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Specter of China’s seizing Siberia, Far East totally implausible - experts

July 22, 2014, 16:34 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Alexander Kondratyuk

MOSCOW, July 22. /ITAR-TASS/. As rapprochement between China and Russia has become obvious this year, the Western media and the web overflow with renewed spooks that China nurses an ambition to occupy Siberia and Far East. Russian experts believe the fears are groundless describing the hype as a reaction to intensified cooperation between Moscow and Beijing.

In early July, The New York Times published the column by Frank Jacobs titled Why China Will Reclaim Siberia. According to the author, a scenario where Russia’s Far East and Siberia will switch allegiance is more than likely.

“The 1.35 billion Chinese people south of the border outnumber Russia's 144 million almost 10 to 1,” goes the article. China would more than benefit from annexing Siberia, the American author believes. Besides vast territories that would come in useful for the overpopulated country, Russia’s Asian part has huge natural resources available.

Man in the street in Russia has also voiced fears over potential Chinese colonization of the land spreading over the area east from the Urals — a slow but sure settlement of the Russian territories by the Chinese. New comments on the issue emerged in Runet after China’s Vice president Li Yuanchao had proposed at the St. Petersburg economic forum in May to merge Russia’s Far East and China’s north into a common economic zone. Russia lacks workforce, whereas the eastern neighbor has aplenty, the Chinese explain. Agriculture is one of the promising fields for such contacts.

“As for The New York Times article, it is a set of hackneyed arguments that contravene the well-known facts,” senior research fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Vasily Kashin told ITAR-TASS.

The US, he believes, is trying to convince itself, as it does not like Russia-China rapprochement.

“It is the US typical trait — as soon as it faces displeasing trends and phenomena, it is trying to convince itself and others these have no future,” he said citing innumerable articles on the issue piled up since the 90s and allegedly proving the future is grim for Russian-Chinese relations.

“Certainly, Russia should pay special attention to all projects pursued in cooperation with China, not forgetting about its economic interests,” the expert said. “But no signs are that China has an evil plan for territorial expansion in Russia, it has no reasons to do it. This would not resolve the problems the country faces and could bear considerable risks.” On the contrary, Kashin said, China was interested in close partnership with Russia.

As for the Chinese residents in Russia’s Far East and Siberia, “there is considerably less of them than the Tajiks and Uzbeks”.

“This is the aging nation with the rapidly increasing income, and driving the Chinese into a place with 50°C below zero temperature would be a costly undertaking,” the expert said.

Editor-in-chief of the popular web source based in the Siberian city of Irkutsk Dmitry Taevsky shares the view.

“The entire Chinese civilization has been developing in the southern, warm zone,” he is quoted by Rosbalt agency. “For the Chinese, Siberia is a cold land, where they would not like to live, whereas those who already live in Irkutsk by no means wish to assimilate, though the opportunities are available. There are few of those who have really settled down - less than a dozen in the whole of the city. They come to trade, build and earn money. As they do earn the money, they go back home. So all this talk about the Chinese set to seize Siberia are a sheer myth caused by ignorance and the lack of information. China wants partnership.”

The US view was clouded by the false idea that Russia has no chances to keep Far East, Chair of the School of Oriental Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) Alexei Maslov told ITAR-TASS.

“Meanwhile, as a result of the recently signed gas contract between Russia and China, Russia invests in the region huge money for infrastructure construction, not only for the pipelines. This region is increasingly attractive for Russians as the level of life will improve,” he said

The fears over an economic zone comprised of China’s north and Russia’s Far East have been long simmering but nothing happened except the rumors, the expert believes.

“There is no single fact that could confirm that Russia and China will establish the common economic space in the following ten years,” Maslov said. “They will create common zones of priority development for small-scale projects in tourism and technical parks. Nothing threatens the Russian regions’ territorial and economic integrity.


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