By Beth Main
Since the 1990s China has been gingerly dipping its toes in Arctic waters, but it would seem they are aiming for the cold plunge. The Xue Long (the world’s largest icebreaker) has just been on a summer 2012 tour to Iceland that put Norway on edge (remember China and Norway are already having a tiff over Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize). The world is watching China’s advance on the Arctic very closely, as the icy
continent region [Ed.: my mistake, not author’s] is a place running amok with natural resources and territorial disputes.
China is just looking around it says, checking out the potential for shipping lanes, and keeping their finger on the pulse of global warming, but their activities in Greenland suggest otherwise. They have teamed up with the Brits (who better to advise on making unsubstantiated territorial claims) to develop a giant iron ore mine outside the capital Nuuk, a total investment of $2.3 billion. Greenland has welcomed the investment to explore the natural minerals being exposed by the melting ice.
China also wants to become a permanent observer in the Arctic Council (an international forum to discuss Arctic matters), because it defines itself as a ‘near arctic country’ (seriously). It would be a more valid argument to call China an ‘Arctic stakeholder’ as the melting of the icecaps will affect China as much, if not more so, than the Arctic states. The decision to let China take a larger role in the Arctic Council will lie with Canada when it becomes the Chair of the Arctic Council in 2013. China has also been courting Canada’s mineral and petroleum corporations, having invested over CAD$400 million so far.
The Diplomat reports:
One example that demonstrates a Chinese approach to the Arctic is Chinese tycoon Huang Nubo’s bid to purchase 300 square kilometers of land in northeast Iceland (roughly .3 percent of the country) for an eco-resort. While his efforts are allegedly unaffiliated with the Chinese government, the deal would grant China a significant foothold in the Arctic…The government of Iceland ultimately rejected Nubo’s resort proposal, but not first without stirring a heated debate between Icelanders about China’s growing influence.
Beijing has plans for three Arctic expeditions and a second polar ice-breaker ship by 2015, so while China’s position on the Arctic is still murky, given China’s aptitude for long term vision it is safe to say they are loitering with intent.