Parting with Asian Balkans: Perceptions of Chinese Migration in the Russian Far East, 2000-2013

25 Apr 2014

New PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo -- In the 1990s and early 2000s, Russian journalists, officials, and scholars consistently warned about the threat of the Chinese “colonization” of the Russian Far East. The consequence, they said, could be ethnic clashes, armed border conflicts, and eventual territorial annexation by China. A former deputy governor of Siberia’s Omsk Province evocatively summed up these fears in 1997:

“First Chinese migrant, then Chinese cultural center, then Chinese company, then Chinese worker, then Chinese soldier.”

The governor of the Primorskii region, the most populous and economically developed region in the Russian Far East with Vladivostok as its capital, warned throughout the 1990s that Chinese migration was turning the Far East into an “Asian Balkans.” These warnings strongly resonated with local public sentiments. In a 2000 survey of 1,010 residents of the Primorskii region, 82 percent of respondents believed China wanted to take their province away from Russia and 46 percent feared that such a loss of sovereignty would result from the seemingly innocuous “peaceful infiltration” of Chinese migrant laborers and traders. [...]

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