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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Dragon and the Amoeba

At a meeting in New York in September, President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a wide-ranging cooperation agreement through 2018. It calls for Russia to become a raw-materials appendage of China. Russia will provide China with raw materials such as coal, iron, gold and manganese, and China-based factories will process it all.

In reality, though, this is only a preliminary agreement because the Kremlin has a compulsive fear of China. Russians love conspiracy theories, and they avidly read the apocalyptic prophecies of Alexander Khramchikhin about how China will one day dismember Russia.

The problem is that such prophecies are self-fulfilling. Oedipus is a good example. His greatest fear was that he would murder his father and sleep with his mother, and that is exactly what ultimately happened.

Beijing follows two basic rules when buying raw materials from abroad. First, it buys primarily from states and not from private companies. Second, when buying from African dictators, it does not give them lectures on human rights but often pays off the dictator along with the rights to the mineral deposits.

In other words, China is behaving just as the 18th- and 19th-century Europeans behaved toward Beijing. China is following the example of Europe during its heyday of military triumphs and expansion. Today, China is the only colonial power left in the world.

An influx of foreign capital is an advantage for `a strong country and a disadvantage for a weak one. At the same time, the desire of the weak country to keep foreigners out is not an obstacle in this case. It is just the opposite.

For example, consider China’s recent history. At the beginning of the 20th century, China was de facto occupied by the world’s major powers: Britain, the United States, France and Russia.

This was not because the Chinese government had good relations with foreigners. On the contrary, Empress Dowager Cixi had extremely bad relations with foreigners during most of her reign from 1861 to 1908. The problem was that China was a failed state at the time. Cixi was primarily concerned with establishing the legitimacy of her rule. In addition, the officials serving her also hated foreigners, although the bureaucrats were more than willing to take bribes from them.

Russian regions bordering China are threatened with the same fate under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as Chinese provinces bordering Russia suffered under Empress Cixi. Russia has the same weak bureaucrats who hate foreigners and take bribes from them. Russia also has a large number of poor people who hate foreigners. If they had the chance, they would wage a pogrom against them, even knowing that the result would mean a harsh retaliation from the foreign government and perhaps even foreign occupation of the country.

Russia is doomed as long as the Kremlin continues its current course. Fortunately, nothing lasts forever, as Empress Cixi showed. Although Cixi’s reign ended, China remained.

One day, Putin too will be out of office. Hopefully, he will replaced by a leader who is truly interested in running the country’s affairs and not only his personal offshore accounts. Russia is too great a country to die like an amoeba.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.