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"In the geopolitical sense, Russia has returned to the East"

Doctor of Historical Sciences, Director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Luzyanin told in an interview to the information and analytical agency East Russia - why officials need to meet and talk with scientists more often

"In the geopolitical sense, Russia has returned to the East"
Photo: TASS
- Sergey G., in the outgoing year you officially headed the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences. How do you see the future of the institute, which you yourself have been given for many years? Will you keep the traditions and stand behind the continuity of scientific generations, or will you start drastic changes?
- Among the great multitude of wise Chinese proverbs there is a couple of, widely replicated with us. I think it is not necessary to clarify whether it is living well in an era of change. Truth applies to people and to the entire scientific community, our institute is no exception.

My election as director of the Institute in time coincided with a difficult next period of reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences, when the Presidium of the RAS actually lost some of its powers, and all key financial and administrative levers were transferred to the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations in the rank of the Ministry - FAO. This is a giant bureaucratic organization. It is clear that these are mostly officials who did not have affairs with academic science. The reform primarily affected about 900 scientific institutes and centers (today their number has decreased to approximately 600) from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad and almost half a million scientists and technical staff from 25 to 50 years - chemists, physicists, biologists, historians, philosophers, social scientists , anyone. This is the intellect of Russia, its main value.

I have to explain in detail and constantly to officials what the Institute of the Far East is, why it is needed, why it is not in Vladivostok, but in Moscow and so on. Every time I spend such an educational program with a heavy feeling.

The Institute of the Far East is the largest not only in Russia, but also in the world of all who are engaged in comprehensive research of China. It is unique and has an 50-year history, since it was formed in the structure of the then Soviet Academy of Sciences in September of 1966 by a closed Politburo resolution of the CPSU Central Committee. It is clear why everything was done in such secrecy: 1966 year was the peak of tension in Soviet-Chinese relations, two big countries - "brothers forever" - stood on the verge of a big Soviet-Chinese war. Then it turned out that in the Soviet Union there is no complex expert-analytical structure that would know China from within, in detail, in all azimuths and directions. For this purpose, a scientific center was created. The resolution stated: "To create an institute that will engage in comprehensive research of China, in the open press call the Institute of the Far East." In fact, the institute was strictly focused on studying China as a likely enemy. Over time, relations between the USSR and the PRC (in the 1980-ies) have normalized, but not quite a logical name managed to become a world-class scientific brand, it was no longer worth changing. In 1991, we became an open institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Of course, the Chinese direction remained for us the main one, but about a dozen scientific centers appeared in the framework of the IFES - for example, Korean, Japanese, ASEAN centers, Vietnam, SCO, security in Northeast Asia and so on. The personnel "core" of the IFES was formed and replenished by professional Sinologists, former diplomats, scouts, military, journalists - that is, people who worked in China for a long time and knew the country and at least Chinese and English. In the staff of the IFES RAS now 265 people (including technical staff), almost all researchers have two languages, the second of which is eastern. There are no other such centers for studying China (neither the quality of work, nor the number of eminent scientists working in it). Even in America, such institutions have only 5-6 full-time employees, the rest are invited professors. Our experts-Sinologists - in weight of gold, this is "piece goods".

Our institute is experiencing is not the first reform. In the 90-ies, science also had a hard time, but we survived. At the initial stage, the new structures could not fully understand the Institute's main specificity that the IFES of RAS is the leader in the world Sinology school. The main expert-analytical materials for various visits of the president and other high-ranking state leaders (including the recent visit of Vladimir Putin to Japan) are prepared by our specialists. We were supported by the presidential administration, the Russian Foreign Ministry, and other services. Today we have 54 scientific partners in China, including elite universities of the PRC, institutes of KAON, we closely cooperate and hold joint conferences with Russian structures engaged in research in the field of international relations. In general, the RAS reform Institute of the Far East has so far "forded", overcame without particularly serious losses.

- The Russian state called the priority of its state policy in everything XXI Century "turn to the East." We now have a whole ministry - the Ministry of the Russian Federation for the development of the Far East, which is carrying out large-scale tasks in this direction. How often do the officials of this ministry apply to help your specialists in this regard?
- Rarely enough. They work, in my opinion, purely bureaucratic, and they are mainly engaged in the rise of the Russian Far Eastern regions, and questions about international contacts arise only to the extent. They need us when it comes to cross-border trade or investment projects, of which, unfortunately, there are not so many in the Far East. Relations and permanent contacts with the Ministry for the Development of the Far East have not yet developed. But we hope that the situation will change.

With the presidential representative office in the Far Eastern Federal District, headed by Yuri Trutnev, the contacts are more dense and meaningful, but we could also provide much more serious analytical support in everything related to relations with the APR countries and, above all, China. Perhaps the young ministry does not fully understand what powerful analytical resources the RAS IFES has. We have collected information literally for each district of China and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region. By the way, I must note that the Ministry of Economic Development has always been actively and with interest in cooperation with us - both the current Minister Maxim Oreshkin and Deputy Minister Stanislav Voskresensky. At his request, when Xi Jinping and the new Chinese elite came to power, we prepared a detailed study of the Chinese political and business elites for the Ministry of Economic Development, analyzed groups of influence in the oil and hydrocarbon market, in the banking and cross-border business. All this power deck was laid out literally as a card game - from jacks to kings and aces, showed formal and informal ties between them.

- And do representatives of big business who are interested in joint projects with East Asian partners turn to you?
- Just in this I see the spirit of the new time. In Soviet times, such economic mega-requests did not arise at all. Now we sometimes prepare studies for a number of large companies, including Norilsk Nickel, Rosneft and others. Naturally, we also do not act as in the old days with annual discussions. Within the framework of the RAS IFES, one-time (for a specific project) "mobile" groups of specialists from different centers are created, which can quickly complete the task and prepare complex content, but operational and clear information material for 30-40 pages with applications, personification and everything that required by business or diplomatic mission. By the way, the analytical project on China, which I spoke about, was prepared in less than a month. Today, contacts with large companies in a similar format have become a new direction for the institute.

- Sergey Gennadievich, after Vladimir Putin's visits to China and Japan, one can expect contacts with these countries to be activated in all directions. But we have to start at a very low level. What hindered and prevents to develop such contacts more intensively?
- Yes, our 60 billion dollars of trade with China is very little, they do not reflect the real hidden resources. We are going slowly and actually “lagging behind” compared to other countries that trade more actively and cooperate with the PRC. Whether we like it or not, the current level of trade with China and the not-too-high activity of our partners are connected with objective circumstances. Our economic models that have emerged over the past 30 years are absolutely asymmetric: in terms of its aggregate economic potential, Russia is about a quarter, or even one fifth of the Chinese. Fortunately, we are not losing ground in military-technical cooperation and nuclear energy, but on the whole, our exports for the most part are not high-tech, but raw materials. When it comes to the intensification of Russian-Chinese relations, the fact is immediately revealed: by and large, we have nothing to offer China, except for raw materials. And it can buy raw materials in other countries, and with better quality and cheaper. Only with the United States, China trades 600 billion dollars, and with a surplus of 320 billion. Whatever one may say, but China is the second economy in the world after the United States, it has already overtaken Japan.

On the other hand, Russia and China have a strategic format of relations, which no longer need to be "brought together and strengthened," since only union is next. Fortunately, we have settled all border issues with the PRC. Objectively, we are together in a "non-American" pool (the geopolitical rivalry between China and America will last for decades, despite their economic interdependence). For us, such a giant state, the future superpower, with which we have 5 thousand kilometers of common border, in no case should become an enemy. I will add that China, developing and rising, somewhat "presses" neighboring countries - India, Vietnam, Japan. The only country that is equal in status to it (that is, it has nuclear weapons and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with the right of veto) is Russia. Therefore, our economic interests may not coincide, but in the strategic plan the goals are common. China needs us as a strong "northern rear", Russia, too, is not going to hit a neighbor in the back. Our states are strategically connected also because it would be beneficial for both of them to equip Eurasia without US participation. This task is served by a variety of projects - through the SCO, through the conjugation of the economic belt of the Silk Road and the Eurasian Economic Union and others.

- The eternal question: will China not crush us with its power?
- Of course, China can, to a large extent, load any country with its capital and investments. Some risks remain in the economy always. But if earlier, for example, everyone was terribly afraid that China would flood all of Eurasia with its cheap goods, including the countries of Central Asia, now this problem has already been resolved. There was an alignment of prices, now it makes no sense to go to China for supposedly cheap consumer goods - in Russia everything is getting cheaper now, and in China it is becoming more expensive, including labor. Cheap Chinese goods in nature no longer exist - have disappeared. Part of the world's money is flowing to China, so we can benefit from integration with this country, the creation of a free trade zone and investment from the PRC. But this has become less interesting for China, so the negotiations are delayed and economically everything is somewhat cooler than in previous years. In a global economic partnership - on the contrary, “warmer, warmer, hot”.

- At one of the conferences you brought an interesting comparison-a metaphor. They called the economic belt of the Silk Road, which is now actively developing, a "large closet," which will eventually fill with projects, but for now it's half empty. And how many shelves in this "cupboard" are allocated for Russia and are there any?
- The "shelf" is small, and it is not 100% usable. The economic belt of the Silk Road in the classical version, which has already been approved in China, mostly goes through Kazakhstan, bypassing the Russian Far East and Siberia, and then immediately goes to the Trans-Urals, the western part of Russia, to the Kazan-Moscow high-speed railway. That is, a significant part of our territory is cut off from this project, and instead of a long "shelf" we get only the very edge of it, about a third. This means that the Transsib, which is still not in a better position, will experience increasing difficulties and gradually come to desolation. Therefore, we are trying to diversify our participation in the Silk Road, pulling the Mongolian Steppe Road project to it, creating a triangle (or corridor) between Russia and Mongolia - China, in order to compensate for the decaying part of the Transsib.

With the Silk Road, everything is very difficult, there are a lot of issues that have not yet been worked out - for example, the issues of security and protection from terrorists of all stripes, which the Chinese are still extremely reluctant to talk about. But in any case, Russia has a distinct interest here. What can not be said about the transport corridor, which was called the Sea Silk Road. It goes through the South and Indian seas to the Atlantic and does not concern us absolutely.

Our business is to fill the accessible part of the "shelf". There are already Russian-Chinese joint ventures, joint production of liquefied gas, road and infrastructure construction projects, humanitarian and tourist initiatives ...

- In one of the interviews, you called the attitude of China to Russia "a position of friendly neutrality." Is there any chance that China will give us more substantial support in the Ukrainian issue, recognizes the Crimea?
- Theoretically it is possible. But the Chinese never do anything just like that. There is always a bargaining, "bash to the bash," suppose they would be ready to recognize the Crimea - but in return Russia, in their opinion, should formally support the PRC in disputes with Vietnam over the Spratly Island, with Japan on Diaoyu Island (in the Japanese version of Senkaku) , And further on the list there are also 5-6 countries. But we did not interfere in principle or interfere in these disputes. As well as China, it stands apart from our dispute with Japan around the Kurils. In this sense, the Crimea would have to pay a diplomatically disproportionate price. In addition, China is not only a great power, but also an over-cautious one. He would not want to quarrel with the US and the European Union or Japan because of Russian-Ukrainian issues, since he does not see a particular advantage in this. Unofficially it is always said "we support you", but then it never comes. With China, relations with China are also normal, which does not prevent the Chinese from participating in joint ventures with Russia, which are building a bridge across the Kerch Strait ...

There is always a line that we can not go over in relations with China. Even if you establish official alliance with him, he will not want to bind his hands in many things (including the Crimean question). Similarly, Russia can not be tied even to such a strong partner as the Celestial Empire, we must have freedom of maneuver in all directions - South Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and so on. If, apart from China's support, we have no other trump cards, this trump card will surely turn out to be a bit, and then we will lose all the time.

- Are there any projects that are particularly beneficial for us in similar other areas?
- Prospects for our strategic partnership were defined in the new concept of Russia's foreign policy, approved by the president 30 November 2016 and the next day came into force. I do not know if you paid attention to the order in which the countries that represented the greatest interest for Russia were listed? In the section "Asian countries" the first place is, naturally, China, and which country do you think is the second? India. On the third place is Mongolia. And only after them goes Japan. Directly about "priorities" is not mentioned, but in such documents the transfer, if it is not in alphabetical order, is always meaningful.

- And what are the mutual interests of Russia and Mongolia, Korea, Vietnam now?
- In Soviet times there was a saying "a hen is not a bird, Mongolia is not abroad". It was considered almost the sixteenth unrecognized republic of the USSR. But this era is gone forever. By the way, we want to work in Mongolia on numerous deposits discovered by Soviet geologists, incidentally, but it turns out that the same is done by large Japanese companies, and we need to participate in tenders on a general basis, join consortiums, adapt to new market conditions. And we gradually learned to do it. Mongolia is still a very attractive country for us. During the Soviet era, more than 50 strategically important deposits were discovered there - for example, Tavan-Tolgoi and Uy-Tolgoi in the southern part of the country are in the top three of the world's coal deposits, which can be mined in a cheap open pit. There is also a whole range of metals - copper, nickel, tin, silver, uranium ores, etc. Their development is just beginning.

Its 24% stake in the mining and processing enterprise Erdenet, which in the 60-s. XX century, the USSR built on a copper deposit, we again sold to the Mongolian side for a simple reason - the combine has developed its resources.

In relations with South Korea and the DPRK, we have to balance all the time, observing a certain "parity". In any case, one has to take into account that Kim Jong-un's regime is legal and recognized at the UN level. No matter how we treat him. And this country has nuclear weapons, whether we like this situation or not. At the same time, missile defense systems and a new American military base are being deployed in South Korea. We understand that these factors need to be "frozen" for ourselves and taken out of the brackets, taken for granted. And already somewhere above them, or aside from these factors, develop relations with the two countries without touching on controversial issues. We criticize the nuclear status of the DPRK, we do not like the military base in Korea. But we cannot remove either one or the other. If the situation in this chess game is stalemate, then it is necessary to switch to another board and play the Russian-South Korean game there.

As for Vietnam, we have contradictions with it - for example, about the Kamran base or the construction of a nuclear power plant. But the basis that was laid down during the Soviet era remains: the common interests in the sphere of oil and gas production on the shelf. Sovvietpetro is a powerful system of joint ventures that have been preserved and are fully operational. The second "clue" is the Kamran base, which was once an oceanic military-nuclear node for the USSR, where strategic nuclear submarines and cruisers of all types were based. It was a mistake to leave this base, but now we return there, even if by a small fleet. In strategic terms, Russian-Vietnamese relations are under strong pressure from China, which has been arguing with the Vietnamese dispute over the last ten years for the islands. Each side is trying to win Moscow over to its side. At a certain moment, a particularly acute situation arose around the oil tower, which the Chinese brought to Vietnamese territorial waters on a floating pontoon. For a step before a real war, the conflict was settled, but it was finally clear: there is a "red line", which can not be passed. Russia, in any case, will take a neutral stance and strive for a peaceful settlement of the bilateral dispute of the other two countries as an influential and authoritative arbiter - but it will not exactly interfere with these conflicts.

During the current term of Vladimir Putin's presidency, Russia returned to the East in geopolitical terms. By the way, I should note with some pride: I described this alignment as an expert in 2006 when I published the book "The Eastern Policy of Putin. Return of Russia to the Great East. " I was very much criticized for the ideas of the "imperial revival", etc. I could not foresee a series of velvet revolutions, but I felt a certain tendency towards what we are observing now, which I wrote about in my book.

- During the recent visit of Vladimir Putin to Japan, you were in great demand as an expert. I will not repeat the questions asked repeatedly about specific agreements. I will only ask about what you think is particularly symbolic in the outcome of the visit?
- All the statements that were made during the visit by the top officials of Russia and Japan always had strong implications. The agreement on joint economic development of the Kuril Islands in clearly defined areas of the economy (ecology, fisheries, tourism, medicine, etc.) is the first step towards preparing a large peace treaty in the future. But it is especially important that both sides were able to get away from the “sacred” theme of controversial islands, which no Japanese politician can touch without risking his career. Putin and Abe put the "sacred" problem on our sinful land, calmly agreeing on the details of joint development. Moreover, they left the insane idea of ​​joint jurisdiction of such a process, which was first proposed by the Japanese side. Jurisdiction remains Russian, although the Japanese can live on the islands. But Putin immediately tightly closed the possibilities for any interpretation of his words, saying: "We don’t have a territorial problem at all."

There is another hidden effect in this visit. He probably will cheer up our Chinese friends a little - if the Japanese do not doze and do their business, China, too, should not oversleep its benefits.

- The question is rather psychological than regional geography: what is the difference between Japanese and Chinese when they act as our partners?
- The Japanese are in principle much more complicated than the Chinese. They look as though through you, even if they smile and make ceremonial obeisances. They are in the soul of the samurai, the children of God (Shinto is actually the emperor-god). They do not care too much what some people think that do not belong to the divine nation. And the Chinese look at you, inside, into your soul, and climb up to you all the brains to spread out your thoughts to the last understandable point. It is difficult with both, and with others. Simply with them, in any case, one must be able to speak and come to compromises. To statesmen in this respect it is more difficult, they are constrained by a lot of conventions and protocols. We, modest experts, are more free in our statements and forecasts. But we work in any case for common purposes.

Published in the "East of Russia" tab of the "Izvestia" newspaper
(Joint project of the newspaper Izvestia and EastRussia)

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