In addition to massive Siberian land lease, Beijing wants Moscow to agree to massive Chinese settlement

Transbaikal (or Zabaykalsky) kray in Russia. Total area: 432 thousand km2 (167 thousand sq mi). Population (2010 Census): 1.1 million. Population density: 2.57 people/km2 (6.7 people/sq mi). Urban: 66%. Rural: 34%. (Source: Wikipedia)

Transbaikal (or Zabaykalsky) kray in Russia. Total area: 432 thousand km2 (167 thousand sq mi). Population (2010 Census): 1.1 million. Population density: 2.57 people/km2 (6.7 people/sq mi). Urban: 66%. Rural: 34%. (Source: Wikipedia) 

2015/06/16 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

Transbaikal officials are working on a deal with China that would allow Chinese firms to lease more than 300,000 hectares (1.2 thousand sq mi) of land in that Russian region, but a Beijing official says that the deal won’t go through unless Moscow agrees to a massive influx of Chinese workers because there are no Russians available for work there.

According to “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” the Transbaikal kray government in Eastern Siberia is ready to sign a letter of intent that would allow a Chinese company to lease the land for 49 years, but “in Beijing, they consider that such a transfer of land is insufficient” and that Moscow must allow for the entrance of Chinese citizens to work it.

Chinese workers will be able to settle in Russia with their families. (Image Epsilon/PhotoXPress.ru)

Chinese workers will be able to settle in Russia with their families. (Image Epsilon/PhotoXPress.ru)

This new Chinese demand was presented by a senior official of the Chinese Institute of International Strategic Research last week in a Chinese newspaper. Moscow has traditionally viewed that institute as expressing the official position of China. (For a Russian translation of the article, see here).

According to the Chinese writer, Beijing believes that Moscow not the Transbaikal authorities is being Russia’s new willingness to lease land to China but insists that this “progress” will not be complete until the Russian authorities agree to simplify procedures for Chinese workers to come there in large numbers.

“So far, he wrote, “the countries have signed only an agreement on intentions, and time is needed to conclude a real contract which will have real force.” For that to happen, Moscow will have to agree to the “large scale” resettlement of Chinese citizens in the Russian Federation, something that will inevitably disturb many Russians.

As Mikhail Sergeyev, the head of the economics section of “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” observes, the Beijing writer “considers the transfer of land in the Transbaikal kray to be only the first swallow after which must follow others” and that such transfers are not “only” about an economic profit.

Beijing has already identified nine territories in Siberia and the Russian Far East which it would like to lease and then introduce a Chinese workforce, Sergeyev writes. And it is clear that economics is far from the most important consideration, something that will be even more of a red flag to Russians.

He quotes Natalya Zubarevich, a specialist on Russia’s regions at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, on this point. Much of the land the Chinese want to lease, she says, is hardly good for agricultural exploitation. The fact that Beijing wants to lease so much of it thus raises questions of its intentions.

Sergeyev does not address it, but this Chinese move is certain to provoke not only Russian nationalists in Moscow but also Siberian regionalists who may welcome Chinese investment but are unlikely to be happy about any massive influx of ethnic Chinese which would radically change the ethnic balance in a region from which Russians continue to leave.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dagwood Bumstead

    The first phase in Peking’s takeover of parts of Siberia and the Russian Far East. In 10 years or so- perhaps even sooner- we will see “polite gleen men” crossing the Sino-Russian border “to plotect Chinese flom Lussian agglession” followed by a “lefelendum” and annexation. In other words a Crimea scenario. Moscow can hardly object- sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander and all that.
    And Moscow won’t be able to do a thing about it short of nuclear war. There’s no way the Russian army can match the Chinese army.

    • puttypants

      HAHAHA. I said China would eat Russia and the feast has begun.

    • Czech Friend

      Russian-Chinese war would be a blessing for EU and US.

  • C_Low

    Putin preaches patriotism and love for Russia while sending the young russians to die to keep his crony kleptocrats in charge of Ukraine, while he sells the east to the Chinese. The Russian people will one day see this and react accordingly.

    • Czech Friend

      we only must make sure he won’t be allowed to sell his east and to grab his adjacent lands at the west.

  • Jack McColley

    Siberia is China!

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Not yet, but it will be!

  • Michel Cloarec

    9 regions and workforces and the military to protect them . Siberia will be more China !

  • Oknemfrod

    The weapon the Chinese are currently using to take over Russian East is money. Smart. They will take over increasingly larger Russian territories, and there is not a thing in the world Putin (or anyone else in Russia, for that matter) can or will do about it. If at some point it should occur to someone in whatever will remain of Russia to take the land back, the Chinese have arguments much louder than money with which to reply. They’ve been surreptitiously encroaching on the Russian far East for years. This is only the next logical step in the same process, now bolder than before due to the dire economic situation in Russia. It’s irreversible, Putin does not give it a hoot, and there’s nothing he can do about it anyway. If he tries anything akin to his Ukrainian adventures there, he will be crushed like a bug.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Correct. Peking has been sending its citizens across the border for years, legally and illegally. The Russians are leaving Siberia for European Russia in search of better opportunities, leaving scores of villages empty. The Chinese are filling the vacated places and in some areas are already a majority. Instead of worrying about Kyiv turning west the dwarf should have kept a close watch on what was and is happening in Siberia and the Far East, both Russian territories which the Ukraine is not. Sooner or later Peking will be able to take over without firing a shot- and perhaps sooner than later.

      Doesn’t sound like a good trade for Moscow- it gains the Crimea and the Donbass- perhaps, but loses vast tracts of Siberia which are far more valuable. Not the way to restore Russian greatness, methinks.

  • Murf

    I smell a Hybrid War!

  • John Shirley

    Who didn’t see this coming.
    CHINA EMPIRE BUILDING 101
    Step 1…Become big buddies with Russia..DONE
    Step 2…Lend Russia LOTS of money..DONE/PENDING
    Step 3…Ask to lease a little land just cause we’re buddies…DONE
    Step 4…Destroy Russian economy through a multitude of avenues…PENDING
    Step 5…Demand repayment of interest on loans, which Russia will not be able to do…PENDING
    Step 6…Confiscate occupied Russian land as repayment of interest on loans…PENDING
    Step 7…Demand more Russian land as repayment of original loans…PENDING
    Step 8..Import 10s of millions of Chinese people to intimidate and drive out the ethnic Russians in the area…PENDING
    Step 9…Begin massive military buildup, including building bases to protect newly aquire land…PENDING.
    Step 10…Continue unabated expansion until Eastern Russia is under Chinese control including any natural resources like LNG fields….PENDING.
    Good luck with your new buddies, Russia.