Journal Article - The Polar Journal

Science Diplomacy for Stronger Bilateral Relations? The Role of Arctic Science in Iceland’s Relations with Japan and China

| May 19, 2024

Abstract

The aurora borealis research carried out by China and Japan in the Arctic state of Iceland has been received very differently both in Iceland and abroad. While the Japanese research has gone almost unnoticed for decades, the Chinese research has been received with much scepticism and negative media coverage, including talk of a possible security threat. This paper presents a comparative study which explores the history of the two research projects, as well as their execution and reception. Through the lens of the aurora research, the paper also explores the broader implications of Arctic and science diplomacy on bilateral relations between Iceland and the two Asian powerhouses. As the aurora research in Iceland has so far received limited academic attention outside the natural sciences, the paper is largely based on primary research, including thirteen in-depth interviews with key individuals closely connected to the projects. The paper demonstrates the different reception of the two projects in Iceland and discusses both organisational issues, such as differences in scale and capacity, and underlying factors related to international politics. Furthermore, the research demonstrates that the Japanese case is a purely science-focused collaboration devoid of science diplomacy, while in the Chinese case, science has been used as a tool to facilitate more strategic diplomatic goals – most importantly the bilateral Free Trade Agreement between China and Iceland.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ingvarsdóttir, Kristín and Guðbjörg Ríkey Th. Hauksdóttir . Science Diplomacy for Stronger Bilateral Relations? The Role of Arctic Science in Iceland’s Relations with Japan and China.” The Polar Journal, (May 19, 2024) .