“Mix in a caldron: lots of fear of Communist domination, one billionaire property developer with a poet’s soul, a dash of James Bond and a soupçon of ‘yellow peril’”—so begins Wednesday’s article in the New York Times about Chinese investor Huang Nubo’s bid for a 300 square kilometer piece of land in northeast Iceland through his company, Zhongkun Investment Group.
Jökulsá á Fjöllum, the glacial river that flows through Grímsstadir. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The article mentioned speculation that Huang’s grand plans for the land, Grímsstadir á Fjöllum, USD 200 million (ISK 24 billion, EUR 148 million) investment in a luxury 120-room hotel, airport, golf course and horse-riding facilities, is actually an attempt by the Chinese government to increase its “soft power” in the world.
Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of danwei.com, a web magazine and research firm, and a 16-year resident of China, explained the phrase: “It should mean that you have the power of attraction, and China’s been very bad at that,” he said, citing its lack of transparency, harsh treatment of dissidents, hard-line stance over claims in the South China Sea and food safety scandals.
The article also mentions Icelandic political commentator Egill Helgason’s writing in The Reykjavík Grapevine, where he discusses the reaction to Huang’s plans in Iceland with President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson being on the opposite extremes of the spectrum.