border review | 21 July 2011

Joint eco-tourism zone at the Sino-Russian border?

Yesterday, Heixiazi Island (or Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island, as it is known in Russia) officially opened for tourism. There was a ceremony, and a group of Chinese tourists visited the Island. China Daily (here and here), CRI English, CCTV and many others reported. The island at the confluence of the Amur the Ussuri rivers was a bone of contention in the process of settling the border dispute between the Russian Federation and the PRC. In 2004, Russia agreed to relinquish control over roughly half of the 335 km² island to China. In 2008, the border demarcation was complete. During Wen Jiabao’s visit in Moscow in November 2010 a joint statement was issued that Heixiaxi/Bolshoy Ussuriyskyi island would be cooperatively developed into an eco-tourism zone. Merely eight months later, the zone is up and running. Yet, it seems to be an exclusively Chinese affair, at least for the time being. Russian media have more or less ignored the event, or have briefly mentioned it in a different light. Komsomolskaya Pravda, for example, cites Xinhua on the matter and mentions that a Chinese travel agency has gained the exclusive right to organise tours.