Guest pen The importance of the Arctic region is growing, and Finland must also be awake

In companies and municipalities in particular, more information is needed on what needs to be taken into account when dealing with shops from abroad.

In March Finnish media reported on the Chinese effort to buy Kemijärvi Airport. In 2018, the Chinese delegation had expressed its desire to buy or lease Kemijärvi Airport for scientific research in the Arctic. There were no shops that time.

In recent years, the Defense Forces in particular have taken a healthy critical view of land acquisition efforts from abroad.

This was not the first time the Chinese had a desire to acquire land in the Arctic. As early as 2011, a Chinese billionaire tried to buy an area in Iceland almost the size of Espoo, located on the north coast of Iceland, in the vicinity of new Arctic sea routes opening as a result of climate change. The project stalled with both Icelandic legislation and opposition from the United States.

China’s the focus has also been on Greenland, known for its mineral resources. Chinese investment in the region has increased in the 2010s. China is interested in rare earth deposits in Greenland, for example. However, it was only the Chinese construction giant’s offer to build and renovate three airports on the island that attracted more attention.

The Greenlanders accepted the offer to build the fields with satisfaction, as the leadership of the Autonomous Community had been presenting investment opportunities in their area to the Chinese for years. In Copenhagen, the issue was more lenient, and in the United States, the project was viewed with concern. Washington is using a magnifying glass to monitor China’s efforts to promote its presence around the world.

The follow-up to the Chinese airport project showed how much concern China’s efforts in the Arctic are raising. The issue was discussed between top management in the United States and Denmark. Shortly afterwards, the Danish Prime Minister made a “surprise visit” to Greenland and promised the mainland to offset the construction costs of the fields. It had been requested by the Autonomous Community of Greenland from Denmark for years, but to no avail.

Also President Donald Trump’s apparently serious offer to buy Greenland for the United States was too close to the Chinese aspirations to be an independent gesture. The tender offer was embarrassing for Denmark. It had to be fought quickly, but so that Trump, known to be whimsical, wouldn’t get angry about it. Denmark managed to act in such a way that the damage was apparently limited to the cancellation of Trump’s visit.

In the United States, the idea of ​​a Chinese presence in Greenland resonates sadly. Washington is accustomed to keeping potential challengers far from the country’s borders. Strategically increasingly important to the United States, Thule’s military base is located in Greenland and plays a key role as the United States prepares to grow in the region.

China’s efforts in the region are not without problems for Russia either. Yes, Russia welcomes Chinese investment, but at the same time it is concerned about the growth of China’s presence and influence in the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic is now a matter of common interest for the United States, China and Russia. China is seeking a foothold in the region to prepare for its exploitation. Buying ports, land and airports would be the most realistic option for the Chinese.

In Finland it is important to internalize the growing geopolitical importance of the Arctic. In the case of Lake Kemijärvi, the authorities were awake. In the future, however, better coordination and a snapshot of what is worth keeping an eye on, especially in companies or municipalities, when shopping trousers from abroad to massage shops are brought to Finland.

There is no reason to question all of China’s actions in the Arctic. The country has economic goals that can benefit other parties, as well as the need to participate in research into the effects of climate change. But because it’s hard to see behind the Beijing curtain, hidden goals may be overshadowed by the public agenda.

Samu Paukkunen

The author is the Deputy Director of Administration at the Institute of Foreign Policy.

The guest pens are the speeches of experts selected by the HS editorial board for publication. The opinions expressed in guest pens are the authors’ own views, not HS’s statements. Writing instructions: www.hs.fi/vieraskyna/.

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