China to Australia: we’ll rather have our olive oil without the phthalates, thank you very much

ABC Rural reports fear among Australian olive oil exporters of not being able to get their merchandise through Chinese customs unless it tests free of plasticisers, for example one called DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate 邻苯二甲酸二(2-乙基)己酯).

It’s not particularly clear if a new regulation, a decision to enforce an old one, or anything specific at all motivates the fear and the ABC story. The Chinese have been testing imported goods for phthalates for more than a year: in March 2013, for example, a consignment of Greek olive oil with too much DEHP was rejected in Nanjing, and French wine and spirits were hit around the some time. That particular round of foreign-targeted inspections followed, characteristically enough, reports that high levels of the toxic substance were present in local top-brand baijiu Maotai. The distiller said the reports were false, and that neither the authorities cared nor the company was able to check as they didn’t have the equipment. An industry association apparently does have it: they checked, and reported that all booze in China has some plasticiser, the higher-end, the more of it.

If stricter tests are actually being applied to Australian olive oil, some of the affected might actually be Chinese: around one sixth of Australian olive-growing land by my calculations are in Chinese hands, and the WSJ quotes industry sources as attributing 10% of current production to “Chinese and Asian investors”. Some time ago I discussed (‘China hits the grove‘) Chinese interest in olive groves and processing plants, not just in Australia but also in Greece (where in particular Chongqing Grain 重庆粮食集团 bought a plant, possibly but unconfirmedly Nutria) and Spain (where e.g. Xilu Kangyuan owns plantations; another deal said to involve HNA 海航 apparently didn’t materialise).

translator blamed for $200k wine bid

Huang Nubo 黄怒波, the former official turned billionaire real-estate tycoon attempting to enter the tourism business in Iceland and Norway, denies he ever made what the august columns of the Süddeutsche Zeitung called an “immoral offer” for a bottle out of a barrel of wine from 1653 in Bremen that has been declared Unesco heritage. “I have never expressed an intention to purchase wine in Bremen,” he tells the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, and emphasises his frugality: “I wouldn’t buy expensive things only for my personal pleasure.” Mr Huang has just begun a decade-long trip around world heritage sites and intends simply to look at them, rather than consume them. Ratskellmeister Krötz, who showed him around the cellar that houses the barrel, tells a different story: one day after Huang’s visit, his interpreter ringed up and conveyed unequivocally the tycoon’s desire to bid for a bottle. Then again, the whole thing might have been just a “translation error”, concedes Krötz.

Huang, who is also a published poet, had prophetically alluded to translation errors long before the incident:

Using the dead to butcher the dead is also unforgivable; like using one language to obscure another, it’s an act of violence that goes against the laws of heaven!


If death on a grand scale begins to be carried out like clockwork, we should hasten to first slaughter all sentences and then stockpile Durex condoms as best we can.

The volume that contains these lines, Bunnies (the English translation of the Chinese original 小兔子 Xiao tuzi, recently published in German as Kakerlaken-Kunde or ‘cockroach lore’), uses itself some language violence on its very cover: the blurb manages to mispell the name of Huang’s company, and says he “has lived and work both in Beijing China, and Newport Beach, California U.S.A for many years.” At some point he also “completed climb Mt. Everest.”

Huang Nubo wants to invest in Norway

Former Propaganda Dep’t official turned real estate tycoon Huang Nubo 黄怒波, known for a less than completely successful bid to purchase some land in Iceland, talks to Bloomberg about investing up to $100m in “tourist-related property” in Norway, including a hotel in Oslo. Mr Huang had said early on that the Icelandic foray was only the beginning of a larger Nordic project. As things in Iceland are moving rather slowly, he’ll be now starting from Norway, whose tourism industry is “probably more mature”.

Mr Huang is known for stating rather negative opinions on Iceland. More generally, “northern European countries,” he now adds, “are actually still very conservative,” in that they expect Chinese investors to “buy out everything everywhere”. He’s a counterexample: when he saw a barrel of wine from 1653 in Bremen, during a tour around Unesco World Heritage sites, he refrained from buying it all and just offered $200k for one bottle of it.

Greenland’s deputy foreign minister in China

Greenland’s deputy FM Kai Holm Andersen and Denmark’s Arctic ambassador are ending a three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai “to explore possibilities for more cooperation with China”. Mr Andersen made all the right sounds about cooperation in all sort of areas, from culture and education to the presumably more pressing investment in natural resources, between two peoples with “the same ethnic roots“.

Mr Andersen isn’t featured often enough in Chinese media to have a stable Chinese name yet. There’s still some hesitation between Antusheng 安徒生 (as in Hans Christian Andersen) and Andesen 安德森 (as in Chris Andersen).

He mentioned talks with two Chinese mining companies, one of them a copper miner from Jiangxi. Assuming he means Jiangxi Copper, the talking has been going on since 2009 and actual exploration activities started almost three years ago.

billions and billions of barrels for CNOOC in Iceland

Some rather remarkable estimates about the potential hydrocarbon reserves in the Icelandic Jan Mayen area (Drekasvæði), coming from Eykon Energy, a partner of China’s CNOOC in the largest licensed sector there, have been making the rounds on Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish, Faroese and English-language media.

An area straddling the border between Icelandic and Norwegian waters might contain, according to Eykon chairman Heiðar Már Guðjónsson, reserves of up to 1bn boe. The area, which people with the company have named Bergþóra after a Njáls saga character, doesn’t look particularly close to the sector licensed to Eykon and CNOOC and such numbers would be good news for the neighbouring licensees, among them Ithaca Energy and, through Faroe Petroleum, Korea’s national oil company. Heiðar Már’s numbers for Bergþóra alone are twice as much as what the Norwegian petroleum directorate (NPD) used to estimate for the whole Jan Mayen area.

That’s nothing compared to the 10bn barrels Heyðar Már mentioned to Dagbladet when talking about the whole area, which, converted to money, would be enough to pay off Iceland’s creditors and surely buy a lot of nice things. Some have expressed skepticism about an estimate that’s a healthy 1900% above the NPD’s, but still lags behind the 20bn that Eykon’s own Terje Hagevang projected back in 2008.

I often write about Jan Mayen oil.

update on Jiangxi Copper’s Greenland project

The latest newsletter from the Danish and Greenlandic geological survey (GEUS) informs that the exploration license for Jiangxi Copper’s Wegener Halvø site, near Carlsberg Fjord on Greenland’s eastern coast, has been renewed.

Public information about this project typically doesn’t mention Jiangxi Copper by name. In the present case, the 2007 license is said to have been renewed by China-Nordic Mining Ltd (中國北歐礦業有限公司), a Hong Kong company established in 2011, i.e. four years after getting their Greenland license. The license had originally been awarded to London-based Nordic Mining Ltd, which had no known Chinese participation until one of its directors travelled to China in 2009 in search of potential investors. The project attracted enough attention for an influential government think tank to actively tout it to state-owned companies as relevant to the country’s search for natural resources abroad. The involvement of a large company such as Jiangxi Copper was initially not openly publicised: Chinese press enquiries about the background of Jiangxi Zhongrun, at one time a vehicle of Chinese participation in the Carlsberg project, were rejected as veering into the “extremely sensitive“; an interview request from Greenlandic journalists was refused outright. Jiangxi Copper’s participation, talked about since 2009, was reported by Chinese government sources in 2011, then in Greenland some time later (notably after minister Jens-Erik Kierkegaard‘s visit to Jiangxi last November).

On a month-old Greenland government page, the current license holder for the project, HK-based China-Nordic Mining, appears with a C/O address at Jiangxi Zhongrun in Nanchang, the provincial capital. Little has been made known about this Zhongrun: it has been called a “well-known real estate company”, a “private company”, a “genuine” mining company; at any rate, contact data provided for some of these companies point to Wang Suji 王苏吉, a Jiangxi businessman with various interests which indeed include real estate. Mr Wang has of late become a shareholder in Nordic Mining, the British company originally awarded the license (I wrote about the people behind Nordic Mining in my article on the Carlsberg project last year).

former OSCE expert suspicious about Chinese aurora observatory in Iceland

“Northern Light research in Reykjadal an excuse?” asks last week’s Akureiri Vikublað on its very front page, introducing an interview with Pascal Heyman, a security policy expert formerly with the OSCE. “The fact that the Chinese come here and want to research the skies above Iceland” at a projected aurora observatory, says Heyman, “looks suspicious.” They might be wanting to use “modern technology” to keep an eye on “everything going on” up there, in what is actually “NATO airspace”, and warns Iceland to be wary of Chinese intentions and rather increase cooperation with their Scandinavian neighbours.

The aurora observatory is a joint project of Icelandic researchers and the PRIC (China’s polar research institute), somewhat facilitated by Halldór Jóhannsson, Huang Nubo’s spokesman in Iceland, and others.

The wording towards the end of the Akureyri Vikublað article makes me wonder if Mr Heyman knew about the aurora observatory before the interview.

(Via RÚV and Islandsbloggen.)