China wants to join the Arctic Council as a permanent observer, or in other words, to quote Scott Stearn‘s Voice of America (VoA) blogpost of June 5, “China wants a bigger say in the Arctic, where thinning ice is opening faster trade routes to Asia in a region that could hold 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas.”
Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States are permanent members of the council, which is a organization for discussion and research, and “not bound by any treaties”.
Other countries – the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, and Spain – are “permanent observers”, and China has applied to become one in 2013.
But there seems to be a problem. “The political dialogue between Norway and China for the last one and a half years has been at a pretty low level”, Stearn quotes Norway’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.
If Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao were quoted correctly, and if nothing important is left out, Beijing apprently wants to get permanent observers without a need to care about its relations with Norway:
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao says Beijing hopes to “cooperate with relevant countries like Sweden and Iceland on issues of peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic.”
That lacks some context. Song apparently made his comments in connection with a visit by Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao to Iceland and Sweden. Norway wasn’t part of Wen’s tour – and not mentioning Norway would be natural under these circumstances.
That Wen didn’t call on Norway, however, is probably no coincidence. “Ever since the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee granted the prize to Chinese dissident Liu Ziaobo [sic - i. e. Liu Xiaobo], China has frozen relations with the country”, Barents Observer wrote in April.
Given that the Arctic Council is a rather informal group, China will have access to other international bodies to push its interests concerning the Arctic. But that doesn’t keep Beijing from trying to become a permanent observer.
China isn’t easy to deal with (or no trifle – 不好惹, bùhǎorě), Taiwan News quotes “foreign media” – and apparently prefers to advance no views of its own. Instead, its article is basically a reflection of Stearn’s VoA blogpost.
But while Norwegian-Chinese relations on the political level may be as dead as rotten salmon, the two countries do keep a tradition of long-term, open and friendly cooperation in the field of science going (在科研和合作方面有着长期开放和友好合作的传统), notes Norway’s embassy in China.Oslo University, Bergen University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), plus some other Norwegian institutions, work with the Chinese Academy of Science’s (CASS) Institute of Atmospheric Physics and the (Beijing) State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology, on six projects concerning climate and environmental resarch.
If you can’t hug the panda itself, try to hug its scientific leg instead. The only problem: how can you bring it home to a panda that it is no polar bear, especially when you can’t talk to its face?
Related Tag: Liu Xiaobo.