China expands Belt and Road to the Arctic

Nikkei Asian Review published an article titled, “China expands Belt and Road to the Arctic.” The article reads in part as follows;

“China’s Belt and Road Initiative partly echoes the famed Ming dynasty navigator Zheng He’s seven voyages to the western seas.

Leading huge ships with a total crew of over 20,000, Zheng’s ships visited ports across the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and Africa, ‘not as conquerors with warships, guns or swords’ but as ‘friendly emissaries’ sailing treasure-loaded ships, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in the keynote speech of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing on May 14.

 One theory has it that several parts of Zheng’s fleet passed through the Arctic Ocean in their wooden vessels and discovered Greenland and Iceland — see former British submarine commander Gavin Menzies’ book, “1421: The Year China Discovered the World.”

The authenticity of that theory aside, Xi’s Belt and Road voyage seems to be taking a similarly ambitious turn north to those icy waters.

Chinese diplomacy with countries and regions bordering the Arctic has intensified greatly in the past two months. Xi visited Alaska and Finland, while a senior Communist Party delegation was just in Iceland and a Norwegian leader visited Beijing for the first time since relations soured in 2010 over the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

This choice of destinations is no coincidence. ‘Looking at the visit to Finland, Alaska and Iceland, you can see the connection with the Arctic Council’s chairmanship calendar’, said Damien Degeorges, a Reykjavik, Iceland-based consultant specializing in Arctic affairs.

The Arctic Council serves as the leading intergovernmental forum among countries in the region: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S. The council determines regulations on sustainable development and environmental protection.”

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