Meet REXSAC PhD students: Patrik Andersson

Discover the sixth episode of our series of Q&A with REXSAC PhD Students. This time meet Patrik Andersson, industrial PhD student at the Department of Politics and Society, Aalborg University, and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS).


What drew you to the area/topic of your studies?


I am a sinologist by training. My studies began with Chinese language and literature, and later I shifted focus to Chinese politics and society. After I graduated from Lund University with a master’s degree in Asian studies in 2016 I was looking for opportunities to pursue a PhD. In 2018, I had the opportunity to take part in an application for an industrial PhD project that studies Chinese interests in Arctic resources, a topic I found extremely interesting. I was particularly drawn in by the project’s multidisciplinary nature, which would allow me to continue focusing on China while introducing me to several new research fields, including Arctic studies, resource politics and geopolitics.

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What are the objectives of your work?


In short, my project studies the different commercial and political drivers behind Chinese investments in the Arctic mineral sector.

The melting of the polar ice creates new economic opportunities for states and Arctic communities. This happens for example when Arctic resources become easier to explore and exploit and when new shipping routes become possible to use. Many countries are interested in Arctic resources, but China is one of few countries that has the political will and the economic and technological resources required to make large-scale investments in the region. But Chinese investments in Arctic resources have raised more attention – and even concern – than those of most other countries. There is a lot on uncertainty surrounding Chinese interests and motivations in the Arctic, but a lack of qualified knowledge. This is a problem, because, as China expands its Arctic activities, misunderstandings of Chinese interests raises the risk of tensions between China and the Arctic states. On the other hand, with a better understanding of the different drivers and considerations behind Chinese engagement in the region, Arctic states and local communities can benefit from Chinese investments while also reducing potential risks.

My project aims to shed light on how a combination of raw materials needs and geopolitical considerations affect Chinese investment decisions in the Arctic mineral sector. The objectives are threefold:

  • To analyze China’s geological and geopolitical priorities towards the Arctic mineral sector;
  • The political processes by which these priorities are formed; and
  • How these priorities affect Chinese companies’ investments and activities on the ground in the Arctic mineral sector.


The project will result in an article-based thesis composing four articles, of which two have been published already.


How does it support the objectives and work of REXSAC?


My project supports REXSAC’s work by exploring how Chinese opportunities to invest in Arctic mining or mineral exploration projects emerge, and the implications of Chinese engagement in Arctic mining for Arctic communities and environments. To understand the potential implications of Chinese engagement in the Arctic, it is crucial to first understand what Chinese interests and priorities in the Arctic mineral sector are, including what China wants to gain from its involvement.


What are your career aspirations?


I have very much enjoyed my time as a PhD student. Upon conclusion of my PhD in 2021, I hope to continue working with research, perhaps by pursuing a post-doc opportunity. China will be a part of whatever I choose to focus on, but I am keeping an open mind about different directions of my research. If possible, I would like to continue researching the geopolitics around critical minerals, a topic that has only grown more important and relevant since I began my project. While a career in academia is my first priority, I am also interested in exploring opportunities within the private sector.


Photo: Narsaq, Greenland/Patrik Andersson


About Author

Patrik Andersson Patrik Andersson

Aalborg University and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland


Patrik Andersson photo 3

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