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No. 20 (20) December 2005
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Elena Dorokhova,
China in the region: what to expect in the future?
Evgeny Rumyantsev
We present one of the opinions of specialists about the influence of China on its neighbors in general and on Central Asia, in particular. We hope that in the next issues we will have the opportunity to publish other opinions. The correspondent of "Oasis" Inara Sattarova talks with Sinologist Yevgeny Rumyantsev (Moscow).

Corr .: Recently there have been opinions that the expansion of China at the expense of Siberia, the Far East and Central Asia should not be feared, nor should the economic development of this country be feared. The Chinese can migrate, go to work, but will not live permanently in a foreign territory. How well do you think such a point is possible?

Y.R .: The opinion that the Chinese do not live anywhere else except China is wrong. Chinese diasporas exist in many countries of the world and on all continents, and their numbers are only growing, especially in the border states. In 2000, for example, data appeared indicating that 50 million Chinese live outside of China. Naturally, this figure is growing, because China is overcrowded. The most “free” in China itself is only in Tibet, where the climatic conditions are not very favorable and in Xin Jiang, due to the existing political instability there.

As for whether China is a threat, it is difficult to say for sure. It depends on what we mean by threat. If the threat is a direct military attack, then Russia should not be afraid of this. If we look at the list of threats that each modern state faces, in terms of national security, economy, food and so on, in this regard, China is a if not a threat, then a huge problem, because China is a gigantic, rapidly developing country , with a huge population, which is actually an independent civilization, consuming a huge amount of resources. Therefore, it is natural that everyone thinks “what will happen if this development continues at the same pace and the consumption of natural resources increases”?

Corr .: How realistic do you think the Chinese economic expansion is?

E.R .: It is no secret that in China there is a strategy to go beyond national borders. This means that Chinese companies should develop exports more extensively, buy assets of foreign enterprises, move production abroad. They began by buying a number of enterprises of bordering countries, and now they are making an application for the purchase of large oil enterprises in the USA, Canada, Australia, which is a matter of concern for certain segments of society, politicians and special services. According to my information, in Canada, for example, they are working on or are already preparing amendments to the law on foreign investment, which are aimed precisely at preventing, firstly, Chinese commercial espionage, and, secondly, this kind of acquisition. Because, according to some Canadian experts, the purchase of companies by Chinese is different from purchases by representatives of other countries, because, in fact, the Chinese are behind the state, and, as a result, the assets are acquired not by commercial organizations, but by a state that is able to use them for upholding their interests. Plus, with regard to economic expansion, Chinese goods diverge around the world, including in Russia, which, in general, is detrimental to the national producer. Moreover, in some cases, as a result of not fair competition, because in China there is cheap labor and there are not many social gains among workers in Russia and in the West. In addition, this export is greatly encouraged by the state, which is largely dependent on it. As for Russia itself, in 2001 I published an article in the Rossiysky newspaper in Moscow. It was written on the basis of the studied Chinese newspapers, which are published in Moscow and on the basis of some other sources. Then, in September 2001, the then head of the Chinese government, Zhu Rongji, visited the Moscow embassy in Moscow and met with Chinese businessmen working in Russia. It was said there that the volume of the so-called national trade amounts to $ 10 billion a year. What it is? This is a shuttle business, that is, this is what the Chinese are importing, in fact, by smuggling. True, they deny that this is smuggling, saying that this is a question inherited from history, that some Russian businessmen and customs officers who take bribes are to blame - that’s all they say is correct, but the Chinese goods are imported here customs duties. What is a violation of the current legislation of the Russian Federation. And, in general, the above amount in 2001 was not known to anyone, and since then, I suppose that it only increases. Because nothing has been done to curb this trade. A joint group has been established to study this problem, but this is a favorite Chinese method and, I think, not only Chinese. If you want to “wind up” the solution of the issue, then create a joint group and hold its meetings. I know that such a group has been created, but that something has been done there to regulate this issue, to introduce it into the legal direction - I don’t know anything about it.

Corr .: This expansion is going more and will continue to go in the direction of Russia or Central Asia, because with China, China also has a fairly long border?

Y.R .: I think that it will go, as the Chinese comrades express, in all azimuths, that is, where they can expand - they will expand. Since China has 1.5 billion people, and maybe more, they need work, they need sources for existence, therefore, in general, expansion in all directions is inevitable.

Corr .: Some time ago, Askar Akayev gave some border territories to China. Now the new government of Kyrgyzstan is trying to revisit these borders again and return these territories. Do you think this is real or not?

Y.R .: You know, I consider this issue with a feeling of deep regret, because the territorial issue is always fraught with great international complications and if the transfer of these territories is legally fixed, then I can’t imagine that it will be possible to practically return them. I think that in the end Kyrgyzstan is unlikely to do this. As the saying goes, "that with the cart fell - something was gone."

Corr .: After the Andijan events, Putin supported Karimov. Karimov actually broke off all relations with the United States and became an ally of China and Russia. How can you comment on these events?

E.R .: As for Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization plays a certain role. In principle, the establishment of relations can only be welcomed, naturally, having made some reservations so that it does not go at the expense of the state interests of the participating countries. Now a complex geopolitical situation, which can be described as “the war of all against all,” therefore, some such agreements are completely natural.

Corr .: How do you assess the creation of the SCO and its activities? Is it possible to make a forecast of the further development of this organization?

E.R .: Now this question is quite acute and interesting, since recently there has been a growing public attention to this organization, to its actions in relation to American bases in Central Asia. The history of the creation of this organization began with the signing of agreements on measures of trust in the border area, in which China, on the one hand, participated, and on the other, Russia and other countries located along the border with China, which, according to some authoritative domestic Chinese scholars, did not correspond interests of Russia. It was signed in the mid-90s and had the character of unilateral concessions with respect to China. Let me remind you that it was about the limitations of military activities a hundred kilometers from the border. But the fact is that all Russian troops were already a hundred kilometers from the border, between the railway and the border. The history of the formation of the SCO is not straightforward. First, of course, this organization, in which, the main role is played by China, and the activities of which are directed by China, but this does not mean at all that it is not necessary to develop cooperation with China and other SCO member countries, if there is a possibility for this. Secondly, with regard to the intentions of China regarding this organization, that is, a fact indicating that at a certain stage, the Chinese political leadership considered this organization as one of the tools to safeguard their interests in the countries bordering on China. Because there is a SCO - this is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and there is another project, about which there is not a single mention in the Russian-language Internet, but it was in English-speaking - this is CBS, that is, the Kunming Cooperation Organization. (Kunming is the center of the Chinese province of Yun Nan, in southwestern China.) We are talking about uniting Burma and India with China within this organization. The fact that India became an observer of the SCO seems to indicate that the creation of the CBS organization has stalled or the Chinese side has lost interest in its creation. Some in Russia issue the SCO for some great achievement of Russian foreign policy, which causes doubt. The SCO began with the conclusion of agreements that, in principle, were not profitable for Russia. But now, nevertheless, cooperation is being established within the framework of this organization, which contributes to the improvement of Russia’s relations with China and upholding the interests of the countries of this region in front of some third countries, specifically, let's say, in front of the United States. However, what will happen next with this organization still needs to be seen, since, from the point of view, the coverage of the territories, the nature of the states that enter or can enter is still a fairly “loose” organization.

Corr .: Do China with India, if I am not mistaken, continue to have serious border problems?

E.R .: Yes, they have border problems, but in the past few years, the parties have done a lot to alleviate the existing problems and develop cooperation. The parties have eliminated the obvious abnormalities as a result of goodwill, which, apparently, greatly raised the level of relations. But, in principle, India and China are two geopolitical rivals, the two largest states in Asia, therefore, it is natural that there will be both competition and contradictions, and cooperation there.

Corr .: If I am not mistaken, Xin Jiang is still almost a 90% Muslim area?

Y.R .: I think you are mistaken because he was more than 90% Muslim in 1949, but much has changed since then. Now I do not know. The exact number of Xin Jiang’s purely Chinese population has not been published, but according to my data, it has either already exceeded or is about to exceed 50 percent. Therefore, I think that if in a few years a democratic vote is held there on the ownership of the autonomous region, the results will be obvious.

Corr .: Does this mean that the Uigurs' demands for separation are not realistically under any circumstances?

Y.R .: You know, from the point of view of the real political situation, I think this is unlikely. Although the complaints of the Uighurs are known to me and they, to a sufficient degree, correspond to reality, but, on the other hand, in this area, significant successes have recently been achieved in social and economic life.

Corr .: And how realistic is the accession of Taiwan to mainland China?

Y.R .: In any case, it can be said that the pressure of the PRC on Taiwan is growing, and China has achieved great success in its policy aimed at resolving this issue. In short, Mao Zedun once said: “Either war will cause a revolution, or revolution will prevent a war.” So, if this is applied to this situation, then either Taiwan or its ideological activity will lead to an internal explosion in China or, if this explosion does not happen, Taiwan will be joined, and, most likely, by peaceful means, because, from my point view, the situation for a military conflict is not yet ripe.

Corr .: Recently, there was a message on the Internet by one of the Chinese politicians that if the United States prevented the accession of Taiwan, then China could use nuclear weapons. How likely is it?

E.R .: I want to clarify the situation. It was a conference organized by a foundation in Hong Kong, where Major General, Comrade Zhu Chenghu, who was the head of the Institute for Defense Problems at the University’s Liberation Army University of China, spoke, and it was about that if the US intervened in the conflict in the Taiwan Strait and will apply its missile against China, then China will give a decisive answer. And China has already prepared for the cities to the east of Xian (Xian is central China, closer to Mongolia) to be destroyed. But the United States must also prepare for the fact that 100, 200 or more cities will also be destroyed on their Pacific coast. The conference was held in July, and on September 1, in connection with the preparation of the visit of President Hu Jintao to the United States, which did not take place due to a natural disaster, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China said that this was a personal point of view of Major General Zhu Chenghu. Given the knowledge of Chinese realities, it is difficult to believe. And in the USA they reacted to this very negatively and there were a lot of comments on this issue.
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