Beijing is keen on the Polar Silk Road because it not only cuts by about a third the travel time from China to Europe, compared with the route via the South China Sea and Indian Ocean now, but also runs through an area free of pirates.
It also wants to take part in the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mineral resources, utilise fisheries and other living resources and develop tourism in the Arctic.
In addition, it wants to take part in shaping its governance.
Response to the White Paper has been mixed among Arctic states.
Canadian analysts worry about its ambiguity on Canadian jurisdiction over the North-west Passage that runs through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. While the White Paper acknowledges the sovereignty of Arctic states, it also says international law needs to be observed.
"We don't know how China places the hierarchy between Arctic states and international law," Universite Laval professor Frederic Lasserre told CBC News.
He found the ambiguity over what China wants to do in the Arctic "a bit troubling".
But the Russians have welcomed China's engagement in the Arctic. China National Petroleum Corporation has a 20 per cent stake in the Yamal liquefied natural gas project in Siberia, and the two nations are looking to cooperate on developing rail and port facilities at Arkhangelsk city near the Arctic Circle.
China has also cooperated with Nordic state, including Iceland, on scientific research. What worries the West is that China and Russia appear to be stepping up military cooperation, having held naval drills in the Baltic Sea last year.
Chinese naval vessels have also at times operated close to the Arctic waters, noted Dr Marc Lanteigne of Massey University in New Zealand.
However, he added: "There is little sign that Beijing has any interest in sending military vessels to the Arctic on a regular basis, especially since doing so would likely prompt a strong reaction from both Russia and the United States."
In Antarctica, China's activities are also coming under greater scrutiny.
China runs four research stations there and is building a fifth that is expected to be completed in 2022.
Antarctica is not governed by any one country but by the Antarctica Treaty signed in 1959. China is one of 29 consultative nations of the treaty that govern the territory.
One of the treaty's objectives is to keep Antarctica demilitarised and nuclear-free, and ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only.
China published a White Paper on its Antarctic activities last May that focused heavily on its scientific concerns and interest in cooperating with other states on projects related to the environment and climate, noted Dr Lanteigne.
However, a report published last August by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said China "has conducted undeclared military activities in Antarctica, is building a territorial claim, and is engaging in military exploration there".
It also said China is looking for resources, including minerals, hydrocarbons and fish.
All territorial claims have been suspended since the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, while the Madrid Protocol forbids any activity related to mineral resources other than for scientific research. This protocol is up for review in 2048.
The report said that for the Chinese, the protocol simply postpones what they believe is the inevitable opening up of Antarctic resources. It suggests that China should be encouraged to issue an official Antarctic strategy.
Professor Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University in New Zealand, who wrote the report, said in an e-mail: "China needs to clearly signal its intentions and strategic interests in the Antarctic, as other Antarctic states have done before them."
As a consultative nation, China is entitled to help shape the evolution of Antarctic governance, she added.
As a non-Arctic state and non-claimant to Antarctica, China is seeking to walk a fine line between avoiding being seen as a "gatecrasher" and not being marginalised, said Dr Lanteigne.
Dr Liu thinks that China's interest in the polar regions differs from its areas of core interests such as Taiwan and the South China Sea. Thus "Chinese diplomacy in the polar regions can be collaborative and cooperative, rather than provocative and challenging", he added.