As Chinese netizens cheer on arctic country in World Cup, Icelandic ambassador to China discusses room for cooperation in B&R, hi-tech, education and more

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/25 19:13:39

Editor's Note:

Chinese netizens seem to have caught "Iceland fever" after the country's national soccer team made their debut in the FIFA World Cup and earned a point against two-time champions Argentina this fortnight. Many Chinese netizens said they were impressed with the team's excellent performance and are now interested in visiting the country, which is often seen as far away and isolated.

Global Times reporter Liu Xin (GT) sat down with Ambassador of Iceland to China Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson, to talk about tourism in the arctic country and its developing ties with China.

Ambassador of Iceland to China Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson Photo: Li Hao/GT





GT: Many Chinese have expressed their interest in visiting Iceland. But there have been reports saying that Iceland is going to limit the number of tourists in a move to balance insufficient infrastructure and environmental protection. Is this true?

Gunnarsson:
I think we can manage to receive much more tourists, but we just need some time to organize ourselves. We will not, I think, restrict the number of tourists.

But right now, if you go to Iceland, you have to reserve your hotel room in advance to be sure you have somewhere to stay. And already, now in the summer months, it can be difficult to find a hotel room or an Airbnb room apartment.



GT: In 2013, the China-proposed Belt and Road (B&R) initiative was launched to strengthen cooperation with countries along the B&R routes. In terms of infrastructure development, what do you think about the initiative?

Gunnarsson:
I think it's a very interesting initiative. I have seen many neighboring countries of China that have been involved. Recently in Laos, there have been bridges built across the Mekong River. I think this is a great contribution.  

Iceland is, of course, very far away and isolated but we will definitely continue our discussions. And I think we are very interested in the initiative, but we are not as immediately concerned as the neighboring countries of China.



GT: Do you think that one day Iceland could take part in the initiative?

Gunnarsson
: It's really something that we are looking into for the future, of course, [especially] with global warming, if more ships start swimming from China around the coast of Russia and come back on the other side to Europe. This is something we are interested in to see how this could work for all of us.

As China has been very active as an exploring nation in the arctic region, we have welcomed that because we would like the resources and the intellectual capacity of China to help us out to explore the arctic.

And we also have research facilities and research stations that will probably open in October in Iceland. That is a cooperation project between Iceland and China on auroras and other polar phenomena.

So Iceland and China are working together on very interesting projects right now.



GT: So are you optimistic about future China-Iceland ties?

Gunnarsson:
Definitely, yes! I think there are so many issues where we can work together and now more and more Icelanders are also studying Chinese.

And more and more Chinese are setting up courses on Iceland, both in Beijing Foreign Studies University and Beijing Language and Culture University. And now the University of Jinan [in East China's Shandong Province] is setting up a research center.

Beijing Foreign Studies University has already set up a research center on Iceland and Hebei Foreign Studies University [in North China's Hebei Province] is also preparing to set up courses on Iceland as well. And then we have universities in Shanghai, in Ningbo [in East China's Zhejiang Province] and many [other] different areas are developing cooperation with Icelandic universities.



GT: How do you feel about the future of diplomatic ties?

Gunnarsson
: We have had a diplomatic relationship since 1971. And we are hoping to get our minister here in August, but State Councilor Wang Yi is very busy so we will have to see when we can find the time.

But we are also expecting both ministers of tourism and industry to attend an innovation fair in Shenzhen [in South China's Guangdong Province]. We also hope to have a fish exhibition in Qingdao [in Shandong], and our fish minister may be there.

And of course there is this very important China international import exhibition in Shanghai in November.

So it will be a busy year for all of us. Lot of things will be happening.



GT: What about bilateral cooperation in other fields?

Gunnarsson
: We had more than 100 people from Shenzhen who came to visit Iceland to discuss hi-tech issues.

And Huawei is already represented in Iceland and has been working with all the Icelandic technology companies.

Iceland is very interested in the [hi-tech] sector, and China definitely wants to have a partner for everything with hi-tech.


Newspaper headline: ‘Iceland fever’


Posted in: DIPLOMATIC CHANNEL

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