News / Economy

Vladivostok Shifts Into High Gear to Attract Asian Investors

James Brooke
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - Leaders from 20 nations around the Pacific Basin are gathering for their annual meeting on economic cooperation, held this year in Russia, a nation not often seen as a Pacific power.

To prepare for meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, Russia says it spent $22 billion modernizing Vladivostok, its main Pacific port city. That is 50 percent more than Britain spent to prepare London for this summer’s Olympic Games.

Heads of government flying into Vladivostok are arriving at a new international airport built to handle 15 million tourists - 10 times last year’s passenger load.

Major upgrades erected

They will zoom down brand new highways and bridges, including the world’s longest cable-supported bridge. Its one-kilometer-long central span is strung between two towers that are each taller than the Eiffel Tower.

That $1 billion bridge leads to Russian Island, the southernmost part of Vladivostok, and site of a brand new, American-style university campus. The national leaders are holding economic talks there on Saturday and Sunday; next month, when university classes resume, it will be home to 25,000 students.

Professor Artyom Lukin, director of international research at the Far Eastern Federal University, sees the summit as a coming-out party confirming Russia's status as a modern Pacific power.

“Russia wants to be a great Asia Pacific power - not just a great Eurasian power, but a great Asian Pacific power as well,” he said. “If you want to be a great power in the Pacific, you need a developed Pacific coast... the Russian Far East.”

Converting from fortress to gateway

Vladivostok means “to rule the east.” From czarist times to Soviet times, it served as a fortress city, beating back invasions launched from other parts of Asia. From Russian Island, surrounded by the Sea of Japan, six forts and 27 coastal batteries stood guard defiantly.

Now that it hosts the APEC conference, Russia’s biggest outreach to Asia in memory, Vladivostok's role is not to repel those arriving from abroad, but to welcome them as trading partners.
 
Russian authorities say they aim to double their Asia-Pacific trade, increasing it to half of the country's overall trade turnover.

Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov told VOA the Kremlin’s commitment is clear. Only two years ago the summit site was a completely empty field; since then workers have erected buildings with one million square meters of usable commercial space.

People walk over a tarmac with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) logo printed on it, in a central square of Vladivostok, Russia, September 6, 2012.People walk over a tarmac with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) logo printed on it, in a central square of Vladivostok, Russia, September 6, 2012.
x
People walk over a tarmac with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) logo printed on it, in a central square of Vladivostok, Russia, September 6, 2012.
People walk over a tarmac with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) logo printed on it, in a central square of Vladivostok, Russia, September 6, 2012.
Overnight transformation

Vladivostok’s upgrade is so abrupt that a cruise ship had to be brought in to house 500 summit participants.

Workers are still building two Hyatt hotels, the first international chain hotels serving the city of 600,000 people.

Aliya Turumbekova, Hyatt's marketing director, said the hotel group has long-range aims. “In the current time, since the Soviet system collapsed and the world opened for development, for trade, and for economic ties, we see Vladivostok as a good bridge between Europe and the bigger Asia."
 
Also under construction is a new opera and ballet theater. There are new gas pipelines and a new city sewage treatment plant. Within a year, work is to start on an oil refinery, a liquefied natural gas plant, and a massive gambling zone for Asian tourists. The goal is to make Vladivostok attractive for young people.

Retaining best, brightest

Lukin said one-third of his students usually leave the Russian Far East to seek jobs elsewhere.
 
“They leave for Moscow, St. Petersburg, Europe, the United States,” he said. “And most of them are the smartest students, unfortunately. So we are losing talent, it is kind of brain drain for the Russian Far East.”
 
But some of Vladivostok’s young people are embracing Russia’s turnaround on Asia. Anastasia Melnikova, just graduated from university, is looking for work at home, in Vladivostok.
 
“If you want to go to Moscow, you have to fly nine hours,” said Melnikova, 22, a publishing major. “If you want to go to Japan, you just have to fly just two hours. We are partners, and we will be partners for a long, long time.”
 
Vladimir Tananikin, a student of English and Spanish, sees China, whose border is only 60 kilometers away, as a plus.

“For me and people here, it is no problem that China is growing, and maybe we will help each other to grow together,” he said.
 
Now, Russia’s goal is to attract Asian investment. At a news conference for foreign reporters, the region’s new governor, Vladimir Miklushevsky, gave his sales pitch to a group of largely Chinese journalists. He said the Vladivostok region is now open for business, offering transparent and unchanging investment rules and a clampdown on corruption.
 
From historically repelling Asian invaders, this one-time fortress city now takes on a new role: attracting Asian investors.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8926
JPY
USD
123.71
GBP
USD
0.6358
CAD
USD
1.2364
INR
USD
63.600

Rates may not be current.