By Janne Suokas, GB Times

December 14, 2017

China is reportedly in talks with Finland about a high-speed telecommunication arctic cable connecting Europe and Asia through the Arctic Ocean, a sign of the country’s growing interest in developing the Arctic region.

State-owned China Telecom Corp expressed interest in participating in the cable project in September, while the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology sent officials to the project’s first senior-level meeting in March, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing Finnish officials.

The Finnish-led project seeks to lay a 10,500km-long seabed fiber optic cable from Japan and China to Kirkenes, Norway and the Kola Peninsula in Russia, and from Norway through Finland to central Europe.

The cable could provide the fastest Asia-Europe data link as early as 2020. Cinia Group Oy, a Finnish state-owned information and communications technology company, puts the estimated cost of building the cable at 700m euros (US$820m).

China Telecom told Bloomberg that it was open to a “win-win cooperation” but that no concrete plans had yet been formed regarding the project.

A study led by former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen for Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications last year found that the project was both “politically and technologically feasible” and noted that Russia, China, Japan and Norway were interested in it.

China steps up Arctic cooperation

China is yet to release its highly-anticipated Arctic strategy, but it has shown clear interest in exploring and developing the region, where melting ice due to global warming is expected to provide new shipping and natural resource extraction opportunities.

In June, China formally included a sea route connecting it to Europe through the Arctic Ocean to its Belt and Road initiative, which seeks to increase trade between Asia, Europe and Africa through massive investments in railroads, ports and other infrastructure.

The ‘Ice Silk Road‘ link received a boost last week with the launch of a major Arctic liquefied gas project on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. The China National Petroleum Corporation and the Silk Road Fund, set up by Beijing to fund Belt and Road investments, hold a combined 29.9 percent stake in the US$27bn project.

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