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Siberia surges with access to China

By Yuri Tarnovskiy
17 December 2012

'Turn to the East', which started a year ago, is gaining popularity

Orientalist Yuri Tarnovskiy in Beijin, China. Picture: Yuri Tarnovskiy facebook

'Turn to the East' - an initiative which started a year ago, is growing fast.

It is the first time in the history of Russia that a Ministry for the development of Siberia and the Far East was organised, with measures to stimulate the modernization of production discussed and adopted. The Vladivostok APEC summit gave the green light to the inflow of foreign capital and technology into the Far East.

The discussions on the future of Eastern Russia's future considerably intensified in the media recently. Among the recent publications, I recall an article 'Continent Siberia', published on 2 November  in 'Novaya Gazeta'.

It is difficult not to agree with the three authors, who are political activists. They see the reasons of the East's underdevelopment in a traditional 'colonial paradigm' and the possibility for the successful development is seen only as a 'new path of industrialisation and scientific and technological development'.

But I see the statement that China could be our competitor on 'the way of industrialisation and new scientific and technological development', and that 'the main allies of Russia in the development of Siberia should rather be South Korea, Japan and United States' to be economically inefficient and politically dangerous.

With any level of development of Siberia in the foreseeable future it is unlikely to be able to compete even with the most undeveloped provinces of China.

Not even talking about the advanced coastal regions of China. On the other hand China can and wants to help our eastern lands. 

Maybe it is because China has practical experience in the accelerated development of rural regions (in the last 10 to 15 years a lot of governmental programmes like 'Western development regions' and 'modernisation of the old industrial base of North East' have been carried out), and big capital and modern industrial and agricultural technologies.

China wants to help us because, as any economically developed country needs to expand markets for goods and capital, have a stable supply of raw materials at the best logistics, and is implementing the strategic vision: 'Rich neighbours - peaceful border'.

At the same time China is facing growing pressure from the US, whose leaders see China as their main opponent while caring out the strategy 'Turn to Asia'.

An important part of this strategy is limiting China's access to raw material sources in Africa, in the Middle East and Central Asia, creating a threat to the sea lanes through which 80% of China's exports pass.

In such circumstances, a strategic partnership between China and Russia, which, in contrast to South Korea and Japan, has full sovereignty, will not listen to the 'advice' from Washington and will work with China to the extent that it is consistent with its national interests, such partnership becomes very important.

'Special relationship' of Tokyo and Seoul with Washington to some extent limit their ability in the 'exploration and development' of Siberia.

The limited projects that will link the natural resources of Siberia and the Far East with the markets in Japan, South Korea and the States themselves to prevent their connection to the Chinese market are quite possible.

Washington might even approve a politically sensitive projects such as building the railway through North Korea.

But building the economic capacity, and there fore  the military potential of Russia in the East is hardly among the long-term interests of Washington. 

Of course, South Korean, Japanese and American, as well as Indian, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Malaysian and other  and  participation in the development of our eastern lands is highly desirable.

Any imbalance even on the Chinese side is fraught with economic and political risks. Relying on the eastern American allies guarantees us the same effect as an over-dependence on Western allies. Following the Western way did not pay back 'in the way of industrialisation and new scientific and technological development'. Instead, we see a squeezing out of Russian business, invading our traditional spheres of influence, encouraging anti-Russian sentiments among the population and violations of rights in Western Europe of Russian citizens.

I would argue with the statement that 'the Russian pioneers used the distant lands of Eurasia for the penetration of America, not for reaching the banks of the Yellow Sea'.

On the shore of China, in 1898, a Russian city Dalny (now Dalian) was founded. It was the end point of the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER). A well-equipped port to accept ocean vessels and cargo turnover was second on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk to the South China Sea. The city stands was known for its architectural and planning advantages. 

On the route of the same CER in 1898,  the other great city 'Jeltorosiy' - now  Harbin - was founded.

By 1924, 100,000  Russians lived there, as well as Poles, Germans, Jews, Georgians, and other citizens of the former Soviet Union and the subjects of the Russian Empire. There was a Cathedral, a University and an Institute of Technology. Chaliapin gave concerts at the Opera House.  So how come this is not an example of productive cooperation between the Russians and Chinese ?

Yes, the 'geopolitical positioning of Siberia', which the authors write about in the article, is very important right now. We must avoid the closure of so-called 'Northern ring', which is the 'union of modern democratic market economies, from Europe through Russia and Japan to the United States'. 

We are already 'tied up' with NATO and the European missile defence system as well as the Asian missile defence system.

And we do not need to participate in other people's dangerous games to contain China.

In contrast, neighbouring China has enough resources for the development of Siberia and the Far East. Siberia will surge with the access to China.

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