The problem of cross-border cooperation as a catalyst of local development is considered. Emphasis is placed on the difference and interrelationship of cross-border and interstate cooperation on the territory of the cross-border regions, because the effectiveness of implementation of state projects depends on the ability of a local socium to integrate them into the local life. A skeptical view of the future prospects of cross-border cooperation in the Khabarovsk segment of the Russian-Chinese border is complemented by a constructive assessment of the limits of utilization effectiveness of this instrument. It is pointed out that a further development of cross-border cooperation necessarily runs into a contradiction between the goals of ensuring the country’s security, which are of particular current importance on the border, and the requirement for economic openness. Any economic project in the cross-border zone involves a geopolitical perception, and the adopted political decisions become effective when they are converted to concrete projects. Attention is focused on the limitedness of the potential of cross-border cooperation, and on the fact that it cannot be used to compensate for the deficit of regional development accumulated for many years. The main effect of cross-border cooperation is associated with a reduction of the shadow component of the cross-border economy, cooperation in the solution of the common problems, historical reconciliation, and with the growth of mutual confidence. Finally the issue related to the readiness of the Khabarovsk inhabitants to participate in cross-border cooperation corresponding to the regional agenda is considered. It is concluded that by combining the state-level initiatives with the public interests in the implementation of concrete projects, it is possible to transform the partial advantages of the location along the border to a further development of the city. The areas of activity are defined, which hold promise for a successful realization of such a scenario.Keywords: Russian-Chinese border, nonformal economy, mutual confidence, historical memory, local community, state projects.