the third panel "China and the Arctic: energy finance, history and regional governance" by clicking here.



This event was held on Thursday 13 May 2021.


Meet the speakers

Gørild Heggelund is Research Professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI). She has carried out research on China's environmental, energy and climate change policy for three decades, including China’s Arctic policies. She was international advisor and expert for several policy studies for the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED). She also has extensive experience from evaluation projects in the energy sector in China. From 2009-2014 she was Senior Climate Change Advisor at UNDP China. Gørild has lived and worked in China for more than 16 years and is fluent in Chinese, having studied at Peking University.

Sanna Kopra is an Academy of Finland post-doctoral research fellow in the Arctic Centre at University of Lapland, a visiting scholar in Aleksanteri Institute at University of Helsinki, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Arctic Institute, a Washington-based think tank. She is the author of China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change (2019) and a co-editor of Chinese Policy and Presence in the Arctic (2020, with Timo Koivurova).

Jesper Willaing Zeuthen is an associate professor in Chinese Area Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark. He holds a master’s degree in Chinese from Aarhus University, Denmark and a PhD degree in International Development Studies from Roskilde University, Denmark. In addition to work on plans for Chinese invested mining projects in Greenland, he has worked on Chinese land and resource politics and the bureaucratic machinations of Chinese local politics.

Meet the chair

Professor Chris Alden teaches International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and is Director of LSE IDEAS. He is a Research Associate with South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

Christer Pursiainen is Professor of Societal Safety and Environment at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) in Tromsø, Norway, and holds a doctorate in Political Science from the University of Helsinki from 1999. Previously, Pursiainen has worked in leading management and research positions in academic institutions, think tanks, consultancy companies and intergovernmental organisations in Finland, Sweden, Russia and Italy. His publications deal with a variety of themes such as societal security and safety, crisis management, critical infrastructure protection and resilience, international relations theory, foreign policy analysis, regional cooperation and integration, comparative politics, political psychology, state-society relations, Soviet/Russian history and politics.