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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.)
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.
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.