03/23/2022, 14.55
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Heilongjiang seeking integration with Siberia

For the local Communist Party chief, regional synergy will boost the strategic cooperation between Beijing and Moscow. Developing Russia’s Far East would also help the Kremlin ease the burden of Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. However, Chinese nationalists view the region as part of China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Chinese province of Heilongjiang is seeking greater integration with neighbouring Siberia as a way to boost strategic cooperation between the two countries against the West, this according to Xu Qin, local Communist Party chief, cited by the official Heilongjiang Daily newspaper reports.

Xu spoke after Chinese President Xi Jinping met his US counterpart, Joe Biden, on 18 March via teleconference. On that occasion, the US leader said that there would be serious consequences for China if it helped Russia economically and militarily in its military campaign against Ukraine.

Washington and its European allies are pressing Beijing to distance itself from Moscow’s war, to little success.

Along with Jilin and Liaoning, Heilongjiang is one of the depressed industrial areas in northeastern China. Local authorities are looking to Russia’s Far East to give new impetus to the local economy.

Above all, Xu wants the Russian-Chinese pipeline inaugurated in 2019 to be rapidly expanded in order to turn the border town of Heihe into the gateway for trade with eastern Siberia.

According to Chinese experts, China will not impose sanctions and will buy more energy from Russia in the future. The debate remains open as to whether Beijing is ready to endanger trillions of dollars in trade with the US and Europe to save Moscow.

The Chinese and the Russians see the development of Siberia as a driver for regional growth.

For China, this would give a further boost to the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi's plan to make Beijing the main hub of world trade, via the Arctic route.

From a geopolitical point of view, the synergy with Moscow would secure China’s northeastern borders.

However, the Russian Far East requires huge infrastructural investments, especially in the energy sector, which would be a risk for Beijing if Moscow is cut off from international capital markets.

Then there is the problem of how local communities will view the growing "quasi-alliance" between China and Russia.

Siberian Russians have often shown concern over the growing presence of Chinese migrants in their region.

For their part, some Chinese nationalist groups claim that parts of Russia’s Far East, including Vladivostok, belong to China, unjustly taken by Moscow in the mid-1800s.

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