Chinese presence in the Nordic Arctic is increasing, but whereas many large-scale initiatives such as mining projects, trade deals or political alliances have yet to materialise, tourism encounters between Chinese visitors and Nordic Arctic communities are already happening. We use tourism as a lens and bring together perspectives and empirical examples from various disciplines, including international relations, international political economy, tourism studies, education and sustainable development studies, with the aim of broadening the existing knowledge on China–Nordic Arctic relations and encounters. We argue that these tourism encounters not only offer challenges and economic opportunity but also opportunities that go beyond economic gain, including community involvement, use of existing informal skills, development of formal skills and human capital. Additionally, we argue that Chinese tourism to the Nordic Arctic creates incentives to acquire global skills and knowledge necessary to ensure effective self-representation and benefits in an increasingly Asian-centred global economy. Finally, we find that Chinese tourism to the Nordic Arctic may offer a view into the future, as challenges associated with Chinese tourism in the Arctic North, may be an indication of what is to come, when potential mining projects, trade deals or political alliances start to materialise.