Russia Set to Fall Further Behind US in Terms of Living Standards

DSCN2995“Change Yourself for the Better.” If you read the following article, about the OECD’s forecast for economic growth in Russia, between the lines, you will discover a takeaway message that has been apparent to numerous observers for a long time. Until Russia does away with official kleptocracy, rampant corruption, outrageously bad governance, and the shock-and-awe policing of politics and business by the siloviki—i.e., unless it renounces Putinism and all its ways—there is little chance the living standards of ordinary Russians will improve much in the next forty years. Photo by the Russian Reader

Russia Set to Fall Further Behind US in Terms of Living Standards
OECD’s Experts Have Predicted the Futures of the World’s Major Economies
Tatyana Lomskaya
March 7, 2018

Russia is one of the few member states and parters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in which real per capita GDP will fall by 2060 relative to the benchmark, the United States, according to an OECD reported entitled “Long-Term Prospects: Scenarios for the World Economy, 2060.” Vedomosti has had access to the eport. A source at the OECD confirmed its authenticity while noting it was a preliminary draft.

In the absence of reforms, Russia’s per capita GDP will grow only 0.7% in the next twelve years, predict OECD economists. The stumbling block is low workforce productivity. In recent years, it has not increased at all, and it will accelerate to a mere 0.5% in the period 2018–2030. Another brake on economic growth is poor demography: the economically active and able-bodied segment of the populace has been declining. By way of comparison, due to its positive demographic circumstances, Turkey’s standard of living will increase considerably by 2060 to about three fourths of the figures for the US, write the report’s authors.  In Russia, it will increase to 40% of the benchmark before decreasing slightly.

It is hard not concur with the diagnosis, notes Alexander Isakov, VTB Capital’s chief economist for Russia. Demography and workforce productivity are the biggest constraints on economic growth in Russia.

In his March 1, 2018, address to the Federal Assembly, President Putin promised to increase per capita GDP by 50% by 2025. He said = Russia must firmly gain a foothold among the world’s top five economies by then. Putin meant GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP), Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin explained on the TV program Pozner. According to the IMF, Russia is now in sixth place in terms of GDP (PPP), four percent points behind Germany. The goal is to “bypass Germany,” explained the minister.

The goal can be brought within reach by applying active budgetary (e.g., tax cuts and increases in oil and gas costs) and monetary (e.g., lending) stimuli, says Kirill Tremasov, director of the analytics department at Locko Invest, but this is fraught with great risks.

Without reforms, Russian and the other BRICS countries will slow the growth of the world’s real GDP for forty years beginning in 2019, warn the report’s authors. To accelerate growth, they must increase workforce productivity by reforming governance, increasing the duration of schooling, and reducing trade tariffs.

If during the period 2020–2060, the BRICS countries develop the rule of law (which the World Bank evaluates on a scale from minus two to plus two), increase schooling to the median level of the OECD countries, and decrease trade tariffs to OECD median levels by 2030, the growth of per capita GDP will be 25% to 40% higher than in the baseline scenario. A key factor is governance reforms: combating corruption, improving law enforcement and the judiciary, increasing the efficiency of the civil service, and involving ordinary citizens more actively in politics.

The report notes this is especially important for Russia. Among the BRICS countries, Russia has the worst score for rule of law (-0.8) and the best score for average length of schooling (10.8 years). The Russian civil service has been adapted to the current political system, which assumes maximum centralization and the absence of political competition. Tremasov is skeptical: it is impossible and pointless to reform the civil service without democratizing the political system.


“How Living Standards Will Change: The OECD’s Baseline Scenario. Real Per Capita GDP at Purchasing Power Parity in 2010 Prices (US=100).” The blue horizontal lines represent predicted outcomes for 2018; the red lines, predicted figures for 2060. The countries included in the survey, as  listed from top to bottom, are Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Poland, Italy, France, Great Britain, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and Ireland. Source: Preliminary Calculations from the OECD. Courtesy of Vedomosti

In his May 2012 decrees, Putin charged the government with increasing workforce productivity by one and a half times by 2018, but it had increased only by 3.8% as of 2016. Minister Oreshkin listed the obstacles: underinvestment, insufficiently developed infrastructure, and a lack of resources to upgrade productive assets.

Managers do not have a “culture of constantly improving efficiency and productivity,” he complained.

Workforce productivity is indeed the main obstacle to economic growth, but an increase of investments is needed in order to increase it, notes Natalya Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank. In 2017, about 50% of the increased investments in Russia were due to the extractive resources sector, although the bulk of GDP is generated in other sectors, says Orlova. Investments in agriculture grew by a mere 1.3%, fell in manufacturing and construction, and the commercial sector crashed altogther, falling 9.7%. Investment growth has been hindered by economic and geopolitical uncertainty, and the government has an ever harder time of reducing that uncertaintlywith sanctions in place, notes Orlova. Business, on the contrary, needs guarantees the rules of the game will not change for a long time.

Growth in productivity is impossible without increased competition, Tremasov points out. It is competition that compels companies to introduce new technology, reduce costs, and improve management. The more intense the competition in a sector, the higher the productivity, he notes, citing the retail trade and metallurgy as examples. Therefore, the main means of increasing economic efficiency is reducing the state’s share in the economy, argues Tremasov, as well as attracting foreign investors, reforming the judiciary, and reining in the security services [siloviki].

Measures to improve the country’s demographic circumstances will bear fruit in twenty-five years, when the corresponding generation enters the labor market, notes Isakov. The authorities should thus concentrate on increasing productivity.  If the market functions smoothly, the difference in productivity between companies in the same industry decreases, he argues, because they borrow technology and methods from each other, while inefficient companies are forced out of the market. In Russia, on the contrary, differences in productivity within industries are some of the highest in the world, due in part to gray sector employment practices, Isakov concludes.

Economic growth could take off if reforms are implemented, argues Orlova. The Russian economy is currently so inefficient that the jumpstart supplied by reforms would be huge.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Morozov: The So-Called Partners

The So-Called Partners: How the Kremlin Corrupted an Unimaginable Number of People in the West
Alexander Morozov
March 14, 2017

Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn at TV channel Russia Today’s birthday party, December 2015

Before Crimea, everyone “cooperated” with the Russians. Until mid 2016, there was confusion about this past. The sanctions did not almost nothing to change this mode of cooperation.

But since the elections in the US, quite significant changes have been occurring that are hard to describe accurately and identify. Outwardly, this is encapsulated in the fact that people accused of communicating with the Russians have been losing their posts, and all this comes amidst public scandals. It’s not that people cooperated maliciously, but they were involved in what Russian gangsters call zaskhvar, “getting dirty.”

No one doubted Flynn’s loyalty, but he resigned due to “contacts.” The deputy speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas, Mindaugas Bastys, resigned the other day. He resigned because the Lithuanian secret services refused him access to secret information, although the list of Russians with whom he palled around at different times doesn’t contain anyone special: employees of Russian state corporations in Lithuania, crooked local Russian businessmen, and so on. Recently, the mailbox of an adventurer who has worked for the Kremlin in four countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary), and the Balkans to boot, was hacked. It transpired that Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev had discussed or conducted ops of some kind during the elections in Bosnia and Poland.

Malofeev is, seemingly, an extreme example of frankly subversive actions in other countries. Perusing the correspondence and knowing the atmosphere of Russian affairs in Europe, you realize that Malofeev’s strategy and tactics differ not a whit from the actions of dozens and hundreds of similar actors operating outside the Russian Federation. Before Crimea, all of this resembled benign “promotion” of their interests on the part of all those who cooperated with such people. But now retrospection kicks ins. What trouble have those who were involved in the Petersburg Dialogue, the Valdai Club, the Dialogue of Civilizations, and the dozens and hundreds of programs where the Russians either footed the bill, generated incentives or simply provided a one-time service got themselves into? I was told by people from compatriots organizations (who fairly early pulled out of Russian World’s programs) that initially they were fooled by Nikita Mikhalkov’s early cultural projects outside Russia. They sincerely supported his appeal to the descendants of the post-revolutionary emigration. Around 2008, however, they sensed they were getting sucked into a system of ideological support for the Kremlin. Many even continued to travel to Moscow to the compatriots congresses, but inwardly they already felt like observers. They had already decided then that this was a new “Comintern,” and it would be wrong to accept grants from it. But others happily kept on taking the grants and sailed off with the Kremlin for Crimea.

* * *

But all these political, humanitarian and media contacts pale next to the vastness of business collaborations. Millions of people worldwide were involved in Russian money for over a decade. After all, so-called capital flight occurred on a massive scale. This capital was then partly reinvested in Russia through offshores, and partly spent on buying various kinds infrastructure outside of Russia (firms, shares in businesses, real estate, yachts, etc.). This entire giant machine for circulating the Putin corporate state’s money was serviced by millions of people as counterparties, including lawyers, dealmakers of various shapes and sizes, politicians, MPs, movie stars, cultural figures, translators, and so on.

The outcome, when Crimea happened, was a huge spontaneous lobby. This doesn’t mean all these people had literally been bought off, to describe the process in terms of the battle against corruption. People simply “cooperated” and received various bonuses from this cooperation. It is not a matter of recruitment, but a psychological phenomenon. Any of us, having once received money from a rich childhood friend, even if we are critical towards him, would still remain publicly loyal to him. Would you want to shout to the heavens about the atrocities of a man thanks to whom, say, you had earned enough money to buy a new house? You would just keep your lips sealed.

* * *

In other words, for around ten years, beginning approximately in 2004, after the takeover of Yukos, the Russian economy “warmed up” foreign strata whose scale is hard to evaluate. It was not a matter of corruption in the narrow sense of the word. Of course, on their part it was regarded as economic cooperation with a peculiar type of “eastern” economy that involved “pats on the back,” kickbacks, exchanges of various bonuses and preferences, trips to the banya, hunting for wild sheep from helicopters, and so on. But it was not criminal. On their part, it was indulged as a “peculiarity.” Russia is hardly the only economy marked by these ways. It was a partnership in the primary sense. The world’s major companies opened offices and production facilities in Russia. Until recently, it was a privileged economy, included in the BRICS grouping.

Crimea turned all the fruits of this decade-long warming-up into a problem. It is obvious Putin used Crimea to implement an instantaneous mobilization amongst those involved in the partnership. He confronted all the partners with the need to define themselves. Putin’s use of the word “partners,” which he pronounces ironically, has often been thought to relate to the diplomatic lexicon. But in fact Putin has in mind other partners, the millions of people who have received big bonuses for dealing with Russian contracts, Russian money, and various undertakings with Russians for a decade.

* * *

Now these partners have big problems, and we must sadly note that the problems are not due to Crimea as such nor to the regime of sanctions and countersanctions, nor to the ambivalence of having been involved in toxic projects with Russians in the past.  The problems lies entirely in the fact that Putin does not want to stop.

This entire massive milieu would sigh in relief if it found out that Putin had “transferred the title to himself” (i.e., focused on Crimea) and called it a day.

But the extreme ambiguity has been maintained and even intensified from 2014 to 2017. It was not Putin who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but folks mobilized by Malofeev. It was not Putin who murdered Nemtsov, but Chechen security officials. It was not Putin who hacked the Democratic Party’s servers, but volunteer hackers, who maybe were Russians or maybe not, but they used Russian servers. The attempted coup in Montenegro was not orchestrated by Putin, but by persons unknown. It was not Putin who plotted to destroy Ukraine as a country and establish Novorossiya, but, say, Sergei Glazyev. The pro-Russian rallies in European countries were organized not by Putin, but by a guy named Usovsky, who raised money for the purpose from patriotic Russian businessmen. And so on.

The list now grows with every passing day. Yet the Kremlin doesn’t really distance itself from any of it with a vigor that would be comprehensible to its so-called partners. The Kremlin has not conducted an investigation of any of these events, but has played an ambiguous game that can be clearly read as “covering up” all of “its own” people.

So the ten-year economic warming-up has been transformed before our very eyes into “inducement to conspiracy.” Everyone is now looking back and asking themselves, “Who was it we ‘partnered’ with? Maybe it was Russian intelligence? Or, from the get-go, was it just bait to get us involved in an unscrupulous lobbying scheme?”

* * *

There is tremendously frightening novelty at play here. Everything happening before our eyes with the State Department and pro-Russian politicians in Europe lays bare a complex problem. The boundaries between lobbying, partnership, espionage, propaganda, and corruption have been eroded.

A situation is generated in which it it impossible to tell benign partnership from complicity in a politics that erodes the limits of the permissible. Just yesterday you were a Christian Democrat building a partnership with the Russian Federation, but today you are just a silent accomplice in eroding the norms of Europe’s political culture. You are not just tight-lipped, refusing to evaluate the Kremlin’s actions. On the contrary. “Maintaining fidelity,” so to speak, to the fruits of your past partnership with the Kremlin, you even raise a skeptical voice. “What’s so criminal about Putin’s policies?” And others do the same. “The sanctions have been been ineffective. Frankly, Crimea has always been Russian.”

And if you were somehow able to take in at a glance the entire so-called Kremlin propaganda machine abroad as a combination of the work of Moscow news agencies and little-visited European websites run by left- and right-wing critics of American hegemony who for that reason sympathize with Putin, it would be utterly impossible to get a glimpse of the giant roots the Kremlin has put down in the western economy. It is beyond estimation, just like the transformation or, rather, the corruption not only of its own native population but also huge circles in the west, a task the Kremlin has accomplished in ten years.

Three years ago, I imagined Putin was putting together a kind of right-wing Comintern, and I wrote about it. Now it is often dubbed the “black Comintern.” I think, however, the situation is more complicated and a lot worse. The “Putinist Comintern” is the fairly insignificant and well-visible tip of a much larger process taking place on other floors of European life, where people who are not involved in either ultra-rightist or ultra-leftist politics remain silent about the Kremlin’s actions. Condemning it, they remain loyal nevertheless. They considerately wait for Putin to return to European norms of partnership. These people cannot see and do not want to see that the ambiguity fostered by the Kremlin in the matter of responsibility for murders, paramilitary detachments, mercenaries, and destabilization of small countries is not a temporary phenomenon. It has been conceived that way. And it will continue that way in the future.

Alexander Morozov is a Russian journalist and political analyst. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Soft Line versus the Hard Line, or, 7% ABV

I was just unfriended on Facebook by an actual friend and comrade, and a person for whom I have boundless respect. Apparently, I said too many bad things in electronic print about their chosen candidate for president, Dr. Jill Stein of the US Green Party.

In point of fact, I wrote to them on Facebook just yesterday that I would rather vote for them or just about anybody else in the world than for someone who had no qualms about flying to Moscow to celebrate RT’s birthday and sitting at the same table with Vladimir Putin.

Similarly, Dr. Stein had no qualms about saying that Russia had once “owned” Ukraine, so, like, what’s the big deal about grabbing Crimea and messing with Donbass?

Pro-Putinism of the Steinerian or Trumpian variety should be a make-or-break issue if you call yourself a democrat, a leftist, a left-liberal, an anti-imperialist, an anti-fascist, a progressive, pro-labor, pro-human rights, a pacifist, a democratic socialist, a socialist, a communist, a liberal, a republican or (in fact) a conservative.

On the merits of his now very long stint in office, Putin should appeal only to extreme right-wingers, dyed-in-the-wool fascists, neo-Nazis, racists, and massively deluded fundamentalist Christians (because Putin isn’t actually spearheading a worldwide revival of “conservative Christian values”; he is just using the Church and the churchly to advance his own personal and political ends), as well as members of various organized criminal groups around the world, who probably can’t help admiring how a “party of crooks and thieves” have taken over an entire country, the world’s largest, and started running it like the mob runs a chunk of turf on the Jersey shore.

Oh yes, and Bashar Assad loves Putin. And Silvio Berlusconi does, too.

So this is a US presidential election in which all the choices are very bad? Then please, at least don’t imagine one of the candidates has qualities she really doesn’t have, and please don’t whitewash or blatantly ignore her glaring deficiencies.

Being “soft” on Putin is a damning quality, because it means (as has become clear from Dr. Stein’s limp, weasel-worded response to the open letter written by the brave, exiled Russian environmentalists Yevgeniya Chirikova and Nadezhda Kutepova) you feel no solidarity with the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and maybe even millions of Russians who have either fought back against Putin’s seventeen years of tyranny or suffered very badly from it.

It also means you have funny ideas about “effective leadership,” as Trump seems to have. Just as Trump is probably no great shakes at “business,” his idol Putin is actually a crummy politician when it comes to implementing any of the things held dear by the sort of people, who occupy most of the known political spectrum, I listed above. In fact, he is slowly leading his country to economic, social, moral, environmental, industrial, aesthetic, and ideological ruin.

In the US, where the ruthlessly effective Russian leader hasn't established an authoritarian pollocracy yet, his ratings don't look so great. Image courtesy of NBC News
In the US, where the ruthlessly effective Russian leader has not established an authoritarian pollocracy yet, his ratings don’t look so great. Image courtesy of NBC News

Or it means you have funny ideas about “world peace” and “imperialism.” Meaning, you think only the US, NATO, and EU are imperialists, while Russia, China, the other BRICS countries, and more or less the rest of the world are, mysteriously and without having done much of anything to merit the merit badge, “anti-imperialists.”

I am going to go out on a limb and say (without arguing the point further here) that while Russia has the most going for it in terms of natural and human resources, it is the BRICS country least likely to succeed because of its ruinous, criminal governance. I have more confidence that South Africa and India will turn things around than I do Russia will.

And China has lots of “negatives,” as they say about the candidates these days, but despite them I never get the sense the country is run by haughty criminal lunatics. Or maybe the Chinese Communist Party are haughty and corrupt sometimes, but they seem to have a plan of sorts and are capable of rational thought and acting collectively (and dictatorially) to advance rational interests, whether or not those rational interests are ones their own people or the people of Hong Kong or Taiwan or we ourselves would approve.

When a candidate is soft on Putin, it doesn’t mean she or he is unqualified to lead the US military-industrial complex or “advance our country’s interests” by attacking countries no one asked us to attack.

It just means they’re hopelessly stupid. TRR


abama-craft-beerApropos the article below. Pobrecitos! Thank God no one in Russia has been trying to tarnish the image of the US or its less-than-effective president. That would be so uncool. Image of the label for Abama craft beer, produced by a microbrewery in Putin’s hometown of Petersburg, courtesy of Comrade EO

Putin Talks of Attempt to Recreate “Evil Empire” Image in US Elections
Olga Nadykto and Polina Khimshiashvili
September 17, 2016

Using the topic of Russia and the Russian president in the US presidential campaign is an attempt to manipulate public opinion within the country, said Vladimir Putin. According to him it is an attempt to “recreate the image of an evil empire.”

Speaking to journalists at the end of the CIS summit in Bishkek, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the use of Russian topics in the US election campaign.

Putin expressed the hope that the “use of Russia and the Russian president” in the US election campaign was “was also due to Russia’s growing influence and significance.”

“But I think it is mainly due to attempts to manipulate public opinion within the country. We are witnessing an attempt to recreate the image of the so-called evil empire and scare the average citizen. It is quite sad. It is a fairly crude attempt and counterproductive,” said the Russian president [sic].

Replying to a question about which of the candidates he supported in the US presidential elections, Putin said he had “nothing new” to say.

“We support anyone in any country who wants to work towards neighborly relations and partnerships with us,” he stressed.

“We are sympathetic to those who speak out publicly about the need to build relations with Russia on an equal basis and see a lot of sense in this for their country,” Putin concluded.

Earlier, on the NBC program Commander-in-Chief Forum, Donald Trump, the US Republican Party presidential candidate, said of the Russian president, “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”

Trump also predicted he would have “very, very good relations” with Putin if he became president.

Trump’s statement was criticized by US President Barack Obama, who supports the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Clinton herself had earlier accused the Russian secret services in the attacks on the Democratic Party’s servers. She has also commented on an article in the Washington Post, claiming that Russia was possibly planning to disrupt the US elections. She said it was a serious threat that had to be eliminated quickly.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Decline Has Gone Uphill

Silhouette figures trying to keep a ten-ruble in the air next to an inscription that reads, "Not everything is in our hands." Petersburg, May 23, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
Silhouette figures trying to keep a ten-ruble coin in the air next to a stenciled inscription (left) that reads, “Not everything is in our hands.” Petersburg, May 23, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

Russia Level with Kazakhstan in Wages
Maria Leiva
May 24, 2016

In 2015, the average Russian salary, in terms of US dollars, was equal to the level of wages in Kazahkstan, according to data from the Higher School of Economics (HSE). Compared to 2014, the salaries of Russians dropped by almost a third last year.

The observed decline in wages in Russia has led to their drawing level, late last year, with average wages in Belarus and Kazakhstan in previous years, experts at the HSE have calculated in their May monitoring of the populace’s socio-economic status and social well-being. Computed on the basis of exchange rates, the average wage in Russia last year was $558 a month, which is lower than the 2014 level by 34% or more than a third. By way of comparison, in Kazakhstan and Belarus, the average monthly wage, calculated using the same method, was $549 and $415, respectively.

From 2011 to 2015, Russia had the highest level of wages in the CIS, but in 2014, compared with 2013, it dropped by nearly 10%, from $936 to $847. The experts at the HSE note that the gap in economic performance indicators between Russia and certain CIS countries has been constantly contracting. For example, the average salary in Armenia in 2008 was around 52% of the 2015 Russian wage, but by the end of the period in question, it had grown to 60%. During the same period, Belarus has gone from 61% to 75%, and Tajikistan, from 17% to 26%. However, over the same period, the relative positions of Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan have declined.

If we compare the average wage in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe, the wage in those countries has exceeded the average in Russia for the past five years. Thus, last year, the average Russian wage came to 60% of the average wage in Hungary, and 50% of the average wage in the Czech Republic. However, in 2015, Russia came close to the level of wages in Bulgaria during 2013–2014.

Trends in the average monthly wage in Russia, Brazil, and China over the past five years show that wages in Brazil were higher than in Russia last year. Despite the fact that data on wages in China for 2015 have not yet been published, the figures for Russia in 2015 were lower than for China in 2012, 2013, and 2014, indicating the gradual reduction of the gap between the two countries in terms of this indicator.

Last week, Sberbank also reported a fall in the average monthly Russian wage below China’s average wage. The bank’s principal analyst, Mikhail Matovnikov, cited data that the average monthly wage of Russians had fallen below $450 a month, lower than that in China, Poland, Serbia, and Romania.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Valentin Urusov for the heads-up.

China Friendly


Hotels in Petersburg Say “Ni Hao!”
September 30, 2014

Petersburg hoteliers have begun negotiations on joining the China Today program, which helps participants gain greater visibility among tour agents and tourists in China. They are doing this because they need to replace the falling number of tourists from Europe and the US. Fontanka found out what tourists from China want to see in cafes and restaurants.

In the light of this past summer’s political events, Russia’s economy has turned towards the countries of the East. The tourist business, which organizes leisure in Russia for foreigners, has not been fighting the general trend. After the imposition of sanctions, the flow of tourists from Europe has declined, as has been visible on the streets of Petersburg even taking the season into account. As Fontanka learned, several major Petersburg hotels have begun negotiations with the association World without Borders, which unites inbound tourism tour operators, about participating in the China Friendly program.

Participation in the program helps hotels obtain certification for compliance with the requirements of Chinese tourists, who are supposed to replace European guests in the new political and economic reality. Vetted hotels are eligible to use the China Friendly status in their ad campaigns. It helps them to attract the attention of both Chinese tour operators choosing Russian hotels to accommodate their own customers or a Russian operator for collaboration, and Chinese tourists who prefer to travel on their own. Mikhail Vislin, the association’s executive director, refused to name the Petersburg hoteliers ready to open their doors wide to the Chinese. (At present, no Petersburg hotels have this status, which is attractive to visitors from the Middle Kingdom.)

“Unlike tourists from Europe and America, tourists from China have significant cultural peculiarities. They have a quite particular mindset. Moreover, the language barrier is a much more acute problem for them. Despite the fact that the Russian tourist industry is gradually becoming more oriented towards the Chinese, to date only a few sites are comfortable for them to visit,” says the program’s official web site.

China Friendly’s compliance requirements for hotels are posted on the program’s information portal. Most of them concern duplication of information in Chinese. To obtain certification, a hotel must develop a Chinese-language version of its site, put location information in Chinese in its rooms, and hire employees who know Chinese. Rooms must also always have green tea with a tea set and electrical sockets with the standard plug used in the PRC. Guests’ breakfasts must be adapted to Chinese tradition.

“The buffet at the hotel restaurant must include some elements of Chinese cuisine. It should include boiled eggs, steamed vegetables cut into small pieces easy to grab with chopsticks, chicken, and baozi—small dumplings with different fillings. Chinese porridge, a watery, salty rice porridge similar in structure [sic] to broth, must also be cooked,” explained China Today project director Anna Sibirkina.



Russia and China Boost Student Exchange Programs
Anna Dolgov
The St. Petersburg Times
October 8, 2014

Russia and China plan to increase the number of students studying under mutual exchange programs to 100,000 in five years, Russian media has reported, shortly after Russia canceled a popular exchange program with the U.S.

The announcement came ahead of a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Moscow on Monday, when several dozen cooperation agreements on trade, investment, energy and cultural affairs were expected to be signed.

Currently, about 25,000 Chinese students are attending Russian colleges and universities, while 15,000 Russian students are studying in China. Moscow and Beijing plan to raise the total number to 100,000 by 2020, Interfax reported Monday, citing an unidentified source from the Russian Cabinet.

As part of the 2014-15 Russia-China Youth Friendly Exchange program — a bilateral year set up to strengthen cultural ties — more than 300 events in both countries were scheduled throughout the year, with more than 7,000 students having taken part so far, according to the spokesperson.

The spokesperson also announced that China had taken first place in the number of visits to Russia this year, with more than 500,000 Chinese citizens coming to Russia in the first six months of this year alone.

“Last year, China came in second by the number of tourists visiting Russia [with 370,000 visits]. But in the first six months of 2014 alone, China has already taken the leading position — more than 500,000 Chinese citizens have visited Russia so far, and 135,000 of them were on tourist trips,” the source was cited as saying by the TASS news agency.

The apparent surge in Russia’s popularity comes as the country pivots toward China amid deteriorating relations with the West.



Locals: Chinese Are Massively Eating Domestic Cats in the Leningrad Region

SAINT PETERSBURG, October 12. Cats have been disappearing without a trace in the village of Divinsky, in Leningrad Region’s Gatchina District. Locals have conducted their own investigation and concluded that Chinese are destroying the animals. And that they are not just killing them, but using them for food.

As local resident Roza Vasilieva told Rosbalt, she has recently lost three healthy cats. The woman had a total of five four-pawed favorites, but two of them are quite old and stay at home. She has lost forever the other cats, which she let out to walk. Her neighbors have faced similar problems. Residents have tried to find the animals and posted notices, but all to no avail.

“You might think the foxes were to blame. But the foxes have long lived in the woods and don’t touch the cats,” says Roza Vasilieva.

“Yesterday, my husband went looking for the cats. He walked through all the fields, but didn’t find a single cat. But he did discover bait set out by the Chinese. They lured the cats with a wrapper soaked in some kind of narcotic. We let our cat sniff it: she just went crazy. Apparently, they drive around in a car throwing the bait, and then collect the cats. At first, we couldn’t believe that it was the Chinese, but then we concluded it was them. We are sure that they are eating the cats,” says Roza Vasilieva.

Residents were alarmed, went to the village council, and began telling other people about the problem. (“Conducting propaganda,” Vasilieva calls it.) What they fear most of all is an invasion of rats. Life in the village would be impossible without any four-pawed hunters.

“The Chinese have two bases here—in the Luga District—the village of Krasny Mayak [Red Lighthouse] and near the village of Kuznetsovo. They have about a hundred greenhouses there. Around three hundred people live there. It’s not enough that they are poisoning our water and land with their fertilizers, but now they’re also catching our cats,” the woman complains.

However, she admits that residents have not found the remains of the animals.

“They hide it all, of course,” says Roza Vasilieva.

Nevertheless, she has no doubt about what has happened to the animals.


The Chinese Revolution in Migration
Gorod (812)
October 13, 2014


According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, a researcher at the Institute for National Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Central Asian labor supply will run out in fifteen years or so. Instead, Chinese will work in Russia. They have now already densely “occupied” the Russian Far East and Siberia.

“Life without the Chinese is no longer conceivable in these regions. A survey was conducted in which one of the questions was, What is more important to you, relations with Moscow or relations with China? China took first place,” says Zayonchkovskaya.

The Chinese are actively cultivating the Moscow market. They have not made it to Petersburg yet. According to Zayonchkovskaya, the Chinese are good workers. They are quite adaptable, not prone to conflict, and know at least a minimum amount of Russian. In some sense, our country’s future belongs to them.

In Petersburg, the authorities have been making attempts to replace foreign guest workers with internal migrants from the provinces. According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, this is a futile undertaking. The population of all the surrounding small towns has already been “licked clean,” and there is just no extra manpower in Russia.


This article was published only in the print edition of Gorod (812), on page 11. Photo, above, courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times.