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China in Iceland: Melting Ice, Changing Priorities

The New York Times ran a very interesting piece a few days ago on China’s growing interest in the Arctic. Fascinatingly, China is developing a massive 500-person embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, “a country of 320,000 people.” By contrast, according to Damien Degeorges of Greenland University, the United States only has about 70 people in their embassy.

As strange as it may seem, this is not really a surprising development. We have been tracking China’s growing interest in the Arctic, which includes application for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council (an all-Arctic entity), increased commercial interest in the world’s northernmost inhabited island (Svalbard, Norway), and the recent launch of the country’s new Arctic Studies Institute, which was supported by an Icelandic research center. This recent diplomatic surge in Iceland is simply the latest in a growing trend of Chinese interest in the Arctic.

What’s the reason for all this attention China is lavishing on such a cold and inhospitable mistress? Well, the Arctic is melting, this phenomenon opens up opportunities for both global trade, transportation, energy extraction and development, and China isn’t about to miss out on the opportunity.

For an in-depth look at this growing Arctic interest on a global scale, and an assessment of its potential implications for international security, see Dr. Jay Gulledge’s excellent report, “Climate Change and International Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether.”

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