Thursday May 25, 2017

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Week Ahead

Going to find out if he’s nice

Xi Jinping visits Finland
Vetting, Finnish-style

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iAbout Press releases

As part of our continuing efforts to bring you as much information about our region as possible we offer readers a press release service that allows private firms, public agencies, non-governmental organisations and other groups to submit relevant press releases on our website.

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Each week, The Arctic Journal gets our readers ready for the week ahead by profiling some of the events we expect to be reading about in the coming days. If you have an event you think ought to be profiled in a coming week, please contact us

Other topics for the week of April 3-9 include:
- Greenland holds a local local election
- Cruise operators train to respond to an accident
High North Dialogue (external link) / High North Hero
The future of winter tourism (external link)
- Arctic scientists gather in Prague (external link) 

If you want to know what China’s leadership wants you to know, have a glance at 人民日报. Since 1948, the Communist controlled daily has helped readers toe the party line.

In the past, English speakers could use The People’s Daily, the English version, to keep abreast of party announcements. In recent years, as Beijing has become more media-savvy, and the 人民日报 group has begun producing news on a number of platforms, including the innocuously named Global Times. The point of the new outlets remains the same, however.

This is worth noting because, on Thursday, the Global Times website published an article looking ahead to an official visit by Xi Jinping, China’s president and the chair of the Communist party, to Finland from April 4-6. It was headlined ‘President Xi’s Finland trip offers Arctic opportunities’.

(In passing the article also notes that Mr Xi, after calling on Finland, will visit Donald Trump at his Florida resort.)

SEE RELATED: Rekindled relations

That China is interested in the Arctic will come as little surprise. Most suspect its focus is economic, an argument that has been supported by Chinese investments in mining in places like Greenland, as well as repeated test voyages by Cosco, a state-controlled shipper, on the Northern Sea Route.

Beijing also makes a big number out of its contributions to polar science, though observers reckon this is an effort to make it easier to accept its presence in the region.

Speaking with Global Times, Chen Mingming, the former Chinese ambassador to Sweden, suggested that Beijing recognised the need to proceed carefully.

“If other countries want to participate in the exploration and development of the Arctic, they have to co-operate with the countries surrounding it, and countries in northern Europe, including Finland, are ideal partners for China to find the path to the Arctic,” Mr Chen said.

SEE RELATED: Editor’s Briefing | A passage for China

This, suggests one academic, may not be enough for Arctic countries to fully welcome China. “People are suspicious of China generally. I don’t think it is anything unique to the Arctic.”

Past efforts to overcome scepticism has taken a number of forms. The investments in science and research have been one. Gifts are another: experts interpret the 2014 loan of two panda bears to Denmark as a sign of Beijing’s interest in Greenland. Yet, even with this, Copenhagen still appears keen on keeping the Chinese presence in Greenland to a minimum.

In the case of the Finnish visit, China is seeking to ease suspicious minds by making an appeal to the country’s historic ties, mentioning Mr Xi’s multiple get-togethers with Sauli Niinistö, Finland’s president, as well as a 1995 visit by Jiang Zemin, the president at the time. It also underscores that the two countries have never been at conflict.

One visit it keeps mum about is a 2010 trip Mr Xi, then serving as vice-president, to Rovaniemi. It should not: a picture from Santa’s Village, a tourist attraction, shows Santa Claus with his arm on Mr Xi’s shoulder (pictured above). If he was good enough to make it onto Santa’s ‘nice’ list, that should be good enough for the rest of us.