Russian publications through the first half of the fall of 2017 were largely optimistic, assuming the decline of the United States, the reliability of China as a partner, and a considerable Russian leverage in East Asia, including in North Korea. Yet, they recognized that the Eastern Economic Forum failed to attract Asian investors, the Greater Eurasian Partnership lacked much substance with ASEAN an illusive target, and the Chinese tourism boom in Russia generated little revenue. High expectations for the “turn to the East” and the convergence of Sino-Russian regional initiatives had faded and aspirations for breakthroughs with Tokyo and Seoul had quieted, but some economic confidence had returned, while political confidence heightened in other regions was echoed in pieces on East Asia.
In Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’ Dmitri Strel’tsov wrote about Russian attitudes toward the territorial disputes in Asia, notably three disputes involving Japan and those in the South China Sea. He stressed the economic interests at stake, adding that they are not as important for Russia and, except for the Kurile conflict, Russia is taking a more neutral stance, as demonstrated when it hosted APEC in 2012. A basic factor in Russia’s approach is its priority of the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East, leading it to seek good ties with all participants in economic integration in East Asia. Staying neutral prevents a serious chill in relations with those on the other side. Strel’tsov insists that Russia cannot lose this balance or become dragged into a conflict. He strongly opposes internationalization of the disputes with outside actors or through an international court without the full participation of all the actors involved, consistent with the Soviet objection to Japan in 1988 taking the Southern Kuriles to the G7. Recognizing that China’s policies raise serious concerns among its neighbors and complicate the task of balancing between China and them, Russia resolved its territorial dispute with China intent on forestalling any revanchism, which compels it to deny any possibility of change in state borders in the region. On the Sino-Japanese dispute, the danger of war between nuclear powers (the United States) and the proximity of Russian territory mean that Russia cannot stand aside, as this will cost its national interests. It, thus, strives to avoid any steps that could be wrongly construed as pro-China or pro-Japan. Western media sometimes assert that Russia is taking a position in the East China Sea to pressure Japan, as in the June 2016 joint exercises near the disputed islands, for which Sankei expressed concern about a Sino-Russian military alliance. Instead, China does not recognize that Crimea belongs to Russia and, since 2014, has not once sent its naval vessels to port there—reason for Russia to stand aside in East Asia.
There was more talk of a Sino-Russian alliance in response to military exercises in the South China Sea and of Russia demonstrating solidarity with China on the territorial issues there, demonstrated by Putin’s refusal to recognize the international tribunal’s ruling. Strel’tsov argues that Russia adheres to neutrality and that a court ruling could also be sought by Japan in its dispute with Russia. Many Southeast Asian states, including Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with which Russia has important economic and political interests, count on multi-national involvement. Russia is in danger of losing its authority over them if it is seen as “pro-China,” and its economic projects favor China’s interests, as in the case of Rosneft’ and Gazprom in Vietnam’s waters. Vietnam buys extensively Russian military technology, leading to Russian ambivalence toward the South China Sea problems. Yet, China accepts Russia’s ties to Vietnam as the lesser of two evils in comparison to the US-Vietnam military cooperation, since Russia does not counteract China but simply attempts to boost its own influence in Asia.
As for the Russo-Japanese territorial dispute, Strel’tsov sees little prospect of a deal. Russia’s position is based on the aftermath of WWII, which Japan does not want to recognize as it focuses on “historical injustice.” Japan treats the territorial issue as a means to alter the results of WWII and, thus, become a “normal country.” This is a fundamental difference even if Russia recognizes the existence of a problem, at odds with the other disputes, and agrees to negotiations unlike in the cases of other territorial disputes in East Asia as well as joint development.
In Kommersant on September 8, Alexander Gabuev asked why Asian investors are not interested in the Eastern Economic Forum. The forum is institutionalized in the manner of the Petersburg gathering: the president attends along with high-ranking officials, captains of state companies, and oligarchs, and significant noise is produced about agreements worth trillions of rubles even if they are not necessarily always fulfilled. This was even more so at the Vladivostok forum over the past two years than at the Petersburg one, understandably given the difficult conditions for conducting business in the Russian Far East. One might surmise that the main task is to host leaders of major countries at the plenary session, and this year the heads of Japan and South Korea were present along with the president of Mongolia. Gabuev notes, however, another difference that calls into question the success of the Eastern forum. In Petersburg, many foreign businessmen arrive representing global companies, as seen this year when 1200 foreign guests attended (250 of whom were Americans despite the ongoing conflict with the West and its sanctions on Russia). The Vladivostok forum, while intended to attract Asian business, is mainly attended by Russians; many panels do not even have Asian investors on them. Most Asian guests that joined are not high-level, and cannot match the presence of some heads of Japanese and Korean corporations that accompanied Abe and Moon. A typical situation is as follows: at a session on the role of the Russian Far East in the integration initiatives of the Asia-Pacific region, the speaker from Russia is Vice-premier Igor’ Shuvalov and the speaker from neighboring China is the director of a brain trust in the government of Shenzhen, i.e., an official of a department under a city mayor. Even if from a major city, such a discrepancy in delegates’ ranks begs the question as to whether it is productive for Russia to have Prime Minister Abe come to raise the territorial question and President Moon to seek Moscow’s help in resolving the nuclear problem of the DPRK. It is not so apparent that Asian business is profitable for the Russian Far East when it cannot even clear the way to complete the construction of two five-star hotels in Vladivostok, the article concludes.
In Vedemosti on September 17, Alexander Gabuev and Eduard Voitenko wrote about the Chinese tourism boom in Russia, bringing 1.3 million visitors in 2016 and a further 21 percent rise in the first half of 2017. Increasing popularity of traveling among Chinese middleclass, the devaluation of the ruble, the development of the air network, and the possibility of visa-free travel make Russia ever more attractive. More tour groups mean more money, jobs, taxes paid, and better knowledge of Russia in China, which is important as the confrontation with the West deepens. Yet, the article points to risks as well—for instance, in Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, the number of visitors have risen by 158 percent in 2016, with rumors of a jump from 43,500 to one million per year ahead, which may not be ecologically viable, given their inability to respond and the grey economy. Tour leaders illegally operate as guides, depriving Russians of jobs and distorting knowledge of Russia to the point of insisting that Irkutsk is inherently Chinese land and should be returned. Hotels and restaurants visited are only nominally owned by persons with Russian passports, and stores lead to money being returned to China. Cultural behavior in public places arouses anti-Chinese emotions, adding to stereotypes instead of ridding people of them. Legal instruments suffice, the article adds, to take this tourism out of the shadows, but there is fear of how Chinese business will react and inter-state relations will be damaged. Chinese lose, too, since unreported cash transactions lower tax payments and tourists receive poor quality goods at inflated prices. Russia needs police and others prepared to deal with Chinese, and, the authors add, it needs to hike prices to tourists for the purpose of ecological protection with discounts given to Russians.
On October 2, Dmitrii Orlov asked in Nezavisimaya Gazeta if Kirghiz residents are fearful of China in light of the large debt they owe, as some are asking why China lent their country so much money. Questions are raised about how Kirghizstan will repay these sums and whether economic independence will be lost. While Kirghiz migrants flood into Russia and Kazakhstan, Chinese workers are used in Chinese-funded projects in their country. The article warns that one needs to be alert to what one could lose in a deal with China, faulting Kirghiz officials for not conducting the necessary assessments. It observes that after Putin and Xi agreed to join the EEU and SREB, only Russia signed the declaration, not all of the EEU states. It further warns that China’s problems are growing, which can only be resolved by a full-scale expansion into Central Asia and the Russian Far East.
These concerns arouse Sinophobia among ordinary people, who wonder why their leaders do not see the same dangers. The article calls this the third wave of Sinophobia: 1) in the 1960s-80s; 2) at the start of the 2000s, after the SCO was formed and lasting until the Beijing Olympics; and 3) today despite no media mention of any kind of “China threat.” Noting the presence of 13 million Chinese in the United States, it sees no evidence of concern in US mass media about China taking over the US territory. Having parallels with Kirghizstan and having once been part of the Qing Chinese empire, Mongolia preserves its independence without fear of “Chinese expansion.” Thus, the article leaves unclear whether the fear of debt leading to a loss of independence is also unreasonable.
Andrei Lankov in Izvestiya on September 28 wrote that only migrants can save a rapidly aging South Korea, pointing to parallels for Russia and other states. He notes that the campaign to lower the birth rate in the 1960s-70s succeeded beyond expectations and continued to exert an influence as the rate fell to a record low of 1.08 in 2005. A new campaign sought to raise the birth rate to little effect, he argued, as the rate dropped to 103 in 2017. Meanwhile, life expectancy was approaching 83 years, one of the highest levels in the world with the prospect of the average for women exceeding 90 years in the 2030s. Economic growth is threatened by such an aging population. With little prospect of raising the birth rate, the article focuses on immigration, while observing that even those of Korean descent are isolated and not often given access to prestigious, high-paid work. Now there are about 2 million immigrants in the country (1/3 ethnic Koreans), who generally seek to return to their home countries when they have earned enough money. There is no way out, Lankov argues, until Koreans abandon hope in raising the birth rate significantly and recognize the need for a program to integrate immigrants into Korean society.
On October 2,7 Kommersant carried an article on Koreans in Russia, noting that 80 years ago, the first ethnic deportation in Soviet history began with more than 172,000 Koreans in the Russian Far East. The authors Aleksei Alekseev and Petr Silaev explain that the rationale was to prevent Japanese espionage in the region in the aftermath of the Japanese summer 1937 attack in China. Offering details on the Korean presence prior to deportation and on the relaxation of restrictions from the time they were allowed to obtain Soviet passports in 1946-47 and especially after the regime of special settlements was abolished in 1956, the article concentrates on what happened after 1993 when the Supreme Soviet recognized the illegality in how they had been treated, leading to widespread immigration into South Korea.
Across Russia, companies began to assist with documents to work in South Korea as YouTube opened horizons, to the point where emigration to South Korea became a mass phenomenon. The number of Russian citizens visiting rose almost five times from 2014 to 2016, with over 15,000 visitors and 14,669 visas issued. This excludes tourists and is mainly special visas for foreign Koreans. Within a few years the authors anticipate that about 150,000 Russian Koreans will have emigrated to South Korea from Russia, enabled by a 1999 law on repatriation of overseas Koreans. Then the law was narrowly focused, especially to help those forcibly resettled on Sakhalin by the Japanese but omitting their offspring. Soon their relatives were given permission to visit, leading young people to go to Korea for work, joining a mass of residents of the Russian Far East working there illegally. The former came to be seen as compatriots, and as cheap labor force.
The laws kept changing until in 2014 the majority of Koreans from the former Soviet Union were allowed to work in Korea legally even if there is avoidance of the notion of mass repatriation. One firm arranging jobs is cited, dealing with about 1000 persons a month in 2014 and now deals with about 5000 a month, saying that many are calling this an Exodus. Many come from Central Asia, but after the economic slide of 2014 the central parts of Russia are well represented, too. One firm located in Vladivostok has opened offices in Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Novosibirsk. Already the total number of families that have departed from the western part of Russia is estimated at over 10,000. They go for the money, on average for a person without qualifications from $70 to $120 a day, when their purchasing power is 1½ times that in Moscow. Few return, leading some to predict that all Russian Koreans will soon be living in Korea.
A turning point was reached with the switch from Sakhalin Koreans who had arrived in an area considered a part of Japan to fourth-generation Central Asian Koreans, who had moved to the Soviet Union and were far more numerous. In fact, it is estimated that there were about 500,000 “Koreans” in the countries of the former Soviet Union. While they are received without antipathy, there is dissatisfaction with migrant labor in general for lowering wages. Officially, the Korean position is not to encourage repatriation, but to offer support in their home countries or where they are currently living, due to a sense of historical responsibility. Still, Koreans prefer those of common descent as they absorb increasing numbers of migrant laborers, while also welcoming the resulting increase in the birth rate. The article adds that the immigrants do not pose any specific problems for society apart from arrests for drunkenness. A problem arises on the side of the migrants, however, since some are educated to be lawyers and doctors but only find menial labor in Korea.
On October 9, Georgii Toloraya wrote in the journal of MGIMO about prospects for US-North Korean dialogue, given rumors that contacts are occurring and that Russia could be a go-between. Since China’s ties to North Korea are spoiled and North Korea uses Russia to demonstrate to China that it has an alternative to arouse envy in China. Russia favors dialogue and wants to facilitate it, seeing this as a way to defend its national interests. It cannot exploit the situation for its own egoistic interests, lacking economic influence, but North Korea is not ready for dialogue until it can extract a much better deal by threatening the United States, and the US side is not ready for a compromise that could interest the North and to accept its nuclear weapons without recognizing it as a nuclear power. A formula is needed with the North agreeing to move toward full denuclearization and the US side agreeing that they will remain for a long time. Unity of China and Russia, as in their appeal for a double freeze, should play a major role in advancing this process.
Konstantin Asmolov on October 30 in Rossiya v Global’noi Politike discussed how Russia is handling the Korean crisis, arguing that it can lose less than others as the drift continues toward a potential explosion. Since the July warnings of a crisis on the verge of war, there has been talk of the crisis passing, but tensions rose again with the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises—larger and more threatening than Russia’s Zapad-2017 exercises. Feelings of being threatened in Pyongyang are not illusionary, and its rocket launches proving new capabilities are treated as reactive. The nuclear blast that followed on September 3 is treated differently, as if Kim Jong-un did not realize the impact, as seen in Security Council resolution 2375 on September 11. Pyongyang undertook a new missile test, Trump warned of destroying “Rocket Man’s” country and announced new sanctions on countries doing business with the North, to which Kim personally responded, upping the stakes. Sergei Lavrov equated the situation to a kindergarten squabble and sought a non-emotional response. Asmolov treats nuclear tests, military exercises, and sharp statements by leaders as equally at fault as the probability of conflict climbs to 35 or 40 percent.
Asmolov looks at the situation from Pyongyang’s perspective, figuring that the United States and its allies will destroy the DPRK as a state at the first opportunity: refusing to recognize it or to conduct official talks; demonizing it, blaming the new leader in a manner similar to blaming Russia today for Stalin’s state or for the wild 1990s; carrying out war activity no less than the DPRK; failing to recognize its vulnerability with no nuclear umbrella from allies and the lessons it learned from past talks from a position of weakness; and seeing how Maoist China was accepted after it went nuclear. The main need, it follows, is to reduce the threat to the DPRK of forcible regime change and to lighten the sanctions pressure. Finding moral arguments with far-fetched scenarios such as DPRK demands to “communize” the South baseless, Asmolov warns that Trump’s statements make it difficult for him to proceed beyond them without losing face, especially given the poor advice he is being given and the lack of US expertise at a time of demonization.
On November 7, Kommersant carried an article on how Trump was building a coalition against North Korea, focusing on his stops in Japan and South Korea and stressing that the positions of Trump and Putin are growing ever apart. In Tokyo Trump made the trade clash secondary as he stressed the nuclear threat. In place of negotiations, he emphasized pressure on Pyongyang and its threat to world civilization. Abe gave unqualified support to Trump on pressuring North Korea, as Abe broke from restraints shown by past leaders and gave Trump what he wanted. Moon is also showing solidarity with this line after a period of disagreement, readers are told. The article sees a zero-sum situation, intensifying pressure narrows the window for diplomacy, at odds with the appeals for restraint in China and Russia in order to resolve the crisis.
On October 24, in Kommersant an article appeared on China’s support for Russian logistics. It explained the current rise in shipments on all means of transportation as due not so much to the growth in Russia’s economy as to the rise in trade with China and the phenomenal upsurge in transit through Russia between China and Europe, even suggesting that 2017 may become a real renaissance in Russian logistics. Data on seaports from January to September show a 9 percent jump over corresponding traffic in 2016 to 580 million tons. Overland traffic rose by 9.3 percent to 272 million tons, including 13 percent more by containers to 35 million tons. The rise in the ports of the Russian Far East was 4.4 percent, while Arctic ports saw a 56.3 percent jump. Grains, coal, and fertilizer were among the leaders in growth in railroad shipments destined for export. The China-Mongolia, Russia, Belorus-Europe route saw a 30 percent rise in trains to 97, surpassing the total for all of 2016. E-commerce is expanding, with packages from China this year expecting to increase by 30 percent. One official is quoted as saying that Russia’s share of trade between China and Europe has been just 2-3 percent, but it is now notable how transit trade is changing across Russia’s international logistics space. Anna Semenova adds that some Russian companies are even optimistic that qualified international investors will pour capital into this logistics market.
One problem noted are strict formal demands by China for secrecy, as Chinese media are so fearful of getting into trouble they just cite foreign sources for data and Russian officials are tight-lipped. The article claims that Western sources have been too negative about Russian industry, exaggerating its fall, and about the success of the development of China’s military industry. Only at the end of the 2000s were the fruits of China’s cooperation with Russia clear, notably the 60th anniversary parade in 2009. China was overconfident about meeting its own needs in the mid-2000s and Russia had the means to rearm without relying on China and found more diverse arms markets in states flush with oil revenue. Booming Sino-Russian trade lowered the role of arms sales in bilateral economic relations. Russia focused more on risks in arms sales and demographic pressures despite resolving the territorial dispute at that time to the point it was curtailing border trade and ousting Chinese investors. But by the early 2010s China had recognized its continued dependence on critical Russian components, and after the 2008 economic crisis, Russia saw China in a more positive light. 2014 was decisive, when China emerged as the only major economy that did not impose sanctions and vigorously opposed them. In the spring of 2014, Russian offices analyzed the risks before throwing Russia into China’s embrace. It was decided that its foreign policy priorities, the presence of fewer than 250,000 Chinese outside of European Russia and most of them only for a short term, the unrealistic prospect that China would apply the “Crimean scenario” to land in the Russian Far East, and the diminishing prospects for the Chinese economy all lessen reasons for concern.
One official went so far as to equate Chinese and Russian interests. Relations with China became part of a strategy in case of a systemic crisis with the West: for revenue from trade, but more for boosting political relations while expecting that, in return, China would make it easier for Russia to get by through investments, credits, and necessary technology. Although for complex reasons China did not assist Russia on a vast scale (an anti-corruption campaign, a fall in prices for natural resources, a slowdown in China’s economy, and companies attentive to Western sanctions), but some important investments prioritized by Putin went forward, allowing some Russian companies to get by, while the most symbolic step was participation of Chinese companies in building the energy bridge to Crimea.
On October 31, carnegie.ru carried the soundtrack of a roundtable on China after the 19th Party Congress. Gabuev, Igor’ Denisov, and Raisa Epikhina gave their views on Sino-Russian relations, expecting further gains but no great change. Trade will rise beyond $80 billion, but not rapidly. Some concerns were raised about excess centralization interfering with smooth ties, but optimism prevailed. Another article, reflecting the analytical depth now achieved by Carnegie, on November 2 by Gabuev and Vasilii Kashin examined arms trade with China. It gave great credit to these arms ties for radically transforming the PLA into a contemporary military machine, while arguing that Russia’s approach was justified despite concerns about loss of competitiveness of its military industry. The drop in arms trade in the mid-2000s is explained by the satiation of the Chinese market, the progress in China’s own military industry, and Russia’s rising fear of competition in third-country markets. Some Russian leaders expressed concern about the rising potential of China’s army close to Siberia and the Russian Far East. Yet, the article concludes that the risks were less than thought, as Chinese arms were less and less dependent on unlicensed copying of Russian technology and Chinese migration to Russia was found to be exaggerated and reversing after the ruble lost value. The arms trade played a big part in boosting political ties, and again from 2014 it was a big element at about $3 billion a year in deepening the partnership.
In retrospect, Chinese orders saved Russia’s military industry and transformed the Chinese military into a contemporary force with only limited cost from Chinese competition in arms sales. The crisis in Ukraine was a catalyst reviving arms cooperation after they had slowed down, raising the level of trust and of investments that boost political ties. China gains a lot in addressing territorial disputes from the new weaponry. Russia gains, e.g. in causing Abe to draw closer to prevent even more arms deals. There is little Washington or Tokyo can do, the article concludes, but to stand by and watch the increasingly close Sino-Russian ties.
On October 20 Vedemosti wrote of Rosneft’s conquest of the market for oil in China, reaching 40 million tons in 2017 and another 10 million in 2018, following a signing in September of a contract with possible prepayment. 32 percent of the exports of Rosneft this year are going to China. Some of the added exports will go through Kazakhstan. A note of caution was added that China may cut back on oil imports as its ecological program goes forward.
In Rossiya v Global’noi Politike, Aleksandr Lomanov on November 11 assessed the Trump visit to China as proof that US superiority is no longer indisputable and that China no longer needs its money and technology. Xi is now the defender of liberal world trade. China is now confident of its own culture as an instrument of “soft power,” as Trump neglected human rights. Under siege at home, he found himself an influential and authoritative friend in Beijing, whom he repeatedly complimented. If at APEC Trump switched gears to trumpet the “Indo-Pacific” space, effectively an anti-China alliance, and to attack trade deficits and state capitalism, this did not take away from Xi’s success as a diplomat and propagandist for Chinese culture. The article finds no need to worry about the moment of “positive chemistry” since it has not lasted. Xi has played Trump well, from which others can learn.
On October 17, in carnegie.ru, Anton Tsvetov wrote about ASEAN and Russia’s Eurasian project. He begins by stating that in Russian foreign policy thinking, the ability to advance big geopolitical and geo-economic projects is always considered one of the main criteria for being considered a great power. Today, this aspiration centers on the Great Eurasian Partnership, Russia’s eastern policy for which drawing close to China is key. An unchanging element in this idea is a partnership with ASEAN, continuously cited by Russia’s leaders over the past three years, although left vague. The “turn to the East” has now settled on the Great Eurasian Partnership as its main incarnation with the aim that Russia would become the main center of integration. Lacking the gravitas of China, Russia seeks to “trade” on its leadership in the EEU and privileged position in Central Asia. For Russia, the main actors are China, Japan, and South Korea, but ASEAN is a target of geo-economic expansion and political influence.
Nonetheless, its distance and Russia’s lack of experience in this region complicates full inclusion of ASEAN in the Great Eurasian Partnership. Two years after publicizing this theme, Russia has yet to clarify it. With TPP and BRI drawing attention, one could not say that Russia did not have its own project. The EEU was on too small a scale with little chance to expand, and it was predominantly economic in nature unlike the Chinese and US projects. Russia’s foreign policy elite saw in grand projects both threats and possibilities. The first order of business was defense of Russia’s priority position in Central Asia, joining with China’s SREB to keep watch over it. Considering the different scale of the two projects, another Russian initiative seemed logical, and it was first mentioned in December 2015 before Putin gave the initiative its names at the 2016 Petersburg economic forum. SCO-ASEAN talks were proposed with liberalization of tariffs not to occur until some later stage. At the May 2017 BRI forum Putin elaborated on his idea of a mega-region. Odd combinations of countries were listed in subsequent commentaries. Also, EEU-China linkages were expanded with the SCO and ASEAN. The article fails to note how far-fetched such ideas were with little notice of how they are received in ASEAN.
As for achievements, the article mentions the trade agreement of Russia with China completed in October 2017 and the EEU agreement with China, to which others can join. With ASEAN, Russia as the EEU leader seeks what is called a zone of free trade, as proposed by Russia at the Russia-ASEAN summit of May 2016 to a negative response, realizing that there is little benefit for them as they prioritize talks with more important economic partners. Simpler operations to draw ASEAN into the Greater Eurasian Partnership are also not going well, leaving Russia with only bilateral channels to pursue more vigorously. Yet, pursuit of the Greater Eurasian Partnership conveys an image of proactive and visionary leadership in an era of integrating megaprojects and reaffirms Russia’s “turn to the East.”
Unlike earlier versions of the “turn,” however, it leaves the door open for the EU to be included. It lowers the stress on China and upgrades the role of ASEAN, a popular target for various megaprojects and a growing market for high-end products that sees itself as steering great power interactions. The article insists that BRI and the Russian initiative are not competitive, while also bemoaning the lack of Russian elite interest and diplomatic resources for Southeast Asia, which leave in doubt the southeastern drift of the “turn to the East” and risks exposure of Russian bravura. China offers credits, investment, infrastructure, and trade. The United States offers protection of regional security and defense from Chinese influence. Russia is not in a position to offer either.
Rustem Faliakov on November 2 in gazeta.ru examined variants for the SREB from China to Europe, some too costly and some too slow. He asks which routes benefit Russia and which China prefers. One route is a high-speed railroad from Harbin to Vladivostok of 12 stations, 380 km, costing $19 billion, but this “local project” does not lead to Europe, despite Russian claims and hopes of drawing Chinese capital. in the intense competition among countries for routes this is not a likely choice. For Russia two corridors are most desired: north Eurasian and central Eurasian. The former uses the trans-Siberian line from Vladivostok through Moscow. The latter goes from Shanghai through Kazakhstan to Moscow and Berlin, including the Kazan’-Moscow leg supposed to be built from 2018. The article concludes that China has not made up its mind on the route, but it is hopeful about Russia’s prospects.