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China’s Ice silk road and Yeosijae’s Butterfly Project

Se-hee Hwang

2018.02.28

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The opening of the North Pole Passage has become a reality, and China is now focusing on not only the to the Belt and Road Initiative, but also the Arctic. A white paper titled “China’s Arctic Policy,” which was issued by the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China on January 26, 2018, shows China’s special interest in the Arctic. According to the Policy, China aims to promote the development of the Arctic based on the Belt and Road Initiative. Furthermore, China plans to build a community of shared future for humankind in the Arctic and make a greater contribution to peace, stability, and sustainable development in the Arctic.[1]

In 2016, Yeosijae (Future Consensus Institute) reviewed more than 1200 studies on Northeast Asian and Eurasian cooperation and announced the ‘Butterfly Project,’ which links the major changes in the coming era with the opening of the North Pole Passage to each country’s Eurasian strategy. Specifically, the Butterfly Project is a plan for integrating Eurasia and North America into a single economic system by establishing a logistics network. The right-wing of the butterfly consists of the Northwest Passage and North America, while the left-wing is formed by the Northeast Passage and Eurasia. Hu Angang, director of the Center for China Study at Tsinghua University, conceived the idea of ‘One Belt, One Road, One Circle’ which combines the Belt and Road Initiative with the North Pole Passage.[2] Professor Hu has been involved in research on the Butterfly Project since the very beginning.

Greater depth was added to discussions on the Butterfly Project through the Yeosijae Forum in 2017.[3] Yeosijae proposed increased inter-city and energy cooperation as the starting point for the Butterfly Project. The participants, including high-level policymakers, scholars, and business entrepreneurs reached the same conclusion that the Butterfly Project could promote coexistence and strengthen cooperation in the international community.

The changes in the Arctic are concerning. They not only affect coastal countries, but also form a fundamental part of international politics. In 2013, the Arctic Council accepted South Korea, Japan, China, India, and Singapore as observers.[4] The Butterfly Project can also be used to solve problems in the Arctic as the Project shares similar values to China’s Ice Silk Road, which focuses on respect, cooperation, win-win outcomes, and sustainability.

There has been some criticism of the Belt and Road Initiative as China extends the Initiative to the Arctic region. However, now that China has come forward as a major actor in the development and stability of the Arctic, we need a strategy in which China can coexist within the framework of multilateral cooperation. Consequently, the Butterfly Project presents numerous ways for countries in Northeast Asia to participate in the fields of sustainable growth and cooperation. Yeosijae believes that the Butterfly Project will help the Arctic to become a place of growth and peace.


[2] People Who Changed China’s Silk Road <https://www.mk.co.kr/opinion/columnists/view/2017/11/758443/>

[3] The Butterfly Project: A New Economic Initiative for Stability and Prosperity in Northeast Asia <http://futureconsensus.org/sub/sesson.php>

[4] 12 Permanent Observer Countries – South Korea, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Britain, Italy, India, Japan, China, Poland, and France


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