As with all exclusive clubs, becoming a member takes time. In the end, however, China’s insistence has been rewarded and it has finally been awarded observer status in the Arctic Council. During the recent meeting in Sweden, the northernmost club in the world recognized the commitments and interests that Beijing has invested in the North Pole. Representatives from the US, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland voted unanimously to give China observer status, although it rules out any territorial claims. It does however grant the right to participate without voting rights in the biannual summits, and with full rights in the working groups. The Arctic Council, created as an intergovernmental association with scientific and environmental objectives, has recently enlarged its political footprint. The attendance of US Secretary of State John Kerry guaranteed a heightened importance to the event. Observer status was granted to four other Asian nations during the most recent meeting (Japan, India, South Korea, and Singapore) and to Italy (Europe’s other major powers had already gained the right), while the European Union’s request was suspended due to a dispute with Canada over the seal fur trade. Beijing’s determination may seem eccentric at first glance, given that it’s northernmost point is thousands of kilometers from the Pole. Even more bizarre are the applications by India and Singapore, both of which are positioned along the equator, but these interests go beyond sovereignty. As stated by the ministers who attended the meeting, “What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.” China is well aware. Every climate change has direct repercussions on the world’s temperature and water supply, causing both droughts and flooding. Beijing cannot leave the need to feed its population out of its control. The rising polar temperatures and subsequent melting ice have also opened previously un-navigable channels in the Arctic Circle. The legendary Northwest Passage, previously relegated to fictional adventure tales, has finally become a reality. The trip between Northern Asia and Scandinavia can be reduced by one third via this route, with the obvious savings in fuel and time that it entails for a commercial power like China. Experts estimate that up to 13% of undiscovered crude oil reserves, and 30% of natural gas, may be found under the polar ice cap. There are also reserves of tungsten and uranium under the ice that have not been accessible in the past due to the inclement weather. A record setting and energy-hungry China had no choice but to try to get involved, although it is an actor but not a protagonist. It has long been active in research projects, climate control missions, investments in mining in Greenland, and commercial agreements: last month, Iceland was the first European nation to sign a free trade agreement with China. Now, the Arctic Council has recognized the importance of these events, a new demonstration that the interests of a political and economic power cannot be contained by its territorial borders.