24 October 2012

Could It Happen? China hastens its planned invasion of Siberia to access newly discovered oil and gold fields

The title of this posting is taken from the Wikipedia article describing the Tom Clancy thriller: The Bear and the Dragon. Novelists are known for taking liberties with the facts, but that is all in the nature of fiction writing. In reality, could China be planning an invasion of Siberia in order to take over the massive resources there?

Certainly the Russians have been considering the possibility for several years:
Russian assessments from 1997 suggested that China, not the United States, posed the greatest threat to Russia’s interests and allies. Indeed, leading Russian scholars of international relations such as Alexei Arbatov predicted that over the next five to 20 years, Russia should carefully watch China’s expansionism toward Siberia and the Russian Far East, as well as Central Asia ... _thediplomat
“[Russians are] still worried that China will invade Siberia one day because of the resources,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior analyst at military and public sector think tank CNA, said in an interview last month.

“Because from the Russian point of view it’s a very sparsely populated area, hard to defend, very remote from the center of Russia,” he said. _Taipei Times
They have good reason to be concerned. The ethnic Russian population of Siberia is disappearing at the same time that the Chinese population in Siberia -- legal and illegal -- is growing. Russia's population is increasingly crowded to the west of the Urals, making it more difficult for the Russian Bear to keep an eye on its vast and immeasurably wealthy land areas to the west.

And on another level, Russia needs to be concerned about the demographic pressures influencing China's top leaders. Like most of East Asia, China is rapidly ageing -- losing its young workforce at the same time it is gaining large populations of the old and infirm.
Whatever China's leaders are going to do to guarantee China's rightful place in the top rank of world powers, it will need to do before its people turn gray and shrunken.

Russia is struggling with an economy built upon an over-reliance on oil & gas exports -- and very little else. Corrupt -- like most oil dictatorships -- Russia also struggles with a collapsing public health infrastructure, an ongoing brain drain of the best and brightest of its young, and a level of stealth capital flight that officials cannot tally, much less control.

Russia is a nation that shows the world a pretty face, but inside it is rotting from tuberculosis, HIV, alcoholism, and a deep despair that too often results in suicide. And the numbers of ethnic Russians continues to drop -- while the numbers of immigrants from the third world grows, blurring the underlying population trends.

Will China invade Siberia? It has been doing so for over a hundred years. But the pace of invasion does seem to have picked up recently.

It is more than likely that China's leaders are biding their time, scouting the terrain, looking for the best opportunity. In the end, Tom Clancy may have gotten off a lucky shot.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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