20 November 2012, 14:17

China and Russia: Chinese colonization of Russia's Far East?

China and Russia: Chinese colonization of Russia's Far East?

"Unless one is a Sinologist, China is one of those topics that are best not thought of at all. Like the fiscal cliff, or cancer, or death. Alas, one can't afford not to, even if thinking on the subject does not do much good. One can't think China away. One can ratiocinate as much as one pleases, it will still be there - or (God forbid) here",  Sergei Roy, Former Editor-in-Chief, Moscow News.

The obvious answer to the challenge that China's growing might so menacingly represents is for America, Europe and Russia to form some sort of a united front - politically, economically, financially, and even militarily. The Vladivostok to Vancouver arc, in the words of one of the saner US presidents.

For reasons that would take an army of psychiatrists to explain and no one to cure, America and, to a considerable extent, Europe see Russia as the greater menace. Just like in the good old days of Cold War I, they endeavor to "contain" this menace by pouring money into the construction of BMD, by moving, or threatening to move, NATO forces ever closer to Russia's borders, by virulent Russophobic propaganda, by support for orange-colored revolutionists within Russia whom most Russians view with curiosity as a bunch of mountebanks, and by other well-known, and well-worn, stratagems.

Just imagine what ceasing these plainly idiotic activities would do for world stability, including the handling of the China problem. However, one has to be realistic. Obama clearly represents the more rationally-thinking element in the U.S. political class - and see what that rational element is doing re. Russia right at this moment: it removes that laughing stock of legislation, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, only to replace it quickly, if somewhat clumsily, with the Magnitsky Bill. What can one expect of people like that? Surely not some sane thinking on the possible usefulness of Russia as an ally in the turbulence, if not chaos, that the world is in for, and not too far in the future, either.

Words like turbulence and chaos sound scary, of course, but what would you? America's national debt, now nearing $17 trillion, is a bubble that has to burst some day. That's unavoidable, that has to be taken as a given. Another given is that America's leaders will do their best (or worst, depending on your own position on the map) to let anyone but the great American people suffer from the effects of that bubble bursting. But will those others - and America's biggest creditor China above all - eat humble pie over such a proceeding? That would be strange to expect of a nation as proud and powerful as China.

We thus have all the makings of an almighty conflict. I would not be so foolhardy as to speculate on what form that conflict may take. Too many imponderables. Specialist knowledge of a vast array of data on finance and economics is required to advance even the most tentative hypotheses regarding events in the coming three to five years. Even people who do have that kind of specialist knowledge are now discussing scenarios that appear pure fantasies to an outsider like myself. Like America and Canada (some say Mexico) forming a new nation and reneging on all or some of the debts of the no longer existing nation, the United States.

No, that's too far-fetched for me. I can only state the obvious: America will soon need all the help from other nations that it might scrape up, and Russia is a natural in this respect. Europe, with its own bubbles bursting all over the place, is not much good even to itself, let alone coming to the aid of anyone else in a crunch.

Why is Russia America's natural ally vis-a-vis China? At this point I beg to differ from Vladimir Putin. It's all very well for him to talk of Russia catching the “Chinese wind in the sails of its economy”. To me, this sounds like putting a good face on a bad business. Concerned individuals report that what really happens on the ground is slow, and often not so slow, Chinese colonization of Russia's Far East and parts of Siberia. In some areas, up to 90 percent of economic activity there is said to be driven by Chinese capital, Chinese manpower, Chinese management.

The other day I heard a retired colonel-general say something that sort of put the finishing touch to the picture. It appears that as a result of the "reform" of Russia's armed forces by the ex-defense minister Serdyukov, the so and so now facing, one hopes, the prospect of a long sojourn in a solitary cell, the many thousands of miles of the Chinese-Russian border will be defended, in case of red alert, by two Russian brigades. Repeat, two brigades, not divisions even. Facing them across the Amur is a Chinese grouping that is greater than Russia's entire ground forces. Makes you think, what?

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