The Russian Far East and 'Yellow Peril'
This semester i will be discussing on Eastern Siberia and Russian Far East.It will be more about political,social and economic aspects of these regions.The Russian Far East which lies east of the Eastern Siberia includes the following regions : Maritime, Khabarovsk, Amur,Kamchatka, Magadan, and Sakhalin.It also includes Jewish Autonomous Region and the Republic of Sakha. Among this wide region, the Republic of Sakha is going to be the major topic of the discussion of this semester.But without including other parts of this wide geographical space it may find difficult to conduct a meaningful discussion.Along with Eastern Siberia (it includes the Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk,Chita, Tuva, Khakass, and Buryat republic), the Russian Far East is one of the most neglected regions of the multi-ethnic Russian Federation.
This week i discuss on one of the major issue faced by the Russian Far East : Migration of Chinese into Russian territory. I find scholars have quite contradictory opinion on this issue. Russian sources in general find Yellow Peril as a threat to the security of their nation.They even think that the Russian Far East will become a Chinese territory in future.But non-Russian sources including Chinese find it in another way.They argue that the Chinese migrants to Russian Far East more as a 'floating population.' Or, in other words, they will not settle in Russia.According to them Chinese may want to do their business in Russia but stay in china. It is better to start with the first argument ; The so called Yellow Peril.The Chinese migration to the Russian Far East had a long history.It started in the nineteenth century when Russia was under tsars. The rapid economic developments of the Russian Far East forced imperial government to encourage migration from south.Two major engineering projects of the time ; the Trans-Siberian Railway and the port of Vladivostok built with the help of Chinese laborers. Both the mining and agricultural fields also utilized Chinese labor force.But this labor migration was more of a seasonal kind and majority of the laborers returned back to China after their project was over.
The Soviet period effectively blocked the Chinese movement into the Russian Far East.The Great Terror under Stalin caused for the fleeing of many Chinese back to China.But changed scenario under the post-Sovit Russia again encouraged the Chinese movement back into the Russian Far East. Russian population declined (almost 16.5% in Russian Far East in 1991).Or,in other words, Russia was forced to compensate this loss.According to Olga Alexeeva there are different categories of Chinese migrants into Russia : 1) Entrepreneurs who wanted to invest and take advantage of the favorable economic conditions, and whose intention was to settle in Russia more or less permanently, if not always legally, 2) Small traders who entered Russian territory on tourist visas and traveled constantly back and forth between China and Russia, carrying their goods ; 3) Temporary workers under contract, with few qualifications,employed in construction or farming, 4) Migrants in transit on the way to Western Europe; 5) Chinese students registered at Russian universities.
There is still great ambiguity over the exact population of Chinese in the Russian federation.It starts anywhere from 200,000 to 4 million.Some of the reports make them fourth largest ethnic group of Russia just after Russian,Tatars and Ukrainians.It is considered that the biggest number of them settled in East Siberia and the Russian Far East.The biggest problem with this number is that the ambiguity of the exact number of Chinese who really settled in Russia permanently.But doubtful Russians think other way. For example the Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded Russians about the dangerous of Chinese occupation of Far East during one of his trip to Blagoveshchensk in Amur region. Russians of the Far East also shares similar view. According to Galina Vitkovskaya, a researcher at the Carnegie Center in Moscow : "It is clear that any steps that might lead the Chinese to take root in Russian territory would be rejected by the local population.The shadow of the 'Chinese threat' is a burden on people's consciousness with 74 percent of the population questioned believing this to be a real threat to Russia and only 20 percent denying its possibility". The declining Russian population (around 7 million in 2.4 million square miles) and huge population of the near by Chinese provinces ( around 100 million in three provinces of the former Manchuria) exacerbate this fear.
It is true that Chinese still has a large presence in the labour markets of Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East and they also have a significant presence in the local markets of the region.But it is very difficult to say that it will end up in the Chinese acquisition of the Russian territory.As Maria Reprikova and Harley Balzer observe that there is no need for Chinese population to stay in Russian territory forever. First of all Chinese economy is booming and they need skilled people in Northeastern China.In contrast the Russian economy in East Siberia and the Russian Far East is shrinking. So it is not an ideal place for any of the potential Chinese migrants.They also mentions that Chinese may prefer more Asian looking regions of the ex-USSR such as Kazakhstan and Buriyatia over Russian Far East due to the increased xenophobia and violence from Russian side.But one thing is clear that Moscow allows Chinese and others to exploit the natural resources of the area at the expense of the locals.It is also probable that the diminishing Russian population and out migration of Europeans to Central Russia and other parts of the world make both Russian federal government and regional governments helpless.So for them China and its cheap products are not only a necessity but also unavoidable.
1) Alexeeva, Olga (2008), "Chinese Migration in the Russian Far East," China Perspective, 3 : 20 - 32.
2) Balzer, Harley and Maria Reprikova (2009), " Chinese Migration to Russia : Missed Opportunities ", Eurasian Migration Papers, 3 : 5 - 50.
3) Nemets, Alexandr V and John L Scherer (2004), " China's 'Takeover' of Russia's Far East", The World & I, 19.2 : 1-7