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CURRENT TRENDS IN RUSSIAN-CHINESE COOPERATION IN THE FAR EAST

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CURRENT TRENDS IN RUSSIAN-CHINESE COOPERATION IN THE FAR EAST
   1 Center for East Asian Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies Guest Research Fellow Paper March 7, 2005 CURRENT TRENDS IN RUSSIAN-CHINESE COOPERATION IN THE FAR EAST Vladimir E. Kucheryavenko Research Associate, Institute of Economic Research, Russian Academy of Sciences Far Eastern Branch, Khabarovsk, Russia Introduction   Over the past decade, China’s economic and political might has grown significantly, and its influence in Asia and worldwide grows stronger. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is confidently striving to become a superpower, taking on a leading role in the region and the world. China’s political motivation continues to be the creation of an alternative to United States hegemony in Asia and of a unique political counterbalance based on an alliance between the nations of the region, with the PRC playing the central role. In its pursuit of this goal, China is uniting the Asian nations around itself, using its  political and economic influence. Among the facts that attest to these intentions are the initiation of political dialog with India, with which China has several contentious issues, and the proactive and fruitful attempts to employ trade concessions in order to bring collaboration with developing countries in East and Southeast Asia to a higher level. While the attention of the U.S. and other Western nations is diverted by events in the Middle East, China is persistently pursuing the goal of strengthening regional cooperation. At the same time, there is an evident drastic strengthening of the PRC’s influence and a weakening of the roles of Japan and the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific Region. International investments which had previously been directed toward Southeast Asia are now being channeled mainly into China. This is happening due not only to China’s cheap and abundant labor force, but also to the rapidly growing technical capacity of Chinese producers. In formulating its regional policy, China cannot ignore Russia’s presence in the region. Therefore, it continues to declare its friendly relations with the Russian Far East (RFE). There have been some significant changes in relations between the two countries in recent years. The situation around Kosovo and the war in Chechnya have cooled relations between Russia and the West. According to some analysts, Washington’s  political and strategic ties with Moscow and Beijing have turned out to be weaker than those between China and Russia. ∗  Editors’ note: The paper was edited by Anna Vassilieva and Tsuneo Akaha, Center for East Asian Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies. The paper was srcinally written in Russian and translated by Oksana Chikina and Brian Ettkin, research assistants of the Center for East Asian Studies. Chikina and Ettkin also assisted in the editing process.   2The “strategic partnership” between Russia and China emphasizes the friendly nature of the bilateral relations. The fact that the partnership has been labeled “strategic” indicates the readiness of both parties to treat these relations as long-term. Dmitri Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center notes, “[B]oth countries are taking similar positions on such key issues as the crisis in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf, NATO expansion, U.S.-Japan military cooperation, U.S. plans to develop a national missile defense system, and a defense system for military engagement in the East Asian theater. China and Russia cooperate closely within the framework of the Shanghai Five by combating terrorism, separatism and extremism in Central Asia. Moscow shares Beijing’s  point of view on considering Taiwan an integral part of China. The PRC, in turn, supports Russia’s actions in Chechnya. The notion of a multi-polar world--or the rejection of U.S. hegemony--is the basis of Russian and Chinese foreign policy doctrines.” 1  Sino-Russian relations have made real progress in many directions since the 1960s and 1970s. The Chinese-Russian border is the longest border between two nuclear powers. It used to be considered the most dangerous border in the world. Today, it has turned into a peaceful and well-controlled demarcation line. The former Chinese-Soviet border has been significantly demilitarized, strengthening mutual trust between the two neighbors. Considerable political disagreements between Moscow and Beijing are unlikely in the near future. China is one of the most promising markets for Russia’s energy providers and engineering industry. China plays a key role in providing agricultural produce and consumer goods to the regions of the Russian Far East. Maintaining Russia’s interest in cooperating with Beijing is one of the important tasks in the PRC’s struggle for dominance in Asia. Some of the steps China has taken in this direction are the initiatives to develop oil and natural gas deposits jointly with Russia and the fostering of the bilateral trade. However, it is understandable that China is trying to take a leading and dominant role in this process, perhaps on occasion unintentionally restricting Russia’s attempts to extend its participation in the region’s political and economic developments. Viktor Larin, director of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Russian Far East, writes, “China is building its relations with Russia as part of its concept of creating a multi-polar world. The declared aim of this concept is to oppose U.S. hegemony. In reality, however, it is aimed at strengthening the position and influence of the PRC in East Asia and turning China into a global superpower.” 2  Understandably, the regions of the Russian Far East feel China’s growing influence more than other regions. Given the RFE’s weakened economic ties with the European part of the county, the region is inevitably  being drawn into closer cooperation with its southern neighbor, which is stronger economically and politically. It is only natural that the PRC should focus its economic goals on the Russian Far East, considering the low  population density and rich natural resources of the region. The immediate goal for China is to acquire access to   3cheap raw materials, markets for Chinese consumer goods and agricultural products, and markets for labor export. The Chinese leadership developed a development strategy for Heilongjiang Province, which borders Russia, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A central feature of this strategy has been the active expansion of regional economic ties with Siberia and the Russian Far East through the expansion of production and export of consumer goods and agricultural products. 3  Interaction between the two countries is currently a complicated and multifaceted process. Analysts are  by no means united in their assessment of many aspects of this process. The most pessimistic view of this interaction can be reduced to predictions that the Russian Far East is likely to find itself threatened by dependency on China for consumer goods and foodstuffs in the foreseeable future. According to this view, the RFE will gradually become an appendage of China’s economy, serving as a source of raw materials. The opposing position argues that under the current circumstances the RFE must look to the countries of Asia; it must “integrate” with the regional economy; and, above all else, the RFE must develop relations with China in all possible areas, thereby compensating for deteriorating relations with the western regions of Russia. An analysis of relations between the PRC and Russia in the Far East in the 21 st  century shows that the main areas for interaction -- and at the same time where the most controversial problems will be found-- are migration, trade and economic relations in the border territories, cooperation in energy and timber production, creation of a transportation system in the region, and environmental issues. Let us examine each of these areas. Chinese Migration in the Russian Far East Chinese migration into the Russian Far East is probably the most frequently discussed and the most controversial aspect of relations between the two countries. This problem has not only attracted the attention of a great number of Russian researchers both in the Far East and the European part of the country, but also has given rise to alarm and anxiety among the academic, political and military circles of other APR nations. The United States and Japan also have expressed concern about this process, as they see the “uncontrolled” flow of migrants as a threat to stability and security in the region. The increasing number of Chinese entering Russia has stimulated a growing fear of the so-called “yellow  peril,” as reflected in the media and public opinion polls. According to the results of a sample survey in the  border towns of Khabarovsky Krai, Primorsky Krai, and Amurskaya Oblast conducted in 2002, 58.2 percent of the respondents expressed negative feelings about the presence of Chinese in Russia. Results of prior surveys in Khabarovsk in 1999 and 2001 indicated that the number of respondents with similarly negative attitudes was 19.7 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively. 4  The demographic imbalance between RFE territories and the bordering Chinese provinces is well known. According to the most recent estimates, the population of the RFE is as small as 6.8 million people.   4More pessimistic assessments also exist. For example, The Russian Journal  in its April 25, 2001, issue estimated the population of the Russian Far East to be 5 million. 5  At the same time, the population of China’s northern provinces is growing rapidly. More than 70 million people live along the Amur River. 6  The  populations of the northeastern provinces (Laonin, Jilin and Heilongjiang) are forecast to reach 120 million  people by 2010. 7  The existence of a “demographic pressure” from China is often brought up in the discussion of the current situation. Some voice concerns that are similar to that of Gelbras: “If this crowd pours in here, nobody and nothing will be able to stop its force…” The number of Chinese entering the Russian Far East is growing annually. The problem is that nobody can provide an exact number of Chinese citizens in Russia at any given point in time. During the height of the “yellow peril” scare, the media was reporting astronomic numbers of Chinese living in Russia, including the RFE (some 5 million people). The Chinese have categorically rejected these estimates, agreeing instead with more realistic numbers of 300,000-400,000 for all of Russia. 8  Motrich, citing the newspaper  Izvestiya  dated February 16, 2001, estimates that the number of officially registered Chinese citizens in the RFE at the time was 237,000, and that the number of Chinese living there illegally was 400,000-700,000. 9  A.N. Bogaevskaya, a lecturer at the Institute of International Tourism and Hospitality (Far Eastern National University, Vladivostok, Russia) offers similar estimates: “In the aggregate, the number of Chinese in the border regions from Irkutskaya Oblast to Primorsky Krai is no more than 400,000.” 10  On the other hand, Viktor Larin notes, “[E]ven during the peak of the tourist season, the number of Chinese in the Russian Far East did not exceed 30,000, the number of Chinese living there for a relatively long time was no more than 20,000.” 11  Such discrepancies in the estimates of the number of Chinese in Russia significantly complicate any objective assessment of the social and economic consequences of this  phenomenon. If we look back at history, the number of Chinese citizens residing in Russia around the time of the October Revolution and the Civil War, when the Russian population of the RFE was much smaller, was about 400,000. 12  In general, according to some experts, the threshold for safe migration to Russia is 5 million people. If net migration exceeds the number of permanent residents of the border region, then we will likely see a change in the status of the Russian population and a growth of ethnic communities on both sides of the border. 13  Most Chinese come to Russia in search of employment. Since 1997, the number of Chinese employed in the Russian Federation (the officially registered Chinese labor force) has been growing steadily both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the total number of foreign labor migrants in the country. In 1997, for instance, 22,200 Chinese were registered, representing 9.2 percent of the total foreign labor force. In 2001, this number was 36,600, or 13.6 percent of the total. 14  (See Figure 1.)   5 Figure 1. Chinese Workers Registered in Russia (in thousands). Source: G. Ignatov, “Problems of Foreign Labor Migration to Russia,”  Economist  , 2004, No. 2, p. 76. More than 60 percent of Chinese migrants are engaged in commercial activity and trade. About 30  percent work in the construction industry and 5-10 percent work in agriculture. 15  According to the Khabarovsky Krai Passport and Visa Service, in 2003 the number of Chinese laborers in the krai was 4,528  people (45.5% of the foreign labor force) (Figure 2). Additionally, 14,428 Chinese entered the territory of the krai using migration cards via border crossings along the Russian border and from other regions of Russia and they represented 40 percent of all foreign entries 36.626.224.323.322.2 0102030401997 1998 1999 2000 2001Number of Workers Registered
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