Staunton, April 9 – Just as US sanctions have not unified the Russian people around Putin in the way the Kremlin had expected (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/04/many-russians-will-welcome-harsh.html), so too Moscow’s latest effort to play “the Chinese card” to keep Siberians in its corner appears to be ever less effective.
In the past, whenever the central Russian authorities wanted to unite the residents of Siberia and the Russian Far East around Moscow, all they had to do was begin to talk about the threat from China, whose massive population was just waiting to overwhelm the region and would do so except for the power of the Russian state.
But now, according to numerous reports, residents of the Trans-Baikal region and other parts of Russia east of the Urals no longer accept that argument. Instead, they believe that the penetration of their lands by the Chinese is the result of the close cooperation between officials and businessmen in Moscow and their Chinese counterparts.
The Russian residents around Lake Baikal are especially angry that Moscow is restricting where they can live and what economic activities they can engage in but is allowing Chinese workers and businessmen to live where they are prevented from living and work in businesses Russians are now being excluded from (afterempire.info/2018/04/09/china-baikal/).
Irkutsk activist Grigory Krasovsky says that it is clear to people in his region that Moscow and China are working together, promoting the influx of Chinese and Chinese business for the benefit of people at the center and completely ignoring the concerns and objections of the residents of the Trans-Baikal.
“Putin’s policy of ‘a friendly attitude toward China’ is absolutely unacceptable and harmful for the entire population of Siberia,” the Irkutsk resident says. “People are horrified by this policy. Since 1999,” he says, he has “been involved in the struggle against the theft of land” and its natural resources by illegal loggers and especially Chinese companies.
To the extent that others share his attitude, that Moscow is implicated in the Chinese expansion in the region, the Russian government will have a hard time using the threat of Chinese expansion to generate support for itself. Indeed, its use of this ideological meme is likely to have just the opposite effect and play into regionalist objections to the center.