By Yining Su
Huang Nubo. Image credit: China Daily
A Chinese billionaire’s plans to build a golf course in a remote, barren part of northern Iceland is fuelling conspiracy theories among local residents.
According to the New York Times, the Chinese billionaire Huang Nubo’s company, Zhongkun Group, has plans to buy a 100 square mile piece of wilderness near Grimsstadir, Iceland, on which he will build a hotel and golf resort.
The plan has run into some obstacles, as Iceland currently restricts foreign ownership of land. Additionally, locals and politicians alike find the plans suspicious, and speculation is rife about what Huang really intends with the land around Grimsstadir, and whether he is acting merely on his own, or on behalf of any government interests.
The interior minister of Iceland, Ogmundur Jonasson, is opposed to the plan, and rejected Huang’s application to be exempt from the land ownership restrictions. Jonasson told the New York Times:
It never seemed a very convincing business plan. I put many questions and got no answers … One has to look at this from a geopolitical perspective and ask about motivations.
There are rumours that Huang is after the offshore oil reserves in the fjords near Grimsstadir. Others allege that Huang’s golf resort plans are really a front for the Chinese government, which is eager to secure Arctic shipping routes.
A vice president of Zhongkun Group, Xu Hong, rejected all these rumours, insisting that the aim of the plan was to develop a peaceful resort for Chinese vacationers. As she explained, “most Chinese now don’t like to travel to dirty, noisy places.”
Yet, one thing that those in Iceland opposed to the plan and those who are unopposed can agree on is that the land is not suitable for a golf course. Unlike the interior minister, the foreign minister, Ossur Skarphedinsson, sees no reason to block Huang’s resort development. Still, he thinks the plan to build a golf course “doesn’t seem very sensible.”