US-China relations represent the most central bilateral relationship in the world, but few studies investigate the two countries’ approaches to the Arctic. This article explores the geopolitical shifts in the Arctic, and compares and contrasts American and Chinese policy in the region. The article examines to what extent the two have common or conflicting interests, and discusses the potential for US-China friction and rivalry. Some alarmist writers suggest that the future Arctic is set for confrontation. This article, however, argues that the current stakes in the circumpolar Arctic region are not sufficiently high to warrant confrontation between the two states. Cooperation predominantly guides their policies and activities. While they play different roles and increasingly seek to demonstrate their influence, there are common interests, such as in the freedom of the seas, in resource extraction and in developing infrastructure in the region.