Staunton, January 6 – Local and regional officials in Siberia and the Russian Far East feel helpless in the face of a massive influx of Chinese tourists, businessmen, and property purchasers who ignore local laws and act as if they can do whatever they please, prompting some officials there to speak of Chinese “wrecking.”
The officials have warned them against construction that violates local ordnances and against the harvesting of timber without regard to existing Russian rules, but in every case, these officials say, the Chinese simply ignore what they are told and continue with their construction or harvesting of the forests (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/47935).
Unlike some hyperbolic commentators, these officials are not talking about a looming Chinese occupation of the region as some Russian nationalists are inclined to do but rather of various kinds of “neo-colonial” behavior that are generating Russian hostility to the Chinese as a nation.
These local problems will have a broader resonance because they touch on the issue of the survival of Lake Baikal – the Chinese have been accused of drawing so much water out of that natural wonder that its surface level has fallen significantly in the last two years – and on Russian security in a region Russians have been leaving since Soviet times.
In the Altay, Chinese tourism and business interests have become more prominent in the last two years, observers say, with the Chinese coming and buying up local properties at fire sale prices. The Chinese have the money and assume they will be able to make a profit whether Russians remain there or not.
Local residents are even more angry than local officials who often declare they can do nothing as the Chinese are building on land they have purchased and are cutting down trees on land they already own, a situation that has already produced protests as well as court cases in the region.
But local Russians say that the situation is getting worse and note that the timing could hardly be less good: Moscow has just completed a Year of the Environment, while Russian officials have allowed the Chinese to despoil it in the Transbaikal and further east.