News / Asia

    China Moves Into Russia's Zone - Former Soviet Union

    A general view shows the Belarus pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo site April 21, 2010 (file photo)
    A general view shows the Belarus pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo site April 21, 2010 (file photo)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    James Brooke

    Roughly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, China rivals Russia as the largest investor and trading partner in many of the former Soviet republics.

    Belarus is running out of cash.  As electricity bills go unpaid, the Kremlin turns off the power.  Russian state-controlled TV airs hostile reports, calling Belarus a dictatorship.

    Moscow's strategy is clear: pressure Minsk into selling state companies to Russia on the cheap.  The prize is Belaruskali, a major world producer of potash.  If Russians buys Belaruskali, Russia will control half of the world's production of this fertilizer, crucial at a time of looming global food shortages.

    But an unexpected player has stepped in, Minsk now is in talks to sell part of Belaruskali to state companies from China.

    Scouring the world for raw materials, China increasingly is penetrating the former Soviet Union, a region long considered Moscow's private pool.

    Russian political columnist Konstantin von Eggert says the Kremlin is careful not to speak out against Chinese economic intrusions into Belarus, once considered the model Soviet republic.

    "The Russians are not very pleased with that, but at the same time they are keeping their mouths shut, because there is nothing they can do about that.  Russia is losing its pool in the former Soviet republics, in the post-Soviet space," he said.

    Belarussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Asia expert Leonid Batyanovsky says Minsk is not playing Russia against China.

    "Developing relations with China does not mean developing them against somebody," said Batyanovsky.

    Belarus gets little American or European investment, largely because investors feel uncertain about property rights in a country under one-man rule for 17 years.  But China last year extended a $1 billion credit line for a series of projects in Belarus.

    "We are talking about the road reconstruction.  We are talking about the electrification of the railways. We are talking about the real estate projects in Minsk.  We are talking about creation of the Belarus-China industrial park," added Batyanovsky.

    Belarus is just the latest new frontier for Chinese investment in the 14 former Soviet republics that once were economic colonies of Russia.  

    Last month, China's president, Hu Jintao, visited Ukraine, a neighbor that Russians long called "Malaya Rossiya" or Little Russia.

    In Kyiv, the Chinese leader and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, oversaw the signing of $3.5 billion in business agreements.

    Earlier in his trip, Hu visited Kazakhstan.

    Only 20 years ago, Nursultan Nazarbayev, then the head of the Kazakhs Soviet Socialist Republic, was fighting to keep Kazakhstan in the Soviet Union.

    But last month, Nazarbayev, now president of independent Kazakhstan joined China's president in signing a "strategic partnership" agreement.  

    The two presidents promised to double two-way trade during the next four years and they signed accords for the latest multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment in Kazakhstan, this time for copper.  

    Next door, in Turkmenistan, China recently extended a $4-billion credit to double gas exports east to China.

    With massive amounts of oil and gas now flowing eastward, China is displacing Russia as the largest source of trade and investment for all five former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

    The shift to China is so fast the Central Asian leaders worry about a backlash.  

    Recently, a Kazakh court gave long prison terms to two geologists convicted of selling mineral secrets to a Chinese agent.

    Separately, a Kazakh presidential advisor denounced as 'dirty lies' a report his government had signed a secret 99-year lease of one-million hectares of farmland to China.

    But Von Eggert, the Russian analyst, does not predict Russia will capitalize on any anti-Chinese backlash.

    "Russia does not have enough political, economic, or for that matter military power, to send off this Chinese incursion into what used to be 'the zone of privileged interests of Russia' as President Medvedev once called it.  It is yet another sign of Russia's post imperial decline," noted Von Eggert.

    Meanwhile in Minsk, city planners are drawing up blueprints for Belarus' first "kitai gorod" or Chinatown.

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora