Far East Russia being farmed by Chinese
"It is no longer necessarily the fears that the Russians are going to be swamped by gazillions of Chinese," said Bobo Lo, associate fellow at Chatham House and an expert in Sino-Russian relations.
"Now it is slightly different, and more that the Chinese are a rising economic power, that part of Russia is struggling and China will inexorably take over."
FEARS OF CHINA
Russian fears of Chinese encroachment in its under-populated Far East have eased since the 1990s, but while Russia has vowed to rejuvenate the impoverished region, it is still reluctant to rely entirely on China. Unfortunately for Moscow, the Chinese remain the only ones willing to invest.
"There is already a feeling (from the Russians) in the bilateral relationship that they are being outmatched, and this makes them anxious," said Lo.
"It is bad enough being a resource appendage to the West and it is worse if you are a resource appendage to a country to which you have felt superior for the last 300 years."
The Far East received $9.9 billion of foreign investment in 2011, according to Russia's Federal Statistics Service, accounting for just 5 percent of the amount received by Russia as a whole. More than three quarters of the total was spent on the development of oil and gas in Sakhalin, a resource-rich island off the Far East coast, north of Japan.
Ussuriysk, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Vladivostok and 60 km (37 miles) east of the Chinese border, was once controlled by a succession of Chinese dynasties and built over the last century from the proceeds of logging and food production.
One of the first areas in Russia to open up to Chinese business in the 1980s, it has also benefited from the establishment of a free trade zone that has brought investment from 26 Chinese firms since its foundation in 2006.
Widespread fears about the region being flooded by Chinese migrants have not come to pass. Dongning Huaxin's Li said his company has been doing its utmost to ease the concerns and ensure that local labor is used on farms. He said local Russian farmers now make up around 60 percent of a total workforce of 600.
But the problem is that the local population has dwindled, and those left behind are mostly unwilling to do agricultural work, Li said. "This is how I see it: if Chinese labor left the Russian Far East, the region would grind to a halt," he said. "Take our pig farm: Russians don't like pigs and we can't find people to work on it and we can only hire Chinese to do it."
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