Chinese-Russian ‘intergovernmental commission’ to discuss Yakutsk bridge: Russian sources

An “intergovernmental commission” including vice-premiers Zhang Gaoli 张高丽 and Igor Shuvalov will look into proposals for Chinese companies to build the long-awaited bridge over the Lena river and join Yakutsk to the Russian transport network. That’s according to a press release from the Yakutian railway company ОАО (behold the nested quotes: ОАО «АК „Железные дороги Якутии“»), jointly owned by the federal and Yakutian governments. This information has been reflected in media reports by Interfax and others, but so far all Chinese reporting is just sourced to Sputnik’s Chinese service.

The information about the remarkably high-level involvement comes in the context of an agreement signed a few days ago in Moscow between the Russian side and Sinohydro (中国水电) and somehow related to the construction of the bridge. Again, this information is still based only on Russian reports, and not of the highest quality (as evidenced by a miscyrillisation of the name of Sinohydro chairman Song Dongsheng 宋东升 in the Interfax story, a sign that suggests reporting involving no Chinese expertise).

I’ve discussed the background of the Lena bridge project in some detail in the past. In a nutshell, long-term interaction between the Sakha Republic (i.e. Yakutia) and Heilongjiang governments, originally mediated by private businesspeople, has led to increasingly concrete plans for Chinese contractors to build the much-needed bridge, but funding from the Russian federal government failed to materialise after Crimea’s accession to the federation reshuffled infrastructure development priorities. While the Yakutians have been actively looking for Moscow and/or the Chinese to finance the bridge, the federal government seems to need some more convincing. For an analysis of how much importance Chinese (and specifically Heilongjiang) government entities are likely to attach to infrastructure development in the Russian Far East, you’ll have to wait for my forthcoming writeup on the topic.

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