Comparing the Russian and Chinese economies, the Russian economy is heavily dependent on natural resource exports, while the Chinese economy is more dependent on value-added from Chinese citizens; why have these economies developed differently?



Greg Kemnitz, Staff Database Engineer at Fitbit (2018-present)

The “China model” - “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, if it catches mice, it’s a good cat” - and started following the export-driven industrialization path established by Japan, South Korea, and especially the ethnic Chinese areas of Taiwan and Hong Kong, and - a bit later - Singapore. None of these areas has much of anything in natural resources, either because they’re physically very small, or are resource-poor volcanic rocks in the sea.


Also, it helped greatly that the US and China were de facto allies against the Soviets for about the last decade and a half of the Cold War. So, the US welcomed Chinese imports, which encouraged Taiwanese and Hong Kong businessmen with capital to develop factories in places like Shenzhen and Xiamen to produce goods for export to the US and elsewhere.


Singaporean expertise helped greatly to develop the area around Shanghai and (especially) Suzhou.


Within a generation, mainland Chinese entrepreneurs who learned business and management skills in these environments built their own factories and business empires.


As for natural resources, China has some, but with a vast population and its own large manufacturing base, it makes more economic and logistical sense to use them for domestic manufacturing, and other than a few things like Rare-earth minerals, there are few unusual resources in China.


Russia for reasons I’ve never quite understood, never did try anything like the “Japan route”- and its economy looks more like a Middle Eastern country (old joke: Russia is Saudi Arabia with nukes) than anything else. Whether this is rooted in Resource curse logic or a conscious decision is unclear.



Orlando Barrios, works at Miskatonic University

I’d say that the original difference lies in the assigned role of the economy in the nation’s life.


But unlike China’s orderly transformation, Russia post-1991 was in free fall under the tender cares of the oligarchs and their Western friends. Impoverished & tired, the People allowed Putin to take control.

与中国的有序转型不同,1991年后的俄罗斯在寡头及其西方朋友的温柔关怀下自 由落体。穷困潦倒、疲惫不堪的人民让普京控制了局面。

And he chose to put the economy at the service of his onw policies: recovering stability, growth, military might and international stature.


With China increasing its consumption and with the Middle East destabilized by the US, it was the time to use Russia’s vast and barely tapped natural resources to start growing again.


But this growth hasn’t been married with competitiveness & exportations, as in China: if Russia produces planes, trucks and cars, who is buying them? In Africa, Asia and Latin America, which is easier to find: FAW or Kamaz? Changan or AvtoVAZ?


These companies are sustained with oil money, but have little influence beyond creating jobs: they exists to keep people employed and in support of Putin. As long as this situation doesn’t change, there is little incentive for Russia to stop its dependence on oil and use its industrial muscle to compete internationally.



Jerry Mc Kenna, Registered voter since 1972

History is Russia’s worst enemy. For reasons that are obvious the Soviets after WWII concentrated too much on their military. The state owned industries were always backward and inefficient. In a world were consumer goods were a great avenue towards growth the Soviets didn’t produce anything wanted internationally. I am familiar with Soviet made cameras and their stuff was a generation behind, in part because they were using designs and equipment created in Germany and taken back to Russia. They had a native camera industry that was building 1938 style cameras in 1955. If you look at Soviet calculators you see the same backwardness.

历史是俄罗斯最大的敌人。由于显而易见的原因,二战后的苏 联人过于专注于军事。国有工业一直落后低效。如今的世界,日用消费品是通往经济增长的康庄大道,但苏 联没有生产出国际社会需要的东西。我熟悉苏 联制造的相机,他们的产品整整落后了一代,部分原因是他们使用的是德国制造的设计和设备。他们有本土的相机产业,在1955年生产了1938式相机。如果你看到苏 联的计算器,会发现这也是一样落后的。

The difficulty in exporting to the US ended up hurting even East German camera, that were often quite good, though not on par with the best of Japan.


Too many people relied on social services provided by their jobs and that ended up making modernization of Soviet products an afterthought.

太多人依赖工作提供的社会服务,这最终使苏 联产品的现代化追悔莫及。

The Japanese improved because they saw the weaknesses in their autos when they tried to sell them in the US (they were under powered for US traffic). There wasn’t any feedback process in Russia and the Russian products were good enough and easy to fix. (Just look a how Cubans have maintained US cars imported before 1963 and you will understand how adversity makes people strong.)


China had may of the same problem, such as a generation long set of wars and civil wars, but they didn’t have a huge set of industries with a large internal customer.


So the dependence on energy is part of the problem, but the other is an industrial plant and industrial processes that were out of date. Like Japan, China was export driven and quickly learned what could or could not be sold.


So, the huge internal market during the Soviet era, meant that industries didn’t modernize.

所以,苏 联时期巨大的国内市场,意味着工业没有实现现代化。


Dima Vorobiev, former Propaganda Executive at Russia

China was a settled agricultural civilization with several thousands years of written history, cultural continuity and managerial traditions beneath its belt.


Russia was a colonization project of a small group of state/military aristocracy. The wealth of our civilization most of the time was dependent not on the labor of peasants toiling the land, or the skills of state managers organizing their work, but on expanding territories and pumping them for pelts, honey, wax, slaves, timber and mineral resources.


Which is why the primary application the Chinese found for the modern technology has been manufacturing. While we predictably prefer to use it for export-oriented extractive industries, as well as for producing weapons and other means of defending the perimeter. The strategic advantage of the Chinese is their vast pool of hard-working, still relatively inexpensive workforce. Our strategic advantage is our vast expanses with an immense wealth hidden beneath them. They specialize on what they do best, we capitalize on what the nature has given us.


The poster below is from the 1970s. It hails the construction of the export pipeline Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod from West Sibiria to Europe. The rhymed text says: “We’re honored by the Motherland’s order—we’ll deliver the Siberian gas on schedule!” During its first decades, the Soviet rule made the most determined effort ever of modernizing Russia and diversifying our economy. However, a combination of the worsening economic ineffectiveness and the discovery of massive exportable petroleum deposits in Siberia in the 1960s increasingly have been dragging us back into the old paradigm of extractive economy.

下面的海报是上世纪70年代的,颂扬的是从西伯利亚西部到欧洲的出口管道Urengoi Pomary Uzhgorod的建设工程。押韵的文字表达的意思是:“我们很荣幸接受祖国的命令,我们将按时交付西伯利亚天然气!”在最初的几十年里,苏 联统治作出了最坚定的努力,使俄罗斯现代化,使我们的经济多样化。然而,20世纪60年代日益恶化的经济局面和西伯利亚大量可出口石油储量的发现,又逐渐把我们拖回到了旧的采掘经济模式。



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