In January, a pair of pandas flew to Finland on a diplomatic mission. Hua Bao and Jin Bao Bao had been dispatched from their native Chengdu as a gesture of goodwill from China’s president Xi Jinping. Their arrival, part of China’s ‘panda diplomacy’, is one of several signs that the country is on a High North charm offensive.
Days after the pandas had settled into their new home, China released its first ever White Paper on the Arctic. It is a document that defies geography, referring to China as a “Near-Arctic State,” despite its borders lying over a thousand miles south of the Arctic Circle. Much of the language is cautious, yet a few phrases underscore China’s long-term ambitions for this part of the world and its proposed construction of a “Polar Silk Road.