A supposed new era of Sino-Russian friendship is exhibiting strains as a Chinese influx around Lake Baikal stirs old Russian fears of a land grab.
A dispatch from the world’s largest freshwater lake, with words by New York Times Moscow bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar.
The expanding presence of Chinese businesses around Russia’s Lake Baikal is the source of deep resentment among local residents, who are initiating a growing stream of petitions, protests and court cases aimed at blocking Chinese projects in the area. Beijing is just a two-hour flight away from the lake’s pristine waters, which freeze over in winter, creating an icy playground for tourists on skates and sledges, compared to the six hours it takes Moscow’s residents to fly. Even a Chinese pop song, “On the Shore of Lake Baikal,” describes taking one’s romantic partner to the lake, and has inspired countless visits.