02/18/2021, 10.35
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Moscow on crash course with Europe. Beijing lays claim to Siberia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The new "hybrid" cold war between Russia and the EU began with the annexation of Crimea. Putin's imperial ambitions clash with China's claims. On Chinese social networks the hashtag “Give us back Siberia” is going viral.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On February 15, in a press conference after meeting with his Finnish colleague Pekka Haavisto in St. Petersburg, Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrov declared that "our relations with the European Union are falling apart, and not our fault ".

Lavrov explained that after the Ukrainian Euromaidan "coup" in 2014, the European Union showed its inability to control the situation, yielding to the Ukrainian rebels and later shifting all the blame to Moscow, issuing sanctions after the referendum for the annexation of Crimea and the rebellion of the Donbass separatists. And now Russia is ready to completely break off relations with Brussels, which it also accuses of supporting the protests in favour of Alexei Navalnyj's movement from outside.

In recent years, a new “hybrid” variant of the cold war between Russia and the West has arisen from the Ukrainian drama: great Russian counter-espionage activism in European countries; support for populist and sovereign parties by the Kremlin; intrusions by hackers and trolls into social networks in favour of Russian interests.

The hostility of Russia towards Europe leads to the propaganda of the imperial ambitions of the Putinian regime, and to the legalization of its territorial conquests.

But Russia's expansionist interests have met with an obstacle in the East: China does not look kindly on Russian activism, which risks creating obstacles to the Japanese economic growth projects. On the contrary, the Chinese themselves are beginning to have expansionist aims towards the West, to the detriment of the Russian territories: the slogan "Give us back Siberia" is becoming viral on Chinese social networks.

In the last 10 years, China’s GDP has doubled, and a large middle class has begun to form, in addition to the small group of "regime oligarch" billionaires. The idea of ​​recovering the "lost territories" spreads precisely as a result of the increasingly widespread well-being; and the Russian annexation of Crimea inspired the same idea on the Chinese side.

On Weibo, more and more users write that Putin's Russia sooner or later will have to voluntarily return one and a half million square kilometers of territory, torn up during the nineteenth century by the aggressive tsars with unjust negotiations. This interpretation has not been censored by the internal censors, also because it corresponds perfectly to the contents of Chinese school textbooks.

In fact, the Russian tsars made much wider claims than all the countries that divided up the Chinese territories in the 19th century. The Bolshevik regime did not change the imperialist attitude of the Tsarist regime towards China. Even the inhabitants of Buryatia (see photo: Lake Baikal), Russian citizens of Mongolian and Chinese ethnicity, have long been asking to be reintegrated in the Siberian federal region, and many would like to be re-annexed to China.

In 2020, the Chinese foreign ministry forced the Russian embassy to delete the explanation of the name of the city of Vladivostok, "Dominion of the East" from its website and to restore its Chinese name of Haishenwai (海参崴) to the great Russian port center on the Pacific. And so, precisely the Russians, who demand the return of territories such as Crimea, have shown the Chinese how to recalim Ksibolia, the real name of Siberia, for Beijing.

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