The sight of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pottering about Iceland‘s natural wonders in windbreaker and hiking boots has raised suspicions over what China really wants from the island nation of 320,000.
Mia Shanley of Reuters details his adventures in the island nation:
The 69-year-old Wen did not talk politics as he asked about the rock types and the formation of grey-black basalt rock from volcanic lava.
“It is beautiful,” Wen said slowly in English, after climbing off his mini bus on the spot where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collided and where the Althing parliament once met.
“He was not talking in political jargon but as a person, a scientist, who knows what he’s saying,” said Oddur Sigurdsson, a geologist who was Wen’s tour guide.
Wen graduated from the Beijing Institute of Geology after majoring in geological structure, his official biography says.
He greeted tourists and chatted with locals in Iceland. At one point, he hugged a two-year-old Icelandic girl in a puffy pink jumpsuit. He ate traditional Icelandic pancakes rolled in sugar at a farm and admired sheep and horses.
On his last stop, a geothermal power plant on an active volcanic ridge, he told students in a spontaneous 10-minute speech that more needed to be done about global warming. Those who attended said they could really relate to Wen.
Not everyone in Iceland rolled out the red carpet for Wen, however. Anti-China protestors greeted his 100-strong entourage with “Free Iceland” banners. The premier was also blocked from visiting a volcanic crater on his tour because local landowners didn’t want him there.
Last year, a bid by Chinese tycoon Huang Nubo to buy a 300 square kilometre tract of land in Iceland sparked debates over whether the project was a cover for China’s geopolitical interests.