«Белкомур» и роль Китая ('Belkomur and the role of China')

EKO, No. 9, 2022, pp. 8-33.

The further development of the Northern Sea Route, including the associated logistical chains and infrastructure, enjoys high priority in Russia, and inadequate south – north transportation capacity is recognized as a problem. China has shown increasing interest in Arctic shipping over the past ten years. The construction of a railway from the Urals, with connections to China, to a deep-water port with access to the Arctic Ocean appeared attractive, both as a strategic opportunity for China and as a natural area for Chinese engagement in Russia, given announcements of the close partnership and common interests between the two countries. Since 2012 various Chinese companies have shown interest in investing, and the conclusion of a concession agreement has been announced several times. The Russian federal authorities have voiced support, without committing budget funding. Increasingly, however, critical remarks have been heard from the federal government, although regional support remains strong. As of early 2022 no firm agreement had been signed, and the project was put on hold. Reviewing the history of the project since Chinese companies were first engaged, this article offers insights on Russian regional authorities’ scope for maneuvre and the relationship between central and regional power. It also reveals Russian misinterpretations of Chinese interest in the project.



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