Theme: North meets East

Took place in Akureyri, Iceland 2-5 June 2014

Summary Report on 2nd China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium and related event

By Deng Beixi & Egill Thor Nielsson

The 2nd China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium, ´North Meets East´, took place in Akureyri, Iceland the 2nd to 5th of June 2014. The Symposium was jointly organized by the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center (CNARC) and the Icelandic Centre for Research (RANNIS); other local organizers included the Town of Akureyri, Arctic Portal, Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network, Stefansson Arctic Institute and University of Akureyri Research Centre. The Nordic Council of Ministers and NordForsk supported the symposium, and grants were also obtained from the following Icelandic beneficiaries: the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science, Climate Research Foundation, Eimskip, Icelandair Group and Samskip.

The symposium gathered over 70 participants from the Nordic Countries, China, Canada, Russia and United Kingdom; with 38 presentation taking place in four sessions, which included a (1) Plenary session, (2) Arctic Policies and Governance, (3) Arctic Policies and Economy and (4) Arctic Policies and Maritime Cooperation. Chinese scholars and officials presented 16 (almost half ) of the 38 presentations, and more than 30 Chinese participants attended the symposium. A detailed report on the symposium will be further elaborated in the later paragraphs

The majority of the symposium participants were scholars with Arctic-related research interests, however the symposium also attracted political leaders, officials, diplomats and businesspeople. Amongst participants were the President of Iceland, Iceland’s Minister for Nordic cooperation, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs (2009-2013), Senior Arctic Official of the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Mayors of Akureyri and Fjardarbyggd, and the Director of the Icelandic Center for Research. From the Chinese side officials from State Oceanic Administration of China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of China to Iceland and the Director of the Polar Research Institutet of China participated in the event. Diplomatic presence included the Ambassadors to Iceland of Russia, Canada and the United Kingdom, and chargé d’affaires from Norway.

The symposium itself took place on the 3rd and 4th of June, however three complimentary side events where also planned for the occasion:

  1. Lay the foundations of the Aurora Observatory and Reception. Hosted by Aurora Observatory and RANNÍS. Kárhóll, Reykjadal (2nd of June, 17:10-21:30)
  2. Assembly of CNARC Member Institutes. University of Akureyri , Akureyri (3rd of June, 17:15-18:45)
  3. China-Iceland Arctic Economic Roundtable. Hotel Natura, Reykjavík (5th of June, 15:00-17:00)

The welcoming reception for the 2nd China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium was held at Karholl, Reykjadal as a token of good faith for the joint China-Iceland Aurora Observatory project in the afternoon of 2nd of June. At this occasion the groundbreaking ceremony of the observatory was held between the cooperation partners, including participation from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Chinese Embassy in Iceland, the Icelandic Centre for Research, the Polar Research Institute of China and the Board of Directors of the projects Icelandic cooperation partners (Regional Development Agencies, along the Icelandic Centre for Research and Arctic Portal). All symposium participants and both Icelandic and international media were invited to the laying of the foundations. The reception included speeches from officials and scientists leading the project.

Kárhóll groundbreaking ceremony

During the assembly of CNARC Member Institutes taking place on the 3rd of June, the representatives from all eleven member institutes were all present. The secretariat presented the CNARC Activities report in the past 6 months (from Dec. 2013 to June 2014), including the report on the establishment of CNARC, the minutes for the First Assembly of Member Institutes of CNARC, the acceptance of Shanghai Jiao Tong University – Center for Polar and Deep Ocean Development (SJTU-PADOD Center) as new member institute, as well as the presentation on “Asian Countries and the Arctic Future”, seminar co-organized by CNARC member institutes, Shanghai Institutes of International Studies and Fridtjof Nansen Institute. Then, the assembly reviewed the guidelines for CNARC fellowship program of Year 2014 and further discussed CNARC’s publication project of “Nordic Arctic Issues and their Global Relevance” in a more constructive approach. In the last session, Dr. YANG Jian, vice-president of SIIS, introduced the proposal for the 3rd Symposium that is to be held in May 2015 in Shanghai.

On the 5th of June the first China-Iceland Arctic Economic Roundtable took place in Reykjavik and was the final component of the 2nd China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium. Keeping with the model established during the 1st China-Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium, which was held in Shanghai in June of 2013, and concluded with a roundtable discussion on the establishment of CNARC. The China-Iceland Arctic Economic Roundtable, with the central theme ´Synergies between China and Iceland for Arctic Economic Cooperation´, was jointly organized by the Icelandic Arctic Chamber of Commerce, Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network and Icelandic Centre for Research in cooperation with CNARC. Arion Bank and Landsbanki were sponsors of the event. A Chinese Business delegation of six persons presented their interest in Arctic economic cooperation and leading Icelandic companies introduced their Arctic-related operations, follow by discussions on further Arctic economic cooperation between the two countries. Remarks were also offered by the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs and by the Embassy of China to Iceland. This was the first time a Chinese Arctic business delegation visited an Arctic country and before the roundtable the delegation had held meetings with Icelandic officials and business representatives in Akureyri, Reykjavík and Reykjanes on increased economic cooperation between China and Iceland.

2nd China Nordic Arctic Cooperation Symposium

The symposium held from the 3rd June to the 5th June for two whole days, gathered over 70 participants from the Nordic Countries, China, Canada, Russia and United Kingdom; with 38 presentation taking place in four sessions. In the plenary session, Mr. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland and Mr. CHEN Laiping, counselor of the Embassy China to Iceland, deliver speech of inauguration for the symposium.

Mr. President first reviews and re-examines the China-Icelandic Arctic cooperation, he points out that just as Arctic cooperation is established on the bases of scientific cooperation, and China-Icelandic Arctic cooperation well demonstrates that science leads the way. Back in 2012, when China’s Snow-Dragon Icebreaker sailed through the North-East Passage and visited Reykjavik en route for the first time, Chinese and Icelandic scientists with their specialties in polar research gathered in the University of Reykjavik, talking about the environmental impacts on China of ongoing changes in the Arctic sea ice and glaciers in Greenland. Mr. President feels that future of China is closely related to the Arctic, and to his delight, Chinese scientists, along with scientists from Korea, France and other now Arctic Council observer states have been engaged in the Arctic scientific cooperation with the Arctic states. He also mentions the ongoing efforts of other Arctic stakeholders, e.g. Mexico and Brazil, to obtain the observer status, however, he asserts that, “How broad the table of the Arctic Council”, depends how the observer members contribute to scientific cooperation and acquisition of Arctic knowledge. The engagement of Non-Arctic states in the Arctic affairs might be driven by economic interests or political pursuits, but what matters most should be concrete and constructive scientific contributions.

Mr. CHEN Laiping, the Counselor, reviews the development of bilateral and multilateral relations between China and Nordic states. He says, “China attaches great importance on the relations with Nordic states”. The bilateral and sub-regional cooperation between China and Nordic states enjoys solid foundation and favorable conditions. In the Arctic affairs, China’s application to the observer of the Arctic Council received great support from the Nordic states. The two parties have deepened and intensified concrete exchanges and cooperation on Arctic affairs within the Arctic Council and other multilateral frameworks: this February, China and Denmark held for the first time a meeting on Arctic affairs, reaching broad consensus on Arctic policies and cooperation; China has sent on various occasions, its personnel to Arctic conferences initiated by Nordic states, including the first Arctic Circle (October 2013, Iceland), Circumpolar Economic Forum Task Force Meeting of Arctic Council (December 2013, Finland), Black Carbon and Methane Task Force Meeting of Arctic Council (December 2013, Sweden), Arctic Frontier (January 2014, Norway). With the trend of globalization and the development of transport, information and telecommunication technologies, the interconnection between states has been intensified. The climate changes and economic activities happening in the Arctic will bring bout profound influences on China and other near Arctic states in the environment, ecological, agricultural, socio-economic terms. Only when Arctic and Non-Arctic states collaborate, bear joint responsibilities and enhance knowledge and awareness to the Arctic, the Arctic trans-regional issues can be effectively solved. He hopes that the Arctic states, Nordic states included, keep an open attitude towards the engagement of non-Arctic states in the Arctic affairs, especially in the domain of economic and commercial cooperation, promoting jointly the development of the Arctic region.

In the next one and half day, more than 20 speakers addressed around the topics of Arctic Policies and Governance, Arctic Policies and Economy and Arctic Policies and Maritime Cooperation. Among the presentations, a representative selection of opinions that aroused some heated discussion has been displayed below.

12 scholars address in the session of “Arctic policy and governance”, some of them are renowned worldwide. Director for Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Mr. Leiv Lunde, in choosing a number of ranking criteria, including population, political identity, level of economic activities/investment, Arctic trading routes, supply of energy security, scientific contribution etc, predicts 13 states that may play certain roles in the Arctic affairs in Year 2030, and summarizes their respect contribution to the Arctic governance. For example, he believes that Russia will reign supreme in any Arctic scenario while China will pay price for managing Russia relations well. U.S. Arctic policy will be constraint by the confrontation between its industrial and energy interest groups and the environmentalists, while Canada will domestisize the Arctic at a price. For Nordic states, Norway will be committed to more value creation; Finland will attempt to break out of the Baltic Sea; Sweden continue to be strong on mining, maritime and sustainability issues; Denmark is an Arctic shipping power but Greenland will pose uncertainties; Iceland is a small player but its public diplomacy continues to be impressive. He finally sums up that Arctic states remain in power in the Arctic affairs and the governance should reflect real changes in economic, political and scientific resources. Asian state, China included, will play increasingly remarkable role in the future Arctic governance; at the same time, engaging China remains to be a key concern.

Prof. YANG Jian, Vice-President of Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, proposes Chinese perspectives with regard to the interaction between Arctic and non-Arctic states in the Arctic governance. He points out, the economic development in the Arctic region will foster the interaction between Arctic and non-Arctic states, and how to form a benign interactive model that balances development of resources and ecological protection is the key to the Arctic governance. The Arctic governance is challenged by lagging in mechanism and insufficiency in supply of public goods, while the engagement of Asian states contributes to improve the mechanism and realize the governance objectives. China and other extra-regional actors should take full advantages of the multi-level structure of Arctic governance to realize the legitimate rights and bear related responsibilities.

Prof. GUO Peiqing from Ocean University of China, analyses the realities and pattern of Nordic geo-politics from historic perspectives. He believe that there is never a lack of big powers in Nordic region and any coexisting big powers need good relationship with Nordic countries; but when one single power takes dominating power, Nordic countries’ interests are always threatened. Political influence of U.S. in Nordic states is shrinking and retreating, while China-Nordic cooperation could fill up the vacuum of power incurred by the U.S. decline in power, and such cooperation is mutually beneficial. He suggest when developing relations with Nordic states, China should not seek special interests and dominant role in Arctic affairs, while at the same time respects Nordic states’ national interests, concerns as well as value.

Assistant Professor, Mr. Rasmus Bertelsen from Aalborg University, Denmark, as coordinator to the international project of “The Arctic Nexus in Asian-Nordic Relations”, gives an introduction its background and planning. The background of the project deals with the question of how Nordic small states face the impacts of globalization on the Arctic, especially with the trend of globalization, economic and political powers shift away from the traditional allies, alliances and partnerships of Nordic states, to the emerging economies in Asia. The project aims to by the end of Year 2015, initiate academic workshops in Aalborg Denmark, Rovaniemi Finland, Oslo Norway, and establish a region-to-region dialogue and discourse system that engage as many stakeholders as possible.

Research fellow, Mr. Njord Wegge from Fridtjof Nansen Institute analyses China’s Arctic diplomacy from the angle of bilateral Arctic relations between China and major Arctic states (Arctic 5 + Iceland). 1. China-Canada relations: China keeps an eye on the navigation conditions of the North-west Passage but has not taken stance to its controversial legal status. China is the second largest trade partner, and the potential for cooperation in energy/ minerals is promising. Canada welcomes China’s investments but shows little political support to its Arctic inspirations. 2. China-Russia relations: the spill-over effects of Ukrainian crisis might push intensified China-Russia cooperation in the domain of the Arctic shipping and energy, but the obstacle is that Russia has always been skeptical to involve non-Arctic states such as China into Arctic affairs. 3. China-U.S. relations: Arctic remains a marginal issue in the overall complex Sino-US relations, but both states share joint interests in freedom of navigation and the role of global commons. 4. China-Denmark relations: China-Danish relations reach its peak recent years with frequent mutual visits of head of states. Greenland might become a potential Arctic showcase of China’s ‘resource diplomacy, but uncertainty always exists over Greenland’s long-term employment and environmental policy. 5. China-Norway relations, which demonstrates an example of China being willing to play “hard ball” in its diplomacy. He concludes that despite China’s successfully obtaining the Arctic Council observer status, it however emphasis on its bilateral relations with Arctic states. The Nordic states and particularly Iceland appears to be the most favorable partners. China has advantages in market, capitals and labor force for Arctic development, but has a major image problem and easily generate local opposition to its engagement.

Research Fellow, Mr. DENG Beixi from Polar Research Institute of China, delivered a presentation entitled “Reconstruction of Arctic Identity from the perspective of critical geopolitics”. He believes that with the climate change and globalization, the periphery of the Arctic geopolitics has exceeded the geographical boundaries of the Arctic, which creates opportunities and favorable conditions for engagement of extra-regional actors in the Arctic affairs. However given the exclusive measures taken by Arctic states, extra-regional actors require the reconstruction of their Arctic identity and create a discourse system to legitimatize their Arctic presence. The proposition of “Near-Arctic State” by China is such an example that is geographically located in Northern Hemisphere, geopolitically related to the Arctic affairs and geo-economically interested in the Arctic shipping routes and resources. Iceland is another any example. Being marginalized by the Arctic 5, Iceland seeks to reestablish its political status as the “Arctic coastal State” through implementing public diplomacy, promoting sub-regionalization and developing industries and economies related to the ocean.

Other scholars in the session addressed the topic on “Framing the National Interest: The Use of the Arctic in Iceland’s Foreign and Domestic Policies”, “The relevance of closer international cooperation in the social sciences with regards to the Arctic and the outside world”, “Science and International Governance: Polar Scientific Organizations and Agenda-setting in Arctic”, “Building Regional Governance Capacity in the Arctic: Asian impact on the Development of the Arctic Council into a Strong Regional Decision-Making Organization”, etc.

In the session of “Arctic policy and economy”, 9 presentations deal with the topics on the Arctic shipping, Arctic globalized economy and resilience of indigenous community, assessment of Arctic economic risks and Arctic energy development. Head of Division of Polar Strategic Studies from Polar Research Institute of China, Prof Zhang Xia talks about the changes on Northern Sea Route in the new Russian laws from mandatory icebreaker guiding to permit regime. He believes the new laws, on one hand, have clearly redefined the scope of NSR and removed the disputes of NSR boundary extending to the high sea, and on the other hand, the new laws have provisions on concrete, practical and predictable conditions for independent navigation. These changes demonstrate Russia’s intention to open the NSR to international community. For China, especially with the strategic proposition of “One Belt One Road”, Chinese shipping companies should take full advantage of the existing port infrastructures and policies to explore the Northern Sea Route and spaces for marine economy growth.

Professor SHOU Jianmin from Shanghai Maritime University analyses the potential of container transportation through Northern sea route on the basis of shipping costs. Based on the cost analysis of container transportation by assuming the Bergen Harbor in Norway as a hub-spoke harbor through the NSR, he proposed that the construction of a new hub-spoke harbor in Europe is in favor of increasing the competitiveness of the Arctic passage. He further concluded that under the present navigation environment, the navigation time through the Arctic passage is not saved much compared with the passage through Suez Canal, but the single voyage cost is saved by 10%, fuel consumption saved much more about 35%.

Other scholars in the session addressed the topic on “A Systematic Analysis of Iceland’s Viability as a New Arctic Marine Transport Hub”, “The New Global Arctic Economy and Local Resilience to Rapid Change”, “Arctic Gas Exploration and World Gas Trade”, “Economics and Institutions in China’s Arctic Policies”, “Economic Risks of Arctic exploitation and its effect to Chinese Arctic Strategy” and “Mining the Arctic – Asian interests and opportunities”.

In the session of Arctic Policies and Maritime Cooperation, presentations were less but give still thought provoking insights into the Arctic fishery management system, the future growth of Arctic fisheries, the role of fish-market for the Icelandic value chain, as well as state’s rights to defend the Arctic Ocean.

In the closing session, Ms. Eyglo Harthadottir, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and representative of Nordic Council of Ministers, addressed the cloture of the symposium on June 4th. She first introduces the Nordic Council of Ministers, established in Year 1971 with annual budget of 130 million euro. Nordic states are small, but as a whole entity, the population reaches 26 million, and the economy size ranks 10th in the world. It is reputed as the “Next Supermodel” in the world arena by “Economist” for its green economy and sustainable social welfare system. Nordic regional cooperation aims to foster the competence and competitiveness of Nordic region, and the Arctic issue is listed as priority. The Arctic is becoming a region of challenge, opportunity and pressure; climate change, opening-up of sea routes, demands for energy and increasingly sophisticated technology make the development and potential utilization of Arctic energy attract the world attention. Nordic states assert that activities in the Arctic should respect the nature and ecological environment and ensure least negative impacts on the Arctic indigenous community. She then lists 4 pressing issues that the Nordic Council is facing, aging problem, fight against pollution, green economy and international cooperation.

Monday 2 June 2014

13:30-14:00  Early registration

14:00-17:00  Assembly of CNARC Member Institutes (by invitation only)

17:10-21:30  Lay the foundations of the Aurora Observatory and Reception 

  • hosted by Aurora Observatory and RANNÍS (Kárhóll, Reykjadal -

Tuesday 3 June 2014

8:00-8:30  Registraion

8:30-8:40  Welcome by Hallgrímur Jónasson, Director of RANNÍS

8:40-9:30  Opening Addresses

  • Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland
  • Chen Laiping, Counselor, Embassy of China in Iceland
  • Marit Lillealtern, chargé d´affaires, Embassy of Norway

9:30-10:00  Group Photo & Coffee break

10:00-12:00 Invited Presentations - moderated by Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, Head of Division, RANNÍS

  • Zhang Haisheng, Director, Second Institute of Oceanography of China
  • Yang Huigen, Director, Polar research institute of China.
  • Leiv Lunde, Director, Fridtjof Nansen Institute
  • Steingrímur Jónsson, Professor, University of Akureyri
  • Halldór Jóhannsson, Director, Arctic Portal
  • Chen Haibo, Video presentation

12:00-12:30  Lunch

13:00-14:45  Session 1 (1) moderated by Kim Holmen Norwegian Polar Institute. Theme: Arctic Policies and Governance

  • 14:15-14:45  Q&A and panel discussion
  • 14:45-15:15  Coffee break

15:15-17:00 Session I (2) moderated by Prof. Guo Peiqing, Ocean University of China

  • 16:30-17:00  Q&A and panel discussion

19:00-21:30 Symposium Dinner - hosted by RANNÍS and the Town of Akureyri

Wednesday 4 June 2013

8:30-10:15 Session I (3) moderated by Geir Helgesen, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies

  • 9:45-10:15 Q&A and panel discussion
  • 10:15-10:30 Coffee break

10:30-12:00 Session II (1) moderated by Markku Heikkilä, Arctic Center. Theme: Arctic Policies and Economy 

  • 11:30-12:00 Q&A and panel discussion

12:00-13:00  Lunch

13:00-14:45  Session II (2) moderated by Prof. Wang Xi, Shanghai Jiao Tong Unviersity

  • 14:15-14:45 Q&A and panel discussion
  • 14:45-15:15 Coffee break

15:15-17:15 Session III moderated by Yang Jian, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. Theme: Arctic Policies and Maritime Cooperation

  • 16:45-17:15 Q&A and panel discussion

17:15-17:30 Closing remarks

  • Zhang Xia, Head of Strategic Studies Division, PRIC & Deputy Director, CNARC
  • Eygló Harðardóttir, Minister for Nordic Cooperation

Thursday 5 June 2014 & Friday 6 June 2014

Excursions can be organized for symposium participants upon request

3 June 2014 Session I (1) Arctic Policies and Governance

Leiv Lunde from FNI - Who will be the big Arctic players by 2030 – economic and environmental footprints of old and new Arctic stakeholders

Yang Jian from SIIS - Extra-regional Factors and China’s Arctic Policy

Valur Ingimundarson from University of Iceland - Framing the National Interest: The Use of the Arctic in Iceland’s Foreign and Domestic Policies 

Guo Peiqing from Ocean University of China - The Nordic-China Arctic Cooperation: Benefit and Challenge for Nordic Countries

3 June 2014 Session I (2)

Geir Helgesen from NIAS - The relevance of closer international cooperation in the social sciences with regards to the Arctic and the outside world

Yu Hongyuan from SIIS - Science and International Governance: Polar Scientific Organizations and Agenda-setting in the Arctic

Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen et al. from Aalborg University - Conceptualizing the Chinese Dream, a Historical Approach from Hard Power to Soft Power: the Case of Science Diplomacy in the Arctic

Magnús Björnsson from the Northern Lights Confucius Institute - The Northern Lights Confucius Institute and Iceland

4 June 2014 Session I (3)

Uffe Jakobsen from University of Copenhagen - Building Regional Governance Capacity in the Arctic. Asian impact on the Development of the Arctic Council into a Strong Regional Decision-Making Organisation

Njord Wegge et al. from FNI - China’s Arctic diplomacy 

Deng Beixi from PRIC - Reconstruction of Arctic Identity under the Perspective of Critical Geopolitics 

Markku Heikkilä et al. from Arctic Centre - Promoting journalist networks, CrossBorder News and Regional Identity Building in the Arctic Case: Barents Mediasphere Project

 4 June 2014 Session II (1) Arctic Policies and Economy

Zhang Xia from PRIC - From Mandatory Icebreaker Guiding to Permit Regime: Changes About Northern Sea Route in the New Russian Laws

Hera Grímsdóttir et al. from Reykjavík University - The DMA Project – Requirement Analysis for a Strategic Decision Model for the Arctic

Shou Jianmin from Shanghai Maritime University - A Study on container transportation potential through NSR on the basis of shipping cost

Bianca Tiantian Zhang from University of Iceland - A Systematic Analysis of Iceland’s Viability as a New Arctic Marine Transport Hub

Egill Þór Níelsson from PRIC - The West Nordic Arctic Economy and Cooperation with China

4 June 2014 Session 2014 II (2)

Anders Oskal from ICR - The New Global Arctic Economy and Local Resilience to Rapid Change 

He Shufeng from Shanghai Ocean University - Arctic Gas Exploration and World Gas Trade

Marc Lanteigne from Victoria University of Wellington - Economics and Institutions in China’s Arctic Policies

Su Ping from Tongji University - Economic Risks of Arctic exploitation and its effect to Chinese Arctic Strategy

Iselin Stensdal from FNI - Mining the Arctic – Asian interests and opportunities 

 4 June 2014 Session III Arctic Policies and Maritime Cooperation

Wang Xi from Shanghai Jiao Tong University - State, Regional and Global Management of the Arctic Ocean

Helgi Gestsson et al. from University of Akureyri - The Importance Of Fish-Markets for the Icelandic Value Chain of Demersal Fish

Zou Leilei from Shanghai Ocean University - A Comparison Between Arctic and Antarctic Fisheries Management

Hreiðar Þór Valtýsson from University of Akureyri - The future growth of Arctic fisheries

Tom Barry from CAFF - The Economic Necessity of Mainstreaming Biodiversity Objectives

Rachael Lorna Johnstone from University of Akureyri - Rights to Defend the Arctic Ocean

China-Iceland Arctic Economic Roundtable held in Reykjavík 5 June 2014.

The first Chinese Arctic Business delegation. At this stage, the CNARC Roundtable was in an early development phase. The program of stakeholder visits has remained, while the scope has been widened from bilateral to thematic. This was the first Chinese Arctic business delegation to visit an Arctic country, promoting constructive dialogue.

2nd symposia president olafur u

President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson presenting

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