Lau Blaxekjær

Lau Blaxekjær

Researcher, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark

Visiting at: Shanghai Ocean University, China
Period: 1 month
Research Theme: International perspectives on new Faroese Fisheries Reform; Sustainable Blue Growth

Dr. Lau Blaxekjær is Researcher at NIAS – Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Associated Researcher at the University of the Faroe Islands. He spent a month in Shanghai as a CNARC Fellow at Shanghai Ocean University (SHOU) in 2018. 


Second time in Shanghai

Lau Blaxekjaer researcher at Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen

The text below is a summary of Lau Blaxekjær’s activities and research outcome of his stay in Shanghai.

I first visited Shanghai in 2010 for the official opening of the new Nordic Centre building at Fudan University. I was therefore excited to receive the CNARC Fellowship and once again get to experience the city, its people, rhythm, and stimulating academic environment. This time, I was on the research side of China-Nordic collaboration. My China-Nordic engagement goes back many years, whereas my perspective on the Arctic is more recent. It stems from my time as Assistant Professor and Programme Director of West Nordic Studies at the University of the Faroe Islands from September 2014 to March 2018. Before that, I studied climate change governance with special attention to Northeast Asia. My research combines the three pillars of Asian Studies, Climate Governance, and Arctic Studies, which was also the case as a fellow at Shanghai Ocean University (SHOU) for one month in April and May 2018.

At SHOU, I teamed up with Professor Tang Jianye from the College of Marine Science to begin work on potential new joint projects on Arctic marine and fisheries governance. Later in June, I was appointed Adjunct Professor at SHOU, and I am looking very much forward to spending more time in Shanghai and China in the near future. I also gave several lectures in Shanghai (at SHOU, PRIC, and Tongji University) about the Faroe Islands, its Arctic policy, and West Nordic geo-politics, and I participated in various seminars, and of course expanded my network. My stay in Shanghai helped me prepare for a plenary session on China’s Polar Silk Road at the Arctic Circle Forum held in Tórshavn, the Faroe Islands, 8-9 May right after my stay. At this plenary, I was honoured to introduce China’s special representative for the Arctic, Gao Feng, and discuss the Polar Silk Road in a West Nordic Perspective. This report summarises the talks I gave in Shanghai and the research I prepared for an upcoming academic article about China’s Polar Silk Road in a West Nordic perspective. Emphasis in this report is on the Faroe Islands as my understanding is that this has more interest in a CNARC perspective.

Introduction to the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands, like Greenland, is a self-governing nation in the Kingdom of Denmark, and is thus not a fully independent sovereign country. It has taken home various policy areas like taxing, education, trade, energy, exploitation of natural resources, health, and the environment (including marine), but not foreign policy although it has the right to negotiate international fishery agreements and trade agreements, the latter which is currently being prepared with countries like Japan, South Korea, and China.

The Faroe Islands has its own parliament, national government, municipalities, schools and a university. The Faroe Islands’ national and international politics are closely related to economic development and challenges of being small and to some extent dependent on Denmark and the outside world.

Like many countries, The Faroe Islands has embarked on a transition to a sustainable economy. The Faroe Islands has by international standards, chosen a very ambitious greenhouse gas mitigation policy goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. The Faroe Islands is very dependent on oil for its fishing and shipping activities, and has since the early 2000s been engaged in oil and gas exploration in own waters so far without commercially viable discoveries.

Marine governance and the Arctic

In terms of marine governance, the Faroe Islands has taken home several areas from Denmark such as fisheries, ports, ferries, shipping, and registration of ships, coastal protection, and marine environment. The Faroe Islands is a flag state and associate member of IMO. Despite these circumstances, some challenges exist. The Faroe Islands has not signed the Paris MOU on Port State Control, and furthermore, the sea area is designated as a Faroese Fisheries Zone (FFZ of 200 nautical miles) and not a proper EEZ. The challenges are mainly related to environmental issues due to lack of more strict inspections of foreign vessels, ability to undertake effective search and rescue as well as contingency response within the whole FFZ, e.g. in relation to a large oil spill. As for international fishing agreements and negotiations, the Faroe Islands negotiates alone, and Denmark is as an EU member often not in a position to support Faroese interests.

The Faroe Islands is included in most definitions of the Arctic, although geographically just below the Arctic Circle. In Denmark (and to some extent in the Faroe Islands), however, the Arctic is almost exclusively equated with Greenland, and most political attention is given to Greenland. Generally, the Arctic is associated with ice, polar bears, science expeditions, climate change, and indigenous peoples. This does not fit a description of the Faroe Islands. Even in the Faroe Islands, people are only recently beginning to understand the Faroe Islands as part of the Arctic. In 2013, the Faroese Prime Minister’s Office published an assessment of the Faroe Islands’ Arctic policy as a precursor to developing a national Arctic strategy. The Faroese Parliament had debate on Arctic affairs and the recommendations in the assessment, but it was decided not to develop such an Arctic strategy. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy also includes the Faroe Islands. The Arctic Assessment covers Faroese strategic interests in the Arctic. The six areas of interest are “Arctic cooperation”, “Northern Sea Route”, “Fisheries in the Arctic Ocean”, “Research and Education”, “Environment”, and “Maritime Safety and Emergency Response”. The assessment recommends that in relation to the Arctic, the Faroe Islands and Greenland be given more independent voice, and that a “joint West Nordic approach to Arctic cooperation, together with Iceland, Greenland and Northern Norway, should be promoted and enhanced”.

The Faroe Islands and China

Trade relations between the Faroe Islands and China has increased in recent years, and in 2017, China ranks seven on the list of biggest trade partners after Denmark, Russia, Germany, Norway, UK, and USA. Exports to China, a little bigger in value than imports and almost entirely farmed salmon, has grown from 359 Mio DKK (5 percent of total exports) in 2015 to all-time high 569 Mio DKK in 2016 (7 percent of total exports), dropping to less than 500 Mio DKK in 2017.

Faroese collaboration with Huawei is especially relevant in relation to the Polar Silk Road. The Faroese telecom infrastructure needed a full and expensive modernisation and Huawei was chosen as the new strategic partner to develop Faroese telecom infrastructure to 4G-/LTE in 2015. The choice of Huawei in the Faroe Islands was not met by security concerns, as there had already been a debate about cyber security and espionage in Denmark in relation to Huawei. The Danish Defence Intelligence Service had analysed and approved Huawei, and Huawei Denmark even employed former Head of IT Security from the Danish National Police.

As explained by CEO of Faroese Telecom (FT), Jan Ziskasen, at the Arctic Circle Forum in Tórshavn the strategic partnership with Huawei has not only delivered one of the world’s best telecom infrastructures and mobile coverage, it has developed into an equal partnership, where the huge size difference between the countries and companies is not understood as a problem.