China receives more than half its oil imports via the Malacca strait. However, if a hostile navy blocks this strait, the economy of China can be significantly affected.
China has admitted that this is a negative point. For this reason, the Asian country is trying to exploit the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean as well. Namely, China considers to position military to the strait, to prevent it from closing.
However, there may be an other solution: The Arctic. Russia’s Northern Sea Route and North America’s Northwest Passage can provide a reduce and less expensive way to ship oil to Asia from Russia, Norway, Greenland and Canada.
China tries to exploit this chance. This is shown by the country's recent investment of US$27 billion in the Yamal LNG facility.
However, despite the importance of Arctic, there is always the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill. Search and rescue capability in the Arctic, along with oil spill response, are still very limited. Namely, if an oil spill happens in the Arctic today by a super tanker, that would be larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
Arctic oil drilling can also cause spills. According to the US Geological Survey, 84% of the Arctic’s undiscovered oil and gas is located offshore. This is something that was disputed by environmental activists, who said that there have been oil spills from Russian oil companies, that have not been reported.
In order to prevent an oil disaster, the Arctic Council, the inter-governmental body that oversees the Arctic, signed an agreement regarding the cooperation and response to a major Arctic oil spill in 2013.
However, many say that this is only a start and further action must be taken in order to mitigate an oil spill risk, as there is severe lack of infrastructure, knowledge and preparedness to deal with a major Arctic oil spill.