Liberal Democrats criticizing land tenancy in Siberia
The Russian president Vladimir Putin is going to take part in the Chinese celebrations in Beijing on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the world war in Eastern Asia. Additionally, the 154th Russian Infantry Regiment is going to participate in the parade. Since many other countries are merely sending their ambassadors, Putin’s personal appearance is seen as a strong sign of his intentions of forming closer ties with China.
This article originally appeared at Heise, translated by Frank Jakob exclusively for SouthFront
In addition nearly two dozen contracts are going to be formally signed between the two countries. Among other things, Russia is working on increasing its amounts of oil and gas that are being transported to the east and south. Russian Gazprom and state owned Chinese Energy Corporation CNPC agreed to the building of a pipeline and to gas transits worth roughly 350 billion Euros. Negotiations about the construction of a second pipeline crossing through the Altai Mountains are currently still going on.
Chinese suppliers are increasingly pushing onto the Russian markets since the beginning of the sanction war between Russia and the EU 18 months ago. They already secured stakes in the construction of a high-speed railway between Moscow and Kazan, which could later be extended to Beijing.
Chinese investors are furthermore planning to rent and 1,150 square kilometers of land over a period of 50 years for agricultural use in exchange for 300,000 Million Euros in the Trans-Baikal area, which is located in the northwest of the autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia. Past experiences in Ethiopia and other African countries showed, that these Chinese investors could cultivate the soil much more efficient than domestic farmers could, who lacked both the necessary skills and the capital for a modern cultivation.
The Liberal Democratic Party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky is, however, strongly opposed to such lease contracts. They are referring to potential environmental damages that could be left behind by the investors – and they are opposing the fact that these investors could mainly intend to employ Chinese workers. According to the governor, 80 percent of the agriculturally used area in the Jewish autonomous oblast Birobidshan, located vis-á-vis of the Chinese province of Heilongjiang is already in the hands of Chinese investors who are mainly cultivating soy.
Some Russians fear that such leasing contracts could be the first steps towards Chinese occupation of land. These concerns are based on the historic lessons learned in the struggle for a contested island in the river Ussuri, which forms the natural border. The fight for the Island led to a small “war” in 1969, which led to a permanent decline in diplomatic relations between the USSR and China, which in turn paved the way for a warming in relations between Mao and Nixon.
With about roughly 38 Million inhabitants across 13 Million square kilometers, Siberia is a very sparsely populated area – especially in the east bordering China. In addition, a lot of today’s inhabitants are not ethnic Russians but Yakuts, Tungusic, Mongoles and other descendants of natives. China, in contrast, hosts 1,4 billion people dispersed over only 9.5 Million square kilometers, the majority of which is desert and high mountain regions, which are far less suited for agricultural cultivation than the cold but overall fertile woods of Siberia.
A political annexation following agricultural utilization would not be without precedence in history: in the 19th century English-speaking ranchers were seceding from Mexiko – and in Hawaii it were mainly English-speaking sugarcane growers, who facilitated the coup against queen Lili’uokalani and the following integration into the United States of America. In contrast to the Mexico of the 19th century, Russia in the 21st century possesses nuclear weapons, which make an annexation of agriculturally used lands in Siberia by China excessively expensive.