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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8769
    JPY
    USD
    107.28
    GBP
    USD
    0.6842
    CAD
    USD
    1.2528
    INR
    USD
    66.384

    Rates may not be current.