China offers help in Far East

Russia and China are joining efforts to develop cross-border areas in the Far East. Moscow and Beijing are in talks to unite Russia’s program for the development of Eastern Siberia and the Far East with China’s project to revive the old industrial base of Eastern China, Igor Rogachev, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council for international affairs, told the Fifth Baikal Economic Forum. Russia’s Far East needs Chinese help. In a broader context, Russia’s path to global leadership lies through its leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, and a strong Far East is vital for the achievement of this goal.

The South Ossetia war brought Moscow and Beijing closer to each other. Political initiatives to boost relations between the two countries have become more often recently. The continuing Baikal Economic Forum will stimulate closer trade and economic ties between Russia and China, believes Secretary General of the China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning Association.

Experts interpret the idea of uniting Russia’s and China’s efforts in cross-border areas as Beijing’s friendly gesture. Indeed, China does not need Russian help to revive the old industrial base in Eastern China, says Sergei Sanakoyev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian-Chinese Friendship Society. Beijing’s invitation means that it is ready to provide Russian companies with the ‘preemptive right’ to take part in the modernization of China’s eastern and north-eastern provinces.

As for Russia, it is unable to upgrade the Far East unaided. “Our Far East is rich in resources, but it is scarcely populated, which is why it would be more advisable to transfer labor-intensive projects to China, with its vast population, while leaving resource-intensive ones in the Far East,” Sergei Borovikov, at the St. Petersburg-based Future Designing analytical group, told RBC Daily. Chinese personnel will certainly be invited to such big projects in Russia’s Far East as the construction of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline, he reckons. In the Soviet times, such grand projects were performed with the help of Komsomol mobilizations, but all this disappeared together with the Soviet Union, Borovikov added.

China’s help in restoring the Far East’s flagging economy would be an inestimable service to Russia. “Russia seeks global leadership, but in order to attain that goal it needs to take the lead in the Asia-Pacific region, which is emerging as a new center of foreign politics. But first Russia has to reanimate the Far East. If this region is not strong, Moscow can forget its dreams of leadership,” said Yuri Krupnov, Chairman of the Development Movement.

China’s support is particularly important given attempts by the West to put Russia in international isolation. By offering help in the Far East, Beijing reaffirmed its commitment to play on Moscow’s side at any cost, which clearly unnerves the western community, seeking to drive a wedge between Russia and China.

Media reports warning of so-called ‘Chinese threat’ and ‘peaceful annexation’ of Russia’s Far East by China are the examples of such policy, according to experts. Russia is not a top priority in Beijing’s foreign policy, and fears of the ‘peaceful annexation’ of Russian territories are unfounded, Borovikov says. China is interested in a strong Russia. Only in the powerful alliance it Russia can China confront its key rival, the United States, as well as Japan.

[Source: Analytical department of RIA RosBusinessConsulting, Moscow, 09Sep08]

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