Russian Arctic regions strengthen bonds with Beijing

Chinese workers at the Yamal LNG. ( Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

We are entering a new level of partnership with China,” Murmansk Governor Andrei Chibis said as he in September met with leaders of Shandong Port Group.

The company that includes four major seaports in the Chinese Shandong region was in the Russian Arctic region to have a look at local port development projects.

“China and Russia have a joint interest in the development of the Northern Sea Route,” Chibis underlined and added that the ice-free waters of Murmansk offer direct access to the World Sea without the need to traffic through international straits.

The meeting in Murmansk came after the regional governor had been in Shanghai as part of a Russian governmental delegation.

“I am confident that we will succeed in boosting interaction with Chinese partners,” Chibis underlined following the event.

Chinese interest in Northern Sea Route

According to the regional leader, trade turnover between Murmansk and China has over the past 4 years increased by 140 percent. And the Chinese want more, he argued following a meeting with Wang Wenli, China’s General Consul in St.Petersburg, in April.

Judging from the Governor, Chinese companies are interested in the Northern Sea Route and want to invest in shipbuilding in the Kola Peninsula.

Andrei Chibis in not the only regional leader from the Russian North that seems to be getting intimate with the Chinese. In the Russian-Chinese Forum in Shanghai was also Komi leader Vladimir Uiba, who was keen on attracting Chinese investors to his regional forestry processing industry.

At the same time, the Governor of Arkhangelsk Aleksandr Tsybulsky in May this year told General Consul Wang Wenli that his region now increasingly looks toward China.

“Now is the ideal time for the adding of new impulses to our partner relation,” Tsybulsky said. “Arkhangelsk Oblast is in a serious way changing its export policy and we plan a significant increase in supplies to China of wood products,” he explained.

Also the smaller Nenets Autonomous Okrug is bonding with the Chinese.

Joint investment initiatives in North

In March, local governor Yuri Bezdudy welcomed a Chinese business delegation and took part in discussions on joint investment projects in the far northern region.

“In the new economic realities between Russia and China, these are our strategic and reliable partners!” Bezdudy underlined.

Few months later, the regional leader sat down for talks with representatives of China Energy Engineering Corporation, the major Chinese state company.

According to Bezdudy, the Chinese company is ready to start construction of a plant in his region.

“The preliminary phase in the Nenets AO is completed, [and] our colleagues are ready to proceed with the construction of the plant and have come to see the site for the works,” he explained.

Growing role for Beijing in Russian economy 

The stronger ties with China come in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the imposing of massive international sanctions.

The weakened position of Moscow in international affairs gives ground for a significant strengthening of Beijing’s role in Russian economy.

That stronger role is seen also in the Russian Arctic, where Chinese companies from before had major stakes in several of Russia’s biggest industrial projects, among them the Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2.

Moscow welcomes China to further boost its role in the region. In a meeting between Russian Arctic Ambassador Nikolai Korchunov and China’s Special Representative Gao Fen in early September this year, both parts underlined the strategic character of the bilateral Arctic cooperation.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the two men exchanged views on possible ways to further strengthen interaction in the Arctic in the light of the new geopolitical situation.

“Both sides underlined the high priority of the Arctic in the context of development of national interests of Russia and China,” the ministry informs.

On the meeting agenda were possible joint projects in the field of Arctic energy, investments, research, transport, including the development and use of the Northern Sea Route.

They also discussed further interaction within the frames of the Arctic Council, the ministry informs.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canadian and Norwegian PMs talk Arctic on sidelines of Montreal summitt, CBC News

Finland: With northern focus, Finland applies EU funding to improve military mobility, The Independent Barents Observer

Japan: Japan to ensure stable energy supply despite US sanctions on Russia’s Arctic LNG 2, Reuters

Norway: Norwegians fear radiation as Russia prolongs test-window for Burevestnik missiles, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: More Russian Arctic oil via Murmansk redirects to India, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Indigenous leaders divided over ANWR court ruling, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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