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How Greenland could become China's Arctic base

China is flexing its muscles. As the second richest economy in the world, its businessmen and politicians are involved just about everywhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Now, though, China is taking a big interest in a very different part of the world: the Arctic.

It has started calling itself a "near-Arctic" power, even though Beijing is almost 3,000km (1,800 miles) from the Arctic Circle. It has bought or commissioned several ice-breakers - including nuclear-powered ones - to carve out new routes for its goods through the Arctic ice.

And it is eyeing Greenland as a particularly useful way-station on its polar silk road.

Greenland is self-governing, though still nominally controlled by Denmark.

It is important strategically for the United States, which maintains a vast military base at Thule, in the far north. Both the Danes and the Americans are deeply worried that China should be showing such an interest in Greenland.

You've got to go there to get an idea of how enormous Greenland is.

It's the 12th-largest territory in the world, 10 times bigger than the United Kingdom: two million square kilometres of rock and ice.

Yet its population is minuscule at 56,000 – roughly the size of a town in England.

As a result, Greenland is the least densely populated territory on Earth. About 88% of the people are Inuit; most of the rest are ethnically Danish.