Norwegian State Secretary Contradicts PM on China Threat

Last week, China acquired nearly 13% of Norwegian Air. This week, Norwegian leadership can’t agree on whether the People’s Republic poses a threat. 

Prime Minister Erna Solberg singled out Russia and China for their aggressive position in the Arctic this April. PM Solberg denounced the two, saying they “do not see the value of…democracy, rule of law, nor…undisputed rights.” Her Defense Minister agreed, and outlined plans for an eight-year military spending increase amounting to $1.7 billion.

“These [China and Russia] are countries where the authorities do not see the value of neither democracy, rule of law, nor the fact that people have undisputed rights… Over the last years, these forces have become increasingly visible and gained more influence.”

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in April, 2020

However, State Secretary Audun Halvorsen of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs pushed back against Solberg’s China policy this week. Responding to US State Department warnings about increased Sino-Russian cooperation in the North Sea, Halvorsen said Norway does not “perceive China to be a threat.” Halverson has a habit of minimizing China’s ambitions. Last year, he tamped down American concerns over the Chinese state’s involvement in Kirkenes, a strategic Northeast Passage port town.

Last May, Kirkenes welcomed ambassadors from the world’s largest port infrastructure developer. That developer is the state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). A successful CCCC bid for Kirkenes’ port infrastructure project means a CCP foothold in the High North. 

With a Kirkenes port, China’s ease of access to the Arctic increases significantly. A permanent CCP presence along the Northeast Passage means more power projection, more investment, and more influence. All to the detriment of Norwegian interests. 

Norway needs a coherent policy about Chinese intervention in the Arctic

Once Norway allows the People’s Republic in, there’s no going back. Secretary Halvorsen said China has “so far played a constructive role” – ‘so far’ being an important qualifier. If Kirkenes becomes flush with CCP cash, Norway would pay a political price for any future action against them. 

Norway needs a unified China policy to safeguard itself in an increasingly competitive Arctic. Halvorsen himself called for “unified Norwegian policy in the High North”, despite contradicting his own Prime Minister. PM Solberg is right. Norwegian sovereignty depends on fortified defense, NATO cooperation, and a frank acknowledgment of the CCP threat.


The Dangerous Myth of Arctic Adjacency

‘From Wuhan to the world’: so addressed were the plague-parcels silently shipped to docks and airports. Coronavirus has unleashed global economic devastation unfathomable mere months ago. China is anything but contrite or penitent. Instead, the People’s Republic prowls the rubble, waging an opportunistic campaign of corporate conquest. Amid Scandinavian aviation’s desperate bid for survival, China made off with a substantial stake in Norwegian Air.

In order to meet Norway’s bailout requirements, Norwegian Air had to reduce its debt. Accordingly, the airline converted a portion of its financial obligations to organizations providing aircraft lease agreements into equity. Bank of China (BOC) Aviation acquired 389,053,742 shares, or nearly 13% of Norwegian Air. Just like that, Norway’s largest airline became subject to Chinese control.

The labyrinthine ownership structure between BOC Aviation and the Chinese state obscures their relationship. BOC Aviation is controlled by Sky Splendor Limited, which is controlled by BOC Group Investment Limited, and so on. Eventually, this subsidiary chain leads back to “the government of the People’s Republic of China”. China used a global crisis of their own creation to carve out a corporate foothold in the Arctic.

This is no isolated incident. It’s merely China’s latest Arctic acquisition in their ‘Polar Silk Road’, legitimized by a fabricated ‘near-Arctic’ identity. No international authority recognizes ‘near-Arctic’ status, but that hasn’t stopped the People’s Republic.

After becoming an Arctic Council observer state in 2013, China began a frenetic blitz of Arctic development projects. Often in conjunction with Russia, China has invested in, constructed, and improved numerous ports, research centers, oilfields, and natural gas deposits. Even Iceland, Norway, and France have partnered with China in their polar pursuits.

As other nations devote resources and assets in the region to secure their national interests, America cannot afford to fall behind.

Luke D. Coffey, Heritage Foundation

The People’s Republic’s quiet expansionism shows no signs of stopping. Norway is just the first Arctic nation to have its sovereignty diminished. If the United States refuses to accelerate its Arctic development, China’s influence will only grow. The High North’s future and freedom depend on American leadership.