Modernization, of course, encompasses many things. But as a fascinating article in "Vedomosti" on July 13 points out, an important element is infrastructure improvement:
So how is Russia doing on this score? And how does it compare to its Chinese role models?
"Unfortunately, there is nothing for Russia to brag about in this particular area," writes the article's author, Vladislav Inozemtsev, director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies and Free Thought.
Let's look at some statistics.
In 2008, at the peak of Russia's oil boom, it built just 2,300 kilometers of highway. According to Inozemtsev, this is what China builds on average in just ten days.
And how do costs compare? In China, Inozemtsev writes, a kilometer of four-lane highway costs $2.9 million. In Russia it costs more than four times that -- a staggering $12.9 million!
And the trend is not just confined to roads. It is costs more than three times as much to construct warehouses in Russia as in China, and more than twice as much as in Brazil. In fact, Inozemtsev points out that warehouse construction in Russia costs more than in France or Germany.
Nearly a decade of oil-fueled economic growth and little to show for it once the petrodollars stopped rolling except for a bloated oligarchic class that got rich on its ties to the state.
This, in short, is one of the main reasons Russia's Putin-era elite is finding itself in so much trouble today. As I have written here, instead of building roads and infrastructure, they chose to use oil wealth to build something called "sovereign democracy."
Even by their own standards of a Chinese-style modernization, the current regime comes up short.
-- Brian Whitmore