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Towards Polycentric Regionalism: Sino-Russian Geo-Economic Relations and the Formation of the Pacific Arctic Region



Change log


Reilly, Timothy Bernard Thomas 


The post-Cold War unipolar world order is being challenged in both North East Asia and the broader Eurasian Arctic not by the emergence of multilateral political institutions, but rather by what I conceptualise as a geo-economic process of Polycentric Regionalism. The rising great power ambitions of Russia and China - with substantial economic spheres of overlapping regional interests (i.e. their neighbouring Dongbei / Russian Far East and Arctic territories), has led to their adoption of a geo-economic strategy to begin to alter the present international system by creating two new physical and geopolitically relevant, regional "spaces" in the Arctic: the terrestrial Pacific Arctic, and via the instrumentalization of technology, the fourth dimension of (celestial) Space. Both activities (the Pacific Arctic/Space) now strategically link North East Asia with Europe, physically and virtually, via combination of Russia’s North East Arctic corridor maritime access, Sino-Russian joint Space /cyberspace activities, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative platform. Through original case studies of the natural gas/ Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry, situated in Russia’s Arctic, as well as joint Sino-Russian technology Research and Development initiatives, I argue that the gas/LNG industry's geo-economic power - transmitted through capital, infrastructure build-out capabilities, and economic influence over institutions - is the key determinant in facilitating the physical connectivity and virtual linkage aspects of Polycentric Regionalism. By generating new economic dynamism in the shared space(s) and thereby building trust for bilateral commitments, Russia and China can create the Pacific Arctic region as an experimental step in establishing a viable alternative to the economic and security order in Asia, shaped largely to date by the U.S. The significant Sino-Russian trust gained via the Sino-Russian gas play acts as a strategic Confidence Building Measure for more sensitive collaboration in dual-use technologies, that may in turn progress the relationship from one of geo-economic partnership (gas/LNG) in the Pacific Arctic space, to possible geostrategic alliance (via technology-based activities) in the Arctic’s fourth dimensional arena – the domain of Space and Cyberspace. It is by these means that China and Russia can convert geo-economic, geostrategic, and associated econo-governance processes, into the crucial underpinnings of their geopolitical aim; a new, multiregional-based international order for the 21st century.





Rees, William
Lin, Kun-Chin


Arctic, LNG, Space, Governance


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge