PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (4): 489-505.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.04.003

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A systematic review on geo-relations research in the Arctic

Binhong YE1(), Yang CHENG1,*(), Li WANG2, Linsheng YANG2,3   

  1. 1. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2018-09-11 Revised:2019-01-07 Online:2019-04-28 Published:2019-04-28
  • Contact: Yang CHENG;
  • Supported by:
    Open Project by Collaborative Innovation Center for Geopolitical Setting of Southwest China and Borderland Development, No. 230200043;The Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. XDA19070502;The Key Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. ZDRW-ZS-2017-4.


In recent years, with the impact of climate change, the Arctic has aroused extensive concerns worldwide. In this article, we systematically reviewed the publications on geo-relations in the Arctic from 2000 to 2017 in both the English and the Chinese literature. We identified 289 articles in English and 596 articles in Chinese by searching in Web of Science and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), respectively. In terms of the number of publications, 10 or fewer papers were published in both English and Chinese each year from 2000 to 2008, but there was a significant growth in numbers after 2009. The Keyword Co-occurrence function of the CiteSpace software was used to visualize the keywords of the searched publications for analyzing the research trend. In terms of contents, the publications in English focused on sovereignty, mainly involving continental shelf, the Svalbard archipelago, and the legal status of the continental shelf. Some studies focused on the economy and feasibility of transportation routes in the Arctic, considering navigational conditions and costs. In addition, the natural resources in the Arctic region, such as oil, gas, and fishery, were major topics in the English publications. By the influence of critical and humanistic geopolitics, the survival, interests, and rights of indigenous population were also discussed. In the Chinese literature, many scholars focused on the geo-relations among Russian Federation, the United States, and Canada. China's participation in Arctic affairs and Arctic governance were often discussed, such as identity construction and cooperation approaches. Being different from the English publications, the impact of Arctic Passages on the international economic order has been paid more attention to in the Chinese literature. Furthermore, many scholars discussed the influence, particularly on the economic field, of developing the Arctic region from a national perspective. In general, publications in English have mainly focused on sovereignty and politics, channel utility, resource management, and indigenous people's rights and interests in the Arctic, while the Chinese publications have paid more attention to geopolitics, transportation, resource utilization, and regional governance in the region. Although some studies were conducted by using quantitative methods, the majority of publications were rather descriptive. The research methods and research questions need to be developed in this research field. The Arctic is a region with strategic significance. In the future, in combination with the development of research methods and international regional development theory, sustainable development in the Arctic and China's participation need to be further studied, and a theory of geo-relations needs to be constructed and applied in the study of the Arctic.

Key words: geo-relations, geopolitics, geo-economics, geography, the Arctic