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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8998
    JPY
    USD
    103.32
    GBP
    USD
    0.7594
    CAD
    USD
    1.3176
    INR
    USD
    66.954

    Rates may not be current.