Thursday, March 7, 2019

Nearly a Million Russians have Signed a Petition Against Chinese Involvement in Lake Baikal

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 7 – Just how sensitive the issue of Chinese business activities in the Baikal region in particular and Russia east of the Urals more generally is reflected not only in commentaries attacking the Chinese and Russians who help them but in a new petition that has garnered nearly one million signatures against any Chinese role.

            As more details about Chinese activities in and around Lake Baikal have surfaced, commentaries attacking them and complaining about the Russian government’s cooperation with them have appeared (e.g., and a discussion by the author of these lines at

            But most indicative of Russian attitudes is the result of an effort by film and television stars in Russia to block Chinese plans to build a water bottling plant on Russia’s most famous lake.  They have already collected more than 800,000 signatures on an online petition ( andостановите-строительство-завода-по-розливу-воды-байкала-для-китая).

            Obviously, signing a petition in favor of protecting the environment and against foreign involvement is a relatively easy choice for Russians, but this petition provides the strongest indication yet of just how angry Russians are about Chinese overreach in Russia east of the Urals.  Unless Moscow limits Chinese activities there, this movement will only grow.

            And that in turn will create problems for the Kremlin both in its relations with China and in its links to oligarchs and corrupt officials who corruption with Beijing and its businesses and with ordinary Russians who have finally decided to signal that they have had enough of officials who care only about money and ignore the interests of the country and of the population. 

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