Huang Nubo: I’m getting published by Gallimard

NRK‘s recent interview with poet-tycoon Huang Nubo soon drifted, fittingly, into the realm of poetry. He is, after all, “first of all a poet” who became a businessman just “to survive”. (Before becoming a businessman, he survived as an editor for an Association of Mayors – at the time when he published his first poetry collection – and, before that, as an official at the Propaganda Department.)

“Do you know the French publishing house Gallimard?” he asked his interviewer. “They are one of the top publishers in the world. In the last hundred years, they have never published poetry by Asian poets [this is almost true], but this year they are going to publish a poetry collection by me.”

In other, possibly unrelated news, André Velter, since 1999 the director of Gallimard’s poetry series, was with Huang earlier this month in the latest edition of a Chinese-French poetry festival, organised among others by Huang’s company Zhongkun 中坤 in Beijing. It’s quite a coincidence for Huang to announce that his poetry will appear in a collection directed by Velter, just after he’s praised the Norwegian government for refraining from meeting the Dalai Lama. Had the Norwegians ignored China’s warnings and met the guy, he had implied, his investment plans in the country might not be able to proceed. Velter, a poet, and his partner Marie-José Lamothe, a photographer and tibetologist, have often written about Tibetan issues, and he hasn’t been particularly enthusiastic about Chinese rule in the region, which he describes as “a brutal occupation“.

That Huang is a poet is mentioned pretty much everywhere he’s talked about, but this blog actually quotes his poetry from time to time.

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with Lama Drama just over, Huang Nubo buys 100 hectares in northern Norway

Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo 黄怒波, besides being in talks to buy a large expanse of land in Svalbard (with “no other [potential] buyers in the picture”), has all but closed a deal to buy 100 hectares in Lyngen, Troms county, Norway, and set up a tourist resort, reports Tromsø paper Nordlys.

This is the closest so far Huang has come to realising his Nordic tourism plans. Despite a certain degree of controversy about larger implications of selling Arctic land to China, nothing in Norwegian law would seem to prevent the sale.

so yes, Huang Nubo does want to buy that chunk of Svalbard

Huang Nubo 黄怒波 tells NRK in Beijing that he’s the only potential buyer for Austre Adventfjord, a 200 km2 plot of land in Svalbard, which he estimates could set him off some $4m (i.e. less per hectare than what he was willing to offer for Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum in Iceland). He says he wants to set up a holiday resort there and to offer fishing excursions and cruise trips to nearby fjords, to cater mainly to Chinese tourists (like the ones who already go to Svalbard).

The current owners of the plot had said they wanted to mine for coal there, even if the land itself ends up being sold.

More on the Svalbard sale, with and a bit of background, in my two recent posts on the topic.

Statens vegvesen officials visit SRBG in China

Officials from Norway’s public roads administration (Statens vegvesen) visited China last month and met with the top management of Sichuan Road and Bridge (四川路桥), one of the partners that last year won a tender to build the steelwork for the Hålogaland bridge in northern Norway. (The others are a little-known Serbian company, called VNG and recently hailed for its Nordic triumph by the local media, and DSD, a German bridge-builder whose involvement has been largely ignored by media accounts of the deal.)

amid Lama Drama, Svalbard sale, Norway hears Huang Nubo say he plans to invest $110m (over ten years)

Chinese tourism and real estate tycoon Huang Nubo 黄怒波 tells AFP that he’s planning to invest $110m over five to ten years in Norway, and reiterates his interest in developing tourism in Northern Europe. Recently he has been interacting with officials from that region, and from Norway specifically.

It helps that the Norwegian gov’t isn’t receiving the Dalai Lama too officially: if they had, it would be harder for Huang to invest there as the Chinese government wouldn’t approve of it, he adds. Norway is going through a Lama Drama at the moment.

Despite rumours to the contrary, Huang hasn’t yet declared interest in buying the large plot of Svalbard land that has just been put up for sale. Huang doesn’t do coal mining, which is what the seller wants to do on the land regardless of who ends up owning it. That said, just next to Longyearbyen looks like not the worst place to build a tourist resort. Chinese tourists do go to Svalbard already. On the other hand, the level of drama that already surrounds the deal, before anyone had time to talk numbers, suggests a Chinese bid might create just the same brouhaha as Huang’s attempt to buy land in Iceland.

more on Svalbard plot up for sale

VG has just published an interview with Henning Horn, who owns (together with two siblings) Austre Adventfjord, a 200 km2 plot near Longyearbyen, Svalbard, and has recently announced he’ll try to sell it, possibly to a foreign entity, after failing to reach a deal with the Norwegian government. Mr Horn dismisses fears of political tensions if part of Svalbard is sold to foreigners. “Norway should be more humble towards the Svalbard treaty,” he says, quoting the forty-nation agreement that gives all signatories equal rights to engage in economic activities on the islands. “Norway’s position isn’t higher than that of the other signatory states. There’s no reason for Norway to own 99 percent of the archipelago.” The idea that Svalbard is “primarily Norwegian” is a “misconception” that could lead to a loss of credibility and possibly a renegotiation of the treaty.

Regardless of who ends up owning the land, Horn plans to develop coal mining there, together with his partners, among them Bjørn Fjukstad, an engineer formerly with coal miner Store Norske and once chairman of the Longyearbyen community council. There’s a lot of coal there, they claim. The 20m tonne figure quoted recently refers only to the reserves in Operafjellet. The whole plot might contain up to 170 million tonnes, and they envisage an operation with 85 employees and a wharf within the property.

Coal mining in Svalbard has long been more a matter of asserting a presence in the region than of profitability, for Norway as well as for Russia, the only other state with an economic activity on the islands. Norwegian state-owned coal miner Store Norske reported losses of $65m in 2012 and $13m last year. Almost all coal from Svalbard is exported to Europe (mainly Germany), while Norway, which produces no coal on the mainland, imports it from other sources, as shipments from Svalbard aren’t available year-round. While coal mining there makes relatively little economic sense, many in Norway (including some who otherwise oppose coal mining as damaging to the environment) advocate for its continuation based on “sovereignty” and “national security” grounds.

The Russians stay there for arguably similar reasons. Arktikugol, the company that exploits the Russian coal mines in Svalbard, is the only remaining state-owned coal miner in Russia, and in 2012 had losses of half a million dollars. Their coal is not particularly needed in Russia and is sold to Western Europe instead. Despite a history of accidents and tense relations with the Norwegian authorities, Arktikugol’s activities are planned to continue, and to be expanded into developing tourism (something they have attempted, unsuccessfully, in the past) with trips possibly departing from Murmansk.

In the meantime, speculation that someone from China might be interested in buying Austre Adventfjord continues, as reports and opinions about the potential sale bounce back and forth between Norwegian, Hong Kong (now also in the Wen Wei Po), Icelandic and other media sources. So far, the closest to a display of ‘interest’ from Chinese state sources has been a news item on the website of the Chinese trade representation in Norway, as I noticed a couple of days ago.