Last year, the Chinese government published a report titled "Vision for Maritime Cooperation Under the Belt and Road Initiative." It laid out the plan for an Arctic connection between China and Western Europe, which would complement the government's other projects to construct infrastructure and trade routes connecting the country with Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
As China seeks to become a power player in the Arctic, Beijing has recognized that Greenland is the answer to faster shipping routes and access to mineral deposits to further the Belt and Road Initiative.
So when Greenland issued a solicitation to build three new airports, a Chinese company, controlled by Beijing, and once blacklisted by the World Bank — submitted a bid for the project.
Denmark, which has final say on national security issues involving all things Greenland, strongly objected. Greenland then asked China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), which has worked on large infrastructure projects around the world, to remain one of its finalists for the projects, setting up for future negotiations between both governments, said Defense News.
Chinese economic influence on the continent has sent leaders in Europe into a panic — worried that a government-controlled company in Greenland could jeopardize a key American military base located there.
The Chinese "are players in the world economy, as are others, and should be treated equally. But we are on our guard," Danish Defence Minister Claus Hjort Fredericksen said in a June interview in his Copenhagen office.
"Of course, we welcome cooperation with China in the commercial field. As long as it has commercial purpose, we are not opposed to that. That is a normal way to expand world trade," Fredericksen said, he added, "we are very careful looking at the issues if these installations may have other purposes, and that is what is causing trouble."
Since President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, the country has invested in everything from mines to scientific expeditions in the high north, said Magnus Nordenman, a regional analyst with the Atlantic Council, and the country has used its economic leverage to drive public policies. China "scooped up a bunch of stuff for cheap, and later, when there was time for votes in the United Nations about human rights, all of a sudden these countries started backing off," Nordenman notes.