This month, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported that the Shanghai-based Polar Research Institute of China revealed that "China has completed the field testing and evaluation of an underwater listening device that will be deployed on a large scale in the Arctic Ocean."
— Gordon G. Chang (@GordonGChang) July 24, 2023
The innocuous-sounding report tells us that China intends to wage war against the United States and Canada from the Arctic.
China had installed the "polar subglacial shallow surface acoustic monitoring buoy system" on floating ice in the Arctic on August 9, 2021. Information obtained by the device was uplinked to Chinese satellites.
The research institute, a Chinese central government agency that "plans and coordinates China's polar activities," stated that the devices could be used for "subglacial communication, navigation and positioning, target detection, and the reconstruction of marine environmental parameters." This buoy "can be massively used in the construction of the Arctic Ocean environmental monitoring network."
Other than this buoy, the institute said, China had "never planted a listening device there."
Canada removed buoys placed by China in Canadian waters without permission
That assertion is not truthful. Last fall, the Canadian military, according to Canada's Globe and Mail in February, removed buoys placed by China in Canadian waters in the Arctic.
Not much is known about the removed Chinese devices. Pierre LeBlanc, a former commander of the Canadian armed forces in the Arctic, told Voice of America that Canada has not revealed the location of the removed buoys or their type, but it is nonetheless apparent the Chinese military placed them in or near Canada's Northwest Passage without permission.
"China's intent to dominate the Arctic region of North America is of increasing priority for the Xi Jinping regime," Charles Burton of the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute told Gatestone. "Moving forward from the illogical assertion that China is a 'near-Arctic nation' and Xi's touting of the 'Polar Silk Road,' China is now covertly preparing the groundwork for militarization of the largely undefended northern territory and critical Arctic sea routes."
Retired Lieutenant-General Michael Day told the Globe and Mail that China's buoys would likely have been mapping environmental conditions such as seabeds and ice thickness. Buoys can also monitor ice movement, ocean currents, water temperature, and salinity.
All of this data is needed to listen for submarines, specifically American ones. China wants to track and destroy American subs from the top of the world before they can flood into Asian waters.
The frozen Arctic is a hot topic these days, and China is trying to control it. The Polar Research Institute of China attempted to buy an airport in Lapland, Finland, but under U.S. pressure the government there blocked the purchase.
Balance of power at risk
In addition, a Chinese state mining company attempted to buy land close to a facility maintained by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the joint Canada-U.S. military command that provides early warning. That purchase was also stopped.
"Since the advent of the Cold War, the Arctic has been the domain of two nuclear powers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation," said James Fanell of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy to this publication. "These two states demonstrated an understanding of the balance of power and observed an uneasy truce within the waters of the Arctic. Since 2017, the People's Republic of China, led by Xi Jinping, has made it clear it covets access to the Arctic and recognition of its major-power status there."
China has, Fanell points out, announced three Blue Economic Corridors, one of which includes the Arctic. These corridors are part of Xi's worldwide Belt and Road Initiative.
Unlike Moscow and Washington, Beijing, with its forays into the Arctic, is upending stability. As Fanell, also a former U.S. Navy captain who served as Director of Intelligence and Information Operations at the U.S. Pacific Fleet, points out, "Beijing arrogantly believes they deserve a place in the Arctic Council to 'call the shots' and expand Chinese influence and access to this vital region atop the planet."
The U.S.'s generous "engagement" approach to China has resulted in China obtaining observer status in the Arctic Council although no Chinese territory is in or near the Arctic.
There are eight states with territory inside the Arctic Circle. With the exceptions of Russia and Sweden, all are NATO members. This year, Sweden should join that alliance.
Moreover, the five Arctic littoral states—the Arctic Five of Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States—are all NATO members other than Russia. This gives America the ability to determine outcomes in the Arctic, especially if Washington were to oppose China's initiatives, as it of course should.
Melting is making drilling and mining in the region more feasible
China already has two permanent research stations in the Arctic, one in Norway and the other in Iceland. That is two too many.
The Chinese know the value of the Arctic. Warming temperatures are melting Arctic ice, making drilling and mining in the region more feasible. Moreover, melting ice opens up shorter routes for container ships and other vessels.
Yet for China, the Arctic is primarily a military domain. In addition to the buoys they are leaving in the Arctic, the Chinese are surveilling the area by air. The spy balloon that flew over the lower 48 states this year initially crossed into Alaska and Western Canada.
China is not only pressing the United States and Canada from the north. In the other direction, China is establishing military bases in South America and the Caribbean and is infiltrating saboteurs across the border with Mexico. The Biden administration is allowing a hostile state to go hard against America from all sides. A menacing China is now everywhere in the Western Hemisphere.