the end of Huang Nubo’s Icelandic saga?

The last few episodes in Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo’s Icelandic saga saw his landlord-to-be, a company called GáF (for ‘Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum’) established by some northern Icelandic municipalities to help him rent the 300 km2 of barren land he had set his eyes on, spiral towards bankruptcy. People at the company decided to ask Huang straight up if he was still interested (‘paging Mr Huang‘), because otherwise it might be time to call it a day.

If Huang said anything in response, it must have been lukewarm at best because GáF are now saying they’ll abandon talks about the deal (RÚV).

In the home front, Mr Huang’s dispute with a local government over environmental permits for construction near Lake Qishu 奇墅 in Yi 黟 county, Anhui, seems not to have been resolved, at least judging from the fact that, as of today, he still appears in the Supreme People’s Court’s fine-dodger list (失信被执行人名单 or, as some prefer to translate, ‘List of Dishonest Persons subject to Enforcement‘). You can see the entry for him (his company Zhongkun 中坤 is listed separately) in a picture I twitted in October. My post from back then also offered his side of the story.

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Huang Nubo to pay $200k for a bottle of wine

Huang Nubo, the Chinese poet-tycoon who has spent three years unsuccessfully trying to buy a certain plot of Icelandic land, has set his eyes on a more modest acquisition: a bottle of wine. He’s offering $200k, enough to buy just over 770 hectares in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum. The wine in question, from 1653, is inside a barrel declared Unesco World Heritage in a cellar under the town hall in Bremen. Huang has recently started a ten-year world trip during which he intends to visit all Unesco heritage sites, and, apparently, ingest some of that heritage. Other than the cellarmaster and the mayor of Bremen, who enjoy the prerogative to sample the wine, only one person in recent memory is reported to have tasted it: Queen Elizabeth, and just a thimbleful at that.

Once he tries it, Huang might very well report about the wine in his poetry. His verses have already featured the word ‘Lafite’, or a quite close spelling of it, in the past, as I took the trouble to quote last year.

Pakistani delegation meets Huang Nubo’s Zhongkun

A delegation of Pakistani tour operators took time off a cultural event in Kashgar, Xinjiang, to meet with Zhongkun Group officials and be shown the Kashgar Zhongkun Square (喀什噶尔中坤广场) project, or a scale model of it. The Square, a 9 ha business and resort park with a prominent tower in the middle, will add to the various developments the Group has or plans in Xinjiang, which include scenic parks, historical sites, hotels and a golf course.

Promoting cross-border tourism between the two countries was one of the purposes of the Pakistani visit to Kashgar, a hundred miles from Pakistan and linked to it by the Karakoram Highway. These contacts are particularly relevant to Gilgit-Baltistan, the Pakistani-controlled, self-governing territory that borders Xinjiang and where tourism is a main source of income. Indeed one attendee (to the Kashgar event, and in particular to the meeting at Zhongkun Group) was Naiknam Karim, a trade association official and head of a company with key operations in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan is of strategic importance to China and the target of a good deal of Chinese investment, in particular in transportation infrastructure. Days after the Kashgar event, a Chinese delegation was set to visit Gilgit-Baltistan to discuss investment prospects, led by Yuan Jianmin (袁建民), the top man at a Xinjiang subsidiary of state-owned logistics giant Sinotrans and seemingly an old name in Pakistan-Xinjiang trade (and other) relations. Cross-border road links and tourism were on the agenda.

It’s not immediately clear if Zhongkun and their Pakistani guests talked about any future plans for the Group to invest in resorts across the border. Years ago, Huang Nubo, the Group’s chairman, had shown an interest into extending their Xinjiang operations into neighboring countries, but gave up after becoming embroiled in Kyrgyz politics. Mr Huang’s better-known venture overseas wasn’t much more successful: he’s been trying since 2011 to purchase some $260/ha land in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum, northern Iceland, unleashing a political drama that must have broken a few controversy-per-dollar-per-hectare records. I narrated that saga back in March, and intend to post more on it as it continues to develop.

According to an account of the meeting on Zhongkun’s website, one of the visitors was Pakistan’s minister of tourism, which is quite remarkable because that office was abolished by a constitutional amendment in 2011.