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 that support 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 statements and 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.

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