Staunton, November 8 – Russians in Moscow and European Russia are concerned about the rise of China and the impact of this on Russia with stories about Beijing’s purchases of companies and recruitment of Russian scientists a regular feature in the media (avmalgin.livejournal.com/6580993.html and svpressa.ru/economy/article/159842/).
But an increasing number of Russians living in underpopulated regions of Siberia and the Russian Far East right next to burgeoning China view what they now call “the Chinese question” very differently and often far more apocalyptically than do their co-ethnics in Moscow or European Russia.
Two commentaries from the region this past week highlight that distinction and the very real fears of China Russians east of the Urals have and their expectations about what Moscow should do to defend what they define as Russian national interests against the rise of Chinese power and influence.
The first of these is by Galina Solonina, a senior scholar at the STI Regional Information-Analytic Center, who says that while Moscow may welcome Chinese investment, people in Irkutsk don’t and they have their reasons (newizv.ru/society/2016-11-07/248756-ekspert-kitajcy-v-irkutskoj-oblasti-vyseljat-so-vremenem-russkih.html; from pda.ura.ru/articles/1036269420).
The Transbaikal “like other eastern lands of Russia,” she says, “has already had its encounters with ‘the Chinese question,’ and it doesn’t have good feelings about the role of Chinese investment, Chinese tourism, and the increasing presence of Chinese residents in what have been Russian territories.
Sometimes the Chinese operate completely legally, Solonina says; but often they violate agreements or by the use of corrupt methods do whatever they want. In Irkutsk oblast, for example, “more than 50 percent of all the illegal” cutting of wood in the country occurs and most of it by Chinese firms.
Chinese involvement in agriculture in Siberia and the Far East also hasn’t worked out as Moscow promised. The Chinese farmers have so over-farmed or over-fertilized the land that it now can’t be used to grow food for years to come. The Chinese, of course, have gone home; but they have left the local population with this problem too.
And Chinese tourism is anything but the great advantage it is advertised as being, Solonina continues. “The Chinese illegally found closed companies: they bring in the tourist and service them by putting them in hotels owned by Chinese, feeding them in Chinese restaurants,” and providing them with Chinese guides. Local people earn nothing from this.
But more serious still, the expert argues, is that the Chinese are coming and staying, often driving out Russians from neighborhoods and entire settlements. Local Russians feel like second class citizens in their own country, and they fear that “today we have given China tourism, the forest, and agriculture. Tomorrow, we will give them land and natural resources.” And then the question will be who is going to leave?
A second and reinforcing view from beyond the Urals is provided by Khabarovsk journalist Viktor Maryasin in an article for “Literaturnaya gazeta” (lgz.ru/article/-43-6573-2-11-2016/est-li-u-priamurya-russkoe-budushchee/) and in a comment on that article by Igor Romanov, the editor of the Beregrus portal (beregrus.ru/?p=8259