Staunton, July 10 – Given both Vladimir Putin’s moves to centralize almost all decisions and the sensitivity of many Russians to the possibility that the eastern portions of the Russian Federation will fall under Chinese domination, the statement of Moscow’s top official in the Russian Far East is striking.
Yury Trutnyev, deputy prime minister and presidential plenipotentiary for the Far East Federal District, said on Tuesday that “there was no need” for Moscow to get involved in the issue of rental of land in the Far East to China. Regional officials are fully capable of handling the situation.
Trutnyev’s comments come as ever more governors in Siberia and the Far East say they would be happy to rent land to China – Sverdlovsk oblast head Yevgeny Kuybashev did so also on Tuesday – as a means of raising money for their regions at a time when Moscow has cut back their subsidies.
In a comment about this in today’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the paper’s Mikhail Sergeyev, says that “the impression is being created that local officials of the Russian Federation are interested in the land expansion of the Chinese and that” a detailed discussion of all the consequences would only interfere with such plans.
The possibility that regions in the Russian Far East will go through with plans to rent land to China and allow Chinese workers to come to work them has already sparked controversy (see previous articles, Beijing Wants Moscow to Agree to Massive Chinese Settlement in the Transbaikal. and Trans-Baikal Kray Government Plan to Rent Land to Mongolia Could Destabilize Region).
Sergeyev’s write up today was sparked by the appearance in an official Chinese communist party publication yesterday of an article by an expert from Russia declaring that Russia and Russians had nothing to fear and everything to gain from allowing China to rent Russian lands and sent personnel to farm them.
The Chinese publication of this Russian article now, Aleksey Maslov of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics says, “cannot be accidental.” He notes that there are “hundreds of analysts” in China who keep track of the Russian media and routinely select articles which accept and even promote the Chinese position.
Maslov adds that he has nothing personal against renting land to China, but he points out that “so far such projects have not been worked up at the expert level which would assess all the economic, demographic and agricultural consequences.” Local officials “do not have the experience of dealing with the Chinese and proceed only from temporary local interests.”
But for the time being, Moscow seems prepared to allow the regional governments to proceed on their own. That may be because the Kremlin believes there is no harm in such activities, or alternatively, it may be because the Kremlin wants someone else to do the dirty work, someone who can be disowned and dismissed if there is too much opposition.