As policymakers in Washington focus on China’s expanding presence in Africa and growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean region, Danish diplomatic assistance is opening the gate for China to establish a strategic foothold in the Arctic.
Denmark has made a strategic decision to prioritize its economic relationship with China and is now becoming the key gateway for Beijing’s commercial and strategic entrée into the Arctic. Denmark advocates giving China a seat at the Arctic policy table. Friis Arne Peterson, the Danish ambassador to China, stated in October that China has “natural and legitimate economic and scientific interests in the Arctic.” Copenhagen likewise supports giving China permanent membership on the Arctic Council, the eight-nation forum that includes the five Arctic Ocean coastal states (the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia) as well as Sweden, Iceland and Finland.
Greenland’s substantial deposits of minerals including rare earths, uranium, iron ore, lead, zinc, petroleum, and gemstones make the Arctic island a key bargaining chip as Denmark cultivates Beijing. Copenhagen administers Greenland’s foreign policy and will likely dangle the island’s rich geological potential in front of Beijing as it works to bolster the China-Denmark trade relationship. Indeed, Greenland’s minister for minerals, industry, and labor traveled to China for a trade mission in November that included participation in a major mining and minerals trade show in Tianjin.