One of the world's most sparsely populated regions is hosting world leaders this week, when Russian President Vladimir Putin kicks off the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 6. In the coming days, Russian officials are expected to announce investments and make grand statements about a "Greater Eurasian partnership." But in the Russian Far East, these ambitions are running up against hard economic realities.
Nowhere is the gap between official rhetoric and ground truth greater than in Russia's economic relations with China. Both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been promoting the notion of a strategic partnership between their countries. When Putin awarded Xi with Russia's highest order in July, he trumpeted "the development of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation." Echoing those sentiments, Xi said that China and Russia are each other's "most trustworthy strategic partners" and that relations are "at their best time in history."