Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

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Costly Signaling and China's Strategic Engagement in Arctic Regional Governance

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Abstract:  In recent years, China has become an increasingly important actor in Arctic regional governance. While Beijing consistently frames its engagement in the region as a strategy of mutually-beneficial cooperation, some Arctic countries have raised significant concerns about its growing economic presence, warning that China may leverage its geopolitical influence to change the existing norms and rules in the polar region. Facing the mounting “China threat” skepticism, what are Beijing’s coping strategies to belie concerns? Based on a review of the existing research and government documents, particularly Chinese-language scholarly works and official reports, this article specifically identifies two types of costly signaling approaches employed by China to reduce Arctic countries’ distrust. First, China has started to curtail its Arctic investment in oil, gas, and mining while engaging more in sectors that chime well with Western societies’ global environmental values, including clean and renewable energy, ecological research that addresses further climatic change associated with global warming, and other environmentally sustainable industries. Second, Beijing has increasingly involved in regional international organizations, such as the Arctic Council, to signal its willingness to exercise state power under institutional constraints. These approaches aim to send a series of costly signals to conventional Arctic states, reassuring them that China is not a revisionist power that pursues hegemony in the region. Taken together, our findings have both scholarly and policymaking implications to understand China’s participation in Arctic regional governance.

Keywords:  Arctic governance; Chinese diplomacy; costly signaling; global environmental values; sustainable development



© Yaohui Wang, Yanhong Ma. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.