Imagining China on Greenland's Road to Independence

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  • Ulrik Pram Gad
  • Naja Dyrendom Graugaard
  • Anders Holgersen
  • Marc Jacobsen
  • Nina Lave
  • Nikoline Schriver
For decades, Greenlandic politicians have sought independence in international politics and economy. Renewed global interest in the Arctic has given new impetus to a strategy of diversifying the existing dependency relations, as a way to put coloniality behind. This article investigates how Greenlandic foreign policy narratives have cast China in different roles thatsupport this strategy. Some narratives are informed by Orientalist tropes imported from Denmark, while others dismiss the very same tropes.Some embrace Chinese partners as crucial on Greenland’s road to independence, while others reject China as imperialist. Mainly, China has been imagined as a potent source of material resources (export revenues, investments, labour). Initially, this narrative was employed to support a business attempt to reinvigorate traditional hunting through new export channels. Later, narratives underscored Greenlandic ambitions as a mining country. Recently, they have backed a Greenlandic search for new solutions to the less-hyped fishing and tourism industries. Besides the promise of material gains, Greenlandic authorities have also imagined China as an occasion for international recognition. However, the sought for recognition has changed drastically, from the time when Greenland’s national team played soccer against Tibet to current attempts to negotiate science, infrastructure and paradiplomacy with Beijing and Copenhagen. The analysis is based on media reports, government foreign policy statementsand parliamentary debates 1999-2018. Theoretically, the analysis draws on a tradition of analyzing international politics and foreign policy as driven by narratives constructing nation state identities in relation to Others, focusing particularly on Orientalist tropes and anti-colonial alternatives. Introduction: China Diversifying Greenland’s Dependence1Since the establishment of Home Rule in 1979, Greenland has worked towards enhancing independent agency in international politics. This has been a central part of an overall strategy to break with the dependency on Denmark, a legacy of Danish colonization. The renewed global interest in the Arctic has given new impetus to efforts to diversify the existing dependency relations as a way to put coloniality behind. Greenland has for decades pursued relations with other Inuit polities across the Circumpolar North, Nordic collaborators, the UN, the USA (Jacobsen & Gad 2018) and the EU (Gad,2016). The increased interest in the Arctic has benefitted these efforts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArctic Yearbook
Pages (from-to)6-28
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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