By Patrick Brogan
Greenland and China. It is a novel pairing, like Panama and Tunisia at the World Cup. However, the unexpected nature of their relationship belies its importance. This continues China’s trend towards filling the vacuum left by the US withdrawal into isolationism, but it also has a deeper impact than just pragmatic economics.
To understand why Greenland might be moving to a closer relationship with China, we must look at the way their economy is structured. 90% of its exports are from the finishing industry. And Denmark contributed a block grant of €521 million (3.8 billion kr) to Greenland last year which made up a third of the country’s budget.
There is also nationalism at play here, too. Many in Greenland would like to move away from dependence on Denmark, not just for economic reasons, but for symbolic ones as well.
Greenland is trying to lure in more Chinese tourists to its unique landscape. Greenland is no different from many other countries in that regard. The world’s largest island does differ in the amount of rare earth elements it has, though. It has a vast amount and as we know rare elements is to China what The Ring was to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. China has control of this market and it wants more. These rare earth elements are vital for the development of technology hardware, particularly in smartphones and computers.
This sounds like a win-win situation for both. Greenland’s economy gets a massive boost and throws off Danish influence at the same time, China gets even more rare earth elements. However, Greenland is covered in massive ice-sheets. 80% of the country, in fact. And most of the sought-after minerals are under these ice-sheets. For this reason, Greenland is welcoming global climate change. Greenland wanted out the Paris Climate Accord.
So, while there will undoubtedly be economic benefits for both China and Greenland in the short-term it could very easily help destroy the planet in the long-term. A story we have heard too many times.
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