Staunton, May 23 – Beginning a decade ago, there were reports about China’s plans to engage in the construction of massive infrastructure investment projects; but again and again, Sakha and Russian experts say, these announcements were not followed by actual construction, a pattern that at least some fear will be repeated again now.
Commentators in Sakha say that almost none of the projects China was said to be interested in over the last decade has actually been finished or even attracted significant Chinese investment. Work at most has simply stopped (nemoskva.net/yakutia-kitay-druzhba/ and sibreal.org/a/top-yakutsko-kitayskih-nerealizovannyh-proektov/32411923.htmlvm20).
These analysts worry that current suggestions that China will build a railway north into Sakha will suffer the same fate and are urging caution. (On those plans, see this author’s article at jamestown.org/program/while-moscow-could-not-afford-it-china-will-build-railway-north-to-sakha/).
But these and other writers insist that “the problem is not in China” but in Sakha and Russia more generally. Aleksandr Kondrashin, former head of the Sakha agency charged with attracting investment, points out that China doesn’t invest a lot abroad and would rather trade with Russia than invest there because of the risks the Russian market presents.
And Igor Lipsits, an economist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, agrees. He say that “Russia is now a shrinking market, because both the population and businesses are getting poorer. The middle class is leaving, thereby reducing demand. Therefore,” he says, “I think there will be no massive investment” from China.
A decade ago, things could have been different, the economist says, “but Russia has conducted such a crazy economic policy that today, there is no interest in investing in it” (sibreal.org/a/chem-opasna-totalnaya-zavisimost-rossii-ot-kitaya/32376695.html).