A major component of China’s expanding interests in the Arctic, as outlined in Beijing’s January 2018 White Paper on the region, has been the development of joint ventures on resource extraction, including fossil fuels and raw materials.

While Russia has been receiving the lion’s share of attention in the area of Chinese resource diplomacy in the Arctic, with the China-supported Yamal liquefied natural gas project being a major example, Greenland is emerging as another key component of Beijing’s emerging ‘Ice Silk Road.’

As the Greenland Ice Sheet continues to erode due to regional climate change (a paper published last month by the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concluded that ice loss on the island has been accelerating significantly since the start of this century), more parts of Greenland’s coastal regions are opening up to potential mining projects.

The island is seen as an emerging source of base and precious metals as well as gemstones, uranium, and rare earth elements (REEs). Given ongoing demand for these resources in China, Chinese firms have increased their visibility in Greenland. At present, China represents over 90 percent of global rare earth extraction, but Greenland has the possibility of becoming another major hub for REE mining given estimated supplies.

Chinese investment does present economic opportunities for Greenland, which has been seeking to diversify its economy away from a concentration on seafood, as well as the annual stipend given to the Greenland government by Denmark.

But there may also be considerable political effects related to growing unease in Copenhagen and the United States, which maintains a Air Force base at Thule regarding expanded Chinese economic diplomacy on the island.