Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Chinese Penetration of Russian Hinterlands Sparks Opposition to Them and to Russian Officials

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 20 – Chinese business has moved into the Russian Far East, Siberia, and Russian ports in the North. In every case, it has sparked resistance, despite being welcomed, supported and defended by Moscow and the local authorities. But now, the Chinese are moving deeper into Russian hinterlands and sparking anger there at both them and the regime.

            The situation in Chuvashia, a Christian Turkic republic in the Middle Volga, is not atypical. There, officials and local businessmen ignored popular opposition and gave permission to the Chinese to set up an enormous milk processing center. The Chuvash are furious at both the Chinese and the powers that be (svoboda.org/a/30497319.html).

            In January, the local people appeared to have won the day when a popular protest forced the Chinese and Cheboksary to give up their original plans (idelreal.org/a/30370845.html). But then the officials found another plot of land for the Chinese and hope that the new plant will both provide employment and greater tax revenues for Chuvashia.

            But the Chuvash are furious, and Radio Svoboda has compiled several of their comments. One said that we can work our land by ourselves and “no Chinese should be here.” We don’t know what they really plan because “no one is explaining anything to us. With us, [the authorities] only fight.”

            A second added that there are three forces in the republic – the government, business and the people. The first and second are colluding against the third. And the people are calling on business not to cooperate with the government or the Chinese but to listen to the opinions of the nation.

            And a third said that the Chuvash people “do not need help; they need to be given the freedom to realize themselves and not be limited by some frameworks. They will feed themselves. “To be sure, we are guilty: perhaps we voted not for those we should have and thus made a mistake.”

            It is true, he continued, that “the powers are from God. But we chose this power. Apparently, the Lord is sending us a test in the form of the Chinese in order that we can recognize the need to rise from our knees, to wake up spiritually and morally, and begin to work the land ourselves.”

            What makes this case intriguing is that it highlights the way the involvement of the Chinese and other foreigners in the Russian economy can quickly generate opposition not just to them but to the government and become the foundation for new popular and in this case ethnic unity.

            That is not something Moscow or Beijing expected to face.

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