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'Made In China' Coming To Crimea?

Crimea could benefit from a cash infusion from visiting Chinese shoppers, golfers, and businesspeople. (file photo)

Crimea could soon be home to Chinese tobacco fields, factories, a golf course, restaurants, and an entertainment complex.

Chinese investors have been eyeing the peninsula since it was annexed by Russia last year and turned into a duty-free economic zone.

A protocol on investment cooperation signed on June 4 between a top Chinese company and the Moscow backed leader of the Russian-controlled peninsula, Sergei Aksyonov, brings Beijing one step closer to realizing its Crimean ambitions.

For the Russian authorities, Chinese cash could help compensate for the losses incurred by sweeping economic sanctions imposed by Western countries in response to Russia's illegal takeover of the region from Ukraine, in March 2014, following troop deployments and a swiftly staged referendum.

According to the Crimean government's website, the delegation of Chinese businessmen who visited the peninsula this week expressed interest in investing in canning and machine-building factories in Dzhankoy in northern Crimea.

China also reportedly pledged to build a 100,000-square-meter warehouse to store and sell construction materials, to develop oil and gas extraction, and to invest in tobacco cultivation.

"Tobacco is in huge demand in China, and Crimea has a suitable climate and soil for tobacco cultivation," Russian state news agency TASS quoted Chen Zhijun, the chairman of the board at China International Energy Group, as saying during his meeting with Aksyonov.

With the help of Chinese equipment and technology, he said, tobacco production could yield "very large revenues."

In addition, the Chinese businessmen suggested building an entertainment center and a shopping mall in Yalta, Chinese restaurants across the peninsula, and a golf club on its mountainous southern coast.

"Golf is a very popular sport that rich people play," Zhijun said. "China has about 10 million golf players. If we build a golf club here, we can draw a lot of Chinese tourists to Crimea."

Crimea's tourism industry has nosedived since the annexation, and Aksyonov welcomed the proposal with enthusiasm.

"You can always count on us," he said.