Every time Arctic sea ice extent reaches a new record low a host of new reports and studies predict a rapid increase in shipping activities in the Arctic. Expectations are high that Arctic shipping routes, particularly the Northern Sea Route, will rival traditional shipping routes, become a new silk road and complement the Suez Canal route as a key waterway for trade to and from Asia by the middle of this century.
One of the drivers of Arctic shipping, as the logic goes, is China’s rapidly growing international trade. As China aims to diversify its trade routes and reduce its dependence on trade passing through the Strait of Malacca, the Arctic offers an alternative and shorter route to conduct part of its trade. How realistic are such scenarios?