Chinese President Xi Jinping made a surprise stop in Alaska on Friday after a two-day summit with President Trump in Florida, underscoring China’s resource ambitions in the global far north.
Xi met with Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on Friday night during a refueling stop in Anchorage before resuming the flight to Beijing. The two talked trade — Walker told Xi that Alaska could provide the resource-hungry country with a “generation’s worth” of liquefied natural gas, according to local media.
China is Alaska’s top export market — the state sold more than $1 billion worth of goods to China last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Its biggest export was fish.
“I think this is an extremely valuable opportunity to meet with our largest trade partner face to face,” said Chris Hladick, the commissioner of the state’s Commerce Department, according to the Associated Press. He called the meeting a “once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”
Although the Chinese government has not articulated a clear Arctic policy, the world’s northernmost extreme sits on formidable quantities of mineral reserves, and China has positioned itself as a major stakeholder in the area.
In recent years, China has begun construction on a research station in Iceland, hosted a major conference on reindeer herding and normalized diplomatic relations with Norway after a six-year freeze. (Beijing cut ties after a Norwegian committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010.)
Xi, on a state visit to Finland before this week’s U.S. summit, said China and Finland will “enhance cooperation in Arctic affairs and promote environmental protection and sustainable development of the Arctic.”
On Friday, Xi and Walker took a sightseeing tour in their motorcade, according to local media, stopping at Beluga Point, a rocky, highway-side outpost looking out over a stunning vista of mountains and glaciers.
Photos posted by the Alaska Dispatch News showed Xi and his wife, soprano Peng Liyuan, disembarking from their plane Friday about 6:45 p.m., meeting with Walker on the tarmac and accepting flowers from Walker’s 8-year-old granddaughter, Mera Hobson.
They also showed a long motorcade, a staged handshake between Xi and Walker and a mob of people, most of them presumably officials and their security details, standing at the scenic spot and admiring the view.
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