Norwegian-Chinese Relations: a Panda is no Polar Bear

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.


6 Responses to “Norwegian-Chinese Relations: a Panda is no Polar Bear”

  1. Money talks, and people that need money will listen. Also, I notice how China isn’t insisting on people agreeing with them before doing business. Let’s see what happens.


  2. This looks somewhat mono-dimensional to me, brandeditems. For one, there are many possible sources of income / money, and some approaches may actually be mutually exclusive. The Nobel Peace Prize has certainly led to lost business for Norway, but as an institution, it also adds to Norway’s prestige, and prestige influences a country’s business opportunities, too. If values can be bought and sold is a point everyone needs to decide on his or her own. I don’t think they can. People may deny themselves or issues for money – but that, too, comes at a price. The main difference may be that such a price (or such opportunity costs) are not quite as easy to quantify as lost salmon sales.

    Also, China may not insist on people agreeing with them – politically – before doing business. But Beijing at times begins to “insist” after business, and at times dependence, has been established. That shouldn’t be taken lightly, in my view, and should be a factor in political decisions.


  3. A piece of the issue that is important to note is:

    Norway favors accepting new observers in 2013 — But with two conditions.

    The first is codifying the difference between full members and the role of permanent observers

    The second is respect for Arctic Council principles linked to the Convention of the Law of the Sea and the obligation to settle conflicts through consensus-based negotiation.

    Norway’s Foreign Minister, Stoere has concerns about China joining the Arctic Council.

    “For that to function, we need to have a very open dialogue with each of the member states and with each of the observer states,” Stoere says. “So each observer that would like to join should also pledge, in my view, to have an open political dialogue in the membership.”

    “In the case of China, they would have to be ready to engage in an open and transparent political dialogue with all the member states of the Council, including Norway. And when I say that, it is because that is today not an obvious thing.

    “The political dialogue between Norway and China for the last one and a half years has been at a pretty low level,” Stoere says, “Not of our choice but of their choice, linked to their dissatisfaction with the decision of the Nobel committee.”

    “For this Arctic governance structure to work, political dialogue is absolutely necessary to deal with common interests and diverging interests,” the Norwegian foreign minister concluded.

    So, in other words, as long as China finds itself unable to engage in open political dialogue, due to it’s internal lack of political freedom, Norway is not going to vote yes. China needs to grow up Politically and start acting like adults instead of throwing tantrums like a five year old spoiled child, Then perhaps, they get to sit at the Adult table.


  4. I’m afraid you aren’t aware of the rules, Gerald:

    China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.

    Yang Jiechi, PRC foreign minister



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