Friday, December 01, 2006

Chinese Migrant Workers Causing Paranoia Among Russians

Sources: Fears Grow of Chinese Entering Russian East, Diplomats Talk After Migrant Brawl in Russia

In 2000, President Vladimir Putin warned that if the migrants from east asian countries kept flowing into Russia for work at high rates, then it would just be a matter of time before large parts of the population of Russia would be speaking Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. These fears are being voiced during a time when Russia and China have been working diligently on forming closer ties. In the past few years, their relationship has improved by an economic inter-dependence: China is a main supplier of weapons to Russia and Russia has promised to build gas and oil pipelines to supply China. Yet it has become a common fear among Russians these days that the Chinese are flooding into Russia's sparsely populated areas by the millions.

Recent studies have shown, however, that in fact almost twice as many Russians are granted visa by China than the other way around. This indicates that what some have perceived as a great influx of Chinese into Russia is actually a problem of declining population due to Russians leaving. Russian leaders have identified the far east areas of Russia has having problems retaining their populations because of a lack of business development, among other things. At the same time, Russia has recognized that the Chinese who are living and working in these areas are vital to their economies. Chinese traders set up giant markets where they sell to the Russians every kind of good imaginable. The Russians who employ them for wages much lower than they can get their fellow Russians to work for value these Chinese workers highly. In any case, the seemingly high ratio of Chinese to Russians in these areas have been a cause for much tension between the migrant workers and Russian police. Russian police often harass the Chinese workers, who must bribe them with money and favors. There have also been break-outs of fights and riots between Chinese workers and Russian police. The situation has given birth to a paranoia on the side of the Russians, whose leaders vow that "Chinatowns" in Russia will not be tolerated.


1) One of the major worries that Russians have of this situation is that it seems the Chinese are able to reap benefits from it to a much greater extent than the Russians. What kind of deals can Russia make with China so that it can increase its benefits as well? What is it about the infrastructures if each country that lends to a one-sided gain?

2) Who would suffer more between the two countries, and in what way, if Russia were to limit the influx of Chinese migrant workers?

3) How can the Russian government calm the reactionary nationalism the country is experiencing as a result of this tension with China before it stokes violence, or else channel it in a way that can be productive?

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