Russia’s East III: Volga-Yangtze Project
In my third and final blogpost on Sino-Russian relations (for the time being), I want to draw attention to the $3.5 billion investment plan the two countries pledged in May 2013. Unlike my previous post on the physical connection between China and Russia, here I will discuss the links between two places which are over 5000 kms apart.
The Volga-Yangtze Project was launched last year to facilitate the transfer of ideas in academia, industry and culture between these two industrial regions. Not only are the Volga and Yangtze the longest rivers on their respective continents, but also over 50% of each country’s population lives within their respective drainage basins. This bilateral project aims to strengthen ties, for the current environment, and also for generations to come, by pooling resources found in the industrial corridors which have built up around these long rivers. As it stands, 82 companies have signed up to cooperate in sectors varying from high-tech and innovation to helicopter manufacturing. Alongside these industrial initiatives, there will also be joint education programmes between the universities in both regions.
There are also proposals for a Russian-sponsored industrial park to open in the heart of the project in the Liangjiang New Area, in the city of Chongqing. This will provide Russians with an opportunity to make an impact on the Chinese market from a favourable location, within the country. Furthermore, it will promote cultural understanding between these two regions which, until now, have had very limited contact. There will even be restaurants serving Russian food, cultural performances and language training. I can just imagine it: Borsch served with chopsticks by a Chinese Pavel whilst you watch Cossack dancers.
The latest announcement for the project came in February when the Vice Mayor of Chongqing, Liu Qiang, announced the commencement of direct flights between Chongqing and various locations in the Volga region. In recent years the number of Chinese tourists visiting western Russia has steadily increased, but more flights to more places in Russia will no doubt boost the number of business travellers and holiday makers. Luckily there are numerous RHC hotels in the region ready to welcome – and make money from – this new influx of Chinese visitors. ;-)