Liu Yajie

Liu Yajie

Associated Professor, Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT)

Visiting at: Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Period: 1 month 
Research Theme: REGIMES project: an interdisciplinary investigation into scenarios of national and international conflicts in the Svalbard zone under a changing climate in the Arctic

Final Report for the Research Visit at UBC as a CNARC Fellow - 30 October 2019

First of all I would like to thank my collaborator, Dr. Huiyu Zhao at the Center for Competition Law and Policy, KoGuan Law School, Shanghai Jiao Tong University for hosting me at her Department and providing me with an office and necessary needs during my stay. I also want to thank the Polar Research Institute of China for the financial support from which made this inspiring trip possible.

Background and Purpose of the Visit

The climate is changing, and the Arctic is experiencing faster and more severe climate changes than the rest of the world. The impacts of climate change have presented both new economic opportunities and challenges, and created potential conflicts for the Arctic communities. Rising sea temperature in the Arctic Ocean is affecting the productivity, abundance and distribution of fish stocks, leading to potential increase in fish biomass and catches, this ultimately provides potential opportunities to fisheries and fishing communities that depend on marine resources for their livelihood and well-being. In the meantime, ice and permafrost melting will open up water passages for other economic development including potentials for shipping and transport, oil and gas extraction, mining and mineral extraction, recreation and tourism. These potential new developments will generate income and jobs for the arctic communities, while bring challenges to their tradition, identity, culture and society. Especially they may generate potential environmental problems that may have adverse impacts on the environment and ecosystem, sectors and society. In the meantime, they also escalate the conflict interests among the arctic coastal nations like Norway and observe country like China in the uses of the Arctic Ocean and its resources. The climate will continue changing and development is emerging, we have to make choices between different options in order to sustain our lives, livelihood and environment where we live and rely on.

This short visit is partially related to my ongoing research projects - REGIMES ( funded by the Norwegian Research Council under the POLARPROG program (project #: 257628), run from 2016 – 2019, and Sustainable Tourism in the Nordic Arctic, funded partially by Nordregio. The REGIMES project is about an interdisciplinary investigation into scenarios of national and international conflicts in the Svalbard zone under a changing climate in the Arctic. The primary objective of the REGIMES is to investigate the effects of climate change on the Arctic marine ecosystem services, and further to study how this will affect the potential for escalating conflicts over the Svalbard Fisheries Protection Zone. The Tourism project is to identify a combination of economic and societal shifts occurring in these two sets of industries – tourism and the extraction of living marine resources – that present opportunities and challenges to sustainable economic development in the Nordic Arctic.

Connection with these two projects, my aim was to explore further research collaboration with Chinese scholars on the Arctic issues, particularly my host institution – SJTU. After some discussions, we finally decided to explore environmental governance in the Arctic in light of China’s Arctic Policy published in January 2018.

Research Visit at SJTU

As part of the CNARC research fellow of 2018&2019, I visited Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) from June 10 to July 10, 2019. My host is Dr Huiyu Zhao at the Center for Competition Law and Policy, KoGuan Law School, SJTU.

During my short visit, I had the great opportunity to meet and discuss with Dr. Zhao and her colleagues about ongoing research projects. We also have had many interesting and fruitful discussions on our research interests, potential collaboration both in research ideas and in exchanges between us. She has also introduced me to other colleagues whom I have chance to meet and exchange our research. It definitely broadens my research network for current and future research collaborations with peers.

I have also attended department seminars and invited to briefly present my research. I have also invited to attend their research meetings, especially for their summer student research project in the Northwest of China about Building green wall for combating environmental deterioration though planting trees in the desert. One of seminars was given by professor, Zhang Lina from Hainan University about the BBNJ. Since my REGIMES team is also working on the BBNJ, especially joining the negotiation conferences, I found the seminar very interesting and inspiring. I was also invited by Shanghai Ocean University, Ocean University of China and the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Science to give a seminar about Norwegian Fisheries and Aquaculture sector.

Our original plan was to explore people perceptions and choices for the future development brought about by climate change in the Arctic in both Norway and China and how these may affect the governance in the Arctic. However, during our discussions with faculty members and students, we realized that we will not able to get sensible results given the lack of understanding of the problem and time. Therefore, we changed our focus on the perspective of environmental governance under China’s Arctic Policy in connection with the ‘Polar Silk Road’ Initiative.

Outcomes of Research Visit at SJTU

The main outcome resulted from this research visit is a peer-reviewed article. The title of our paper is “China’s ‘Polar Silk Road’: The Arctic and Environmental Governance”. We are finalizing the manuscript and will submit it to Marine Policy for publication shortly.

China announced its Arctic Policy in January 2018. Since then, it has generated numerous discussions about its purpose, strategies and future development. The goal of the policy is “to understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic.” According to the China Arctic Policy, China will take part of the development and conservation projects and activities, including shipping routes, natural resource exploration and exploitation, and tourism. China will utilize Arctic resources “in a lawful and rational manner” while protecting Arctic environment and ecosystem and addressing climate change issues.

Thus, this manuscript analyzes the Chinese “Polar Silk Road” initiative and its effect on the current environmental policy framework, as well as challenges it poses for environmental governance in the Arctic. This paper analyzes the China’s development in the Arctic from five aspects and the current Arctic environmental laws and policies in three dimensions: the international, Arctic regional and domestic levels. It is drawn that the current frameworks of environmental policies and laws are inadequate in response to prospective environmental issues caused by economic development. China should actively participate in the negotiation of regulations and policies at international level, and guide Chinese enterprises and investors to be more aware of environmental issues, and become more environmentally responsible, and socially responsible in economic development in the Arctic when developing the "Polar Silk Road".

Take home Messages

This fellowship has provided a great opportunity for researchers like me to learn some new research horizon and collaborate research like writing research paper(s), proposals, etc. The one month is a bit short for completing a big task, e.g., for conducting a full survey or experimental game we originally planned. But, it definitely provides an opportunity for further collaboration. I have invited Dr. Zhao coming to Norway for a short visit in order to work more together. It is also a great networking opportunity to know and connect your peers. Particularly it will create a dynamic discussion and exchange research activities and experience for future joint effort related to the Arctic issues with other researchers in China. A short-term research stay will enhance our collaboration on the research activities and bring benefits to both of us and our institutions in sharing our knowledge, experience and developing future research activities.