Staunton, June 1 – On May 20, Moscow’s Kommersant newspaper reported that officials in the Russian Far East are offering Chinese who take part in the development of particular territories the right to operate under Chinese as well as Russian laws and to give the Chinese who do so special tax benefits as well (kommersant.ru/doc/5998425).
Not surprisingly, some Russians see this as the thin edge of the wedge toward some kind of general extraterritoriality for the Chinese and are outraged about it, a situation which recalls the unequal treaties China suffered from in the 19th century when outside powers insisted upon having extraterritorial status for their citizens living in China.
While it is not clear that the Russian proposal will go as far as that, it is obvious that some officials desperate for investment are prepared to take a step some residents of Siberia and the Far East in particular have long feared is the first step toward de facto Chinese occupation of their country; and some of them are beginning to react in terms Moscow can hardly welcome.
A case in point is a commentary by Igor Romanov, head of the Shore of Rus Center for Church-State Relations in Vladivostok (beregrus.ru/?p=14683). He says bluntly that what Moscow is planning and that Kommersant is reporting opens the way for “the action of foreign laws,” in this case, Chinese, “on part of the territory of the Far East.”
“Of course,” Romanov writes, “the public cannot but be concerned about such risky steps by Far Eastern officials … to put huge tracks of Russian borderlands, territories of strategic importance under the control of foreigners on the basis of foreign legislation and in accordance with foreign standards.”
This move is especially outrageous, he suggests, given that “Russia is currently conducting a special operation in the Western direction to protect Russian statehood.” To do one thing in the West and another in the East, raises “big questions” and should be discussed not only by officials in the region and in Moscow but by “all of Russian society.”