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Russia’s China Envy

Writing in the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina thinks that that the Russian government should be more worried about losing territory to China in the long-term than collective security in Europe in the short term.  The answer: focus on economic development in Russia’s far East before envy of China grows into a political reality.

The problem with China is that, in the Russian Far East, people are living in the 21st century on the Chinese side of the Amur River, while on the Russian side they are still stuck in the 19th century. On the Chinese side is the prosperous boom town of Heihe. On this side is the dilapidated and run-down city of Blagoveschensk. Russia ships train cars filled with raw timber and oil south into China, while on the opposite tracks, trains bring in manufactured goods and laborers from China.

In contrast to the United States, China has territorial claims on Russia. And in contrast to our officials, the Chinese think in terms of millenniums, not dollars. But we do not discuss our “China problem” at all because Russia’s government is in about the same condition as those buildings in Blagoveschensk — and that makes it too frightening to even bring up the subject. It is easier to discuss problems that don’t really exist, such as the issue of collective security in Europe.