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Greenland’s Premier has spoken warmly of embracing Chinese investment in an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhau.”I think that China together with other nations is taking a huge interest in the Arctic area in general and specifically in Greenland, and we have seen quite a number of visitors from China over the last couple of years,” Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist said this week. “We don’t really have that much co-operation for the time being, but I know that Chinese companies are showing an interest in Greenland.”
“Greenland is also showing an interest in China: my minister for minerals (and industry) and labour is going to China today on an official visit. I would see a future co-operation as a very positive one and we welcome the Chinese interest,” he continued.
There’s a few reasons why this is interesting:
- We are already seeing a huge grab for land in the Arctic. The reason? It’s believed that there might be a huge amount of untapped natural oil and gas reserves under the surface.
- The key players so far have been Russia and Canada — both countries that actually border the Arctic region. Russia’s push has been particularly notable, with talks of even building an “Arctic city” to house scientists and workers in the region.
- Greenland gained self-rule from Denmark in 2009. Since then the country (population 56,534) has been trying to work out a new, more independent economic system. However, Denmark still controls Greenland’s foreign policy.
- It is thought that 10 per cent of the world’s unproven oil reserves and 30 per cent of its gas reserves might exist under the rapidly shrinking Greenland ice sheet.
- The Danish Ambassador to the United States Peter Taksoe-Jensen recently gave a talk at Dartmouth that showed Denmark would allow Greenland a lot of leway in making decisions (Foreign Affairs has a good summary of that here).
- China, unlike other key world powers in the debate, has no real claim to land in the Arctic circle. However, it has already performed a number of probes into the Arctic area, which are speculated to be because of interest in a new shipping route once ice melts in the area.
- A Chinese tycoon has already announced somewhat mysterious plans for a “hotel and golf course” on an island off the coast of Iceland. This island, of course, also has a unique strategic position.
We hadn’t really considered Russia a true player in the great Arctic land grab before — but maybe that needs reconsidering.