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Floating casinos and eco-resorts a front for China's real Arctic ambitions Add to ...

The following post is part of a new series that brings a fresh perspective to global news from our team of foreign correspondents

Remember when a shadowy Hong Kong company (actually a front for the Chinese military) bought a huge, but unfinished, Soviet-era aircraft carrier from Moscow claiming it planned to transform it into a floating pleasure palace and casino moored in Macau for wealthy gamblers.

If you believed that story, Iceland has some wild pony pasture for you.

Last month, the upgraded and refurbished casino, oops aircraft carrier made its maiden voyage, signaling a new, wide-ranging era in Chinese naval ambitions

About the same time, a Chinese billionaire snapped up a remote – but sizeable – chunk of northern Iceland, saying he planned to create an eco-resort for wealthy tourists. Wild speculation erupted; a deep-water port was planned and China was seeking a portal to the Arctic, in anticipation of mineral riches unlocked as global warming opens riches at the top of the world to an exploitation boom. Strident denials followed, just as they did when the floating ‘casino’ was announced.

No need to be a Sinophobe to wonder about the linkages. Iceland’s top politicians have ardently pursued Chinese investment in the wake of the nation’s banking collapse and China’s embassy is now the biggest in Reykjavik. Beijing’s polar interest has been heating up for years.

Oh, and by the way, remember the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon) that showed up unannounced of Tuktoyaktuk a decade ago before Canada even knew it was in territorial waters. And Beijing – with no Arctic coast – has applied for membership in the circumpolar Arctic Council.

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Follow on Twitter: @PaulKoring

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