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Shanghai's Historic Contribution to the Construction of the Polar Silk Road

September 30, 2019

Wang Haidong, Institute of Literature, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

In recent years, Shanghai has made a historic contribution to the construction of the Polar Silk Road, which is highlighted by the nine Chinese Arctic expeditions with icebreaker "Xuelong (Snow Dragon)” that makes its home port in Shanghai. This article uses the result of the ninth Arctic inspection as an example to demonstrate the contributions.

On July 31, 2018[A1] , a Chinese scientific expedition team entered the Arctic Ocean. During this circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean, the icebreaker travelled along the central shipping route for the first time in China's history. The expedition team carried out systematic scientific research mainly in the areas of the Bering Sea, the North European Sea and the Chukchi Sea and completed the world's first expedition in the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay. The expedition team made 7 stops for ice station works and 49 stops for ocean station works, and conducted multi-disciplinary comprehensive survey focusing on basic marine environment, sea ice, biodiversity, and marine plastic waste. The expedition team collected a large number of ice core, rock core and biological samples, obtained a large amount of atmospheric, sea ice, and ocean observation data and images, and accumulated a wealth of first-hand precious materials. These encouraging results contributed significantly to the scientific exploration for construction of the Polar Silk Road. The expedition to the Arctic Ocean was completed on September 23. The Arctic Northeast Passage Communication Guide compiled based on the explorations of the nine Arctic expeditions marks out the 17 main radio stations along the journey that starts from China’s east coastline, passes the Bering Strait and goes all the way up to the Arctic’s Northeast Passage, with information on when they’re operating. The guide provides necessary scientific data for ships to travel through the Northeast Passage and also fundamental scientific conditions for the peaceful use of the Arctic globally.

The Polar Silk Road helps drive economic, cultural and technological development around the world, and this is easily understandable by looking at the globe. Looking down from the top of the Earth's rotation axis, you will first find the Arctic Ocean in the Arctic Circle, which is surrounded by Asia, Europe, and North America. Asia and North America are separated by the Pacific Ocean and Europe and North America by the Atlantic Ocean. The earth is round. In addition to the traditional route[1], the Arctic route, which is a shortcut linking Northeast Asia with Northwest Europe and North America, can be a viable option for ships departing from Asian countries and heading towards Northwest Europe and North America — currently the most prosperous and vibrant regions in the world. The important reason why the Polar Silk Road can promote the development of the world economy and culture is its safety. At present, 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea. However, countries along the existing routes have different cultures and intertwined relations of ethnicity and religion among them. This creates frequent terrorist activities and extreme events as well as rampant piracy, seriously affecting shipping safety. Comparably speaking, the Arctic route is not only short, but also free from pirate attack, so that shipping safety is ensured. On the other hand, the development of the Arctic route will bring a lot of precious natural resources to the world. Scientific expeditions have found that the Arctic Circle is rich in oil and natural gas resources, as well as high-quality marine living resources.

In the nine Arctic expeditions, Shanghai provided necessary technical, maintenance and material support for the smooth voyage of icebreaker Xuelong. The support helped considerably for the expedition team to obtain a large amount of reliable scientific data. This is a fruitful achievement in Shanghai's technological innovation over 70 years. As the Chinese proverb says, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Without field trips to the Arctic Ocean, there would be no these scientific data gathered. Shanghai has made a significant historic contribution to the building of the Polar Silk Road.

 

[1]It refers to the shipping route via the Suez Canal.