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The Dragon & The Bear: The Geopolitical Issue Over Russia's Far East Border With China.

1153 words - 5 pages

Luo Yi is a Chinese pig farmer eking out a living in a decrepit former aluminum parts factory near Khabarovsk, in the Far East of Russia. He is a small part of a smoldering conflict that could prove to be one of the biggest geopolitical problems of the 21st century. The land that Luo is on is part of a vast area that Russia annexed 140 years ago, when China was too busy fighting the Opium Wars to object. Through pogroms, massacres and mass deportations between 1860 and 1937, the Russians purged a Chinese presence that dated back at least a thousand years. But now the Chinese are returning lured by a landmass that is 2.3 million square miles, almost as big as China itself, but with a population of only 6 million people, Luo, 40, was a village headman and Communist Party official in his native Heilongjiang province before going to Russia on a trade visit in the early 1990s. He stayed. One reason: the vast tracts of derelict farmland, largely unpopulated. In his native district near the Russian border, Luo says, there were 186 people per square mile. In southern Khabarovsk, which has the same climate, there are only 3 people per square mile, meaning the region could support tens of millions--if not more--of Chinese, he argues. "You cannot say whose land it is. Wh have only one Earth, and throughout history the strong races prevailed over the weak ones." Driving the migration, as well, are severe water shortages in the impoverished north and west (along the Russian border). In tandem with the collapse of state-owned enterprises, these vast new dust bowls have created at least 100 million economic and ecological refugees who have no place to escape to in their own country. Many poor Chinese have been filtering across the border, building illegal peasant villages and working in factories. "We have to hide from the police, because they come to ask for money, to ask us to work for free, or simply to take our vegetables," says Fang Yan Jun, 32, who works in a Chinese farm village in Siberia. "In the army we learned the strategy of hiding, like in Maoist-style guerilla or partisan warfare; we have learned to survive by hiding whenever the Russian police come."He says his people want to peacefully reconquer the region for China. But the Russians harass even those Chinese like Luo whose papers are in order. Luo lost most of his pigs recently when one of this farms was arbitrarily confiscated. How many Chinese are now in eastern Russia? Nobody really knows. Beyond the 12,000 legally there, estimates range from the Kremlin's official figure of 200,000 to a "secret" official number of 1.5 million. "You could easily hide 10 million people ini Siberia, it is so vast," says Jeffrey A. Van Dreal, first secretary at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Officially, Sino-Russian relations are friendly, and territorial disputes are limited to a few islands on the Amure River. Unofficially, the Russians are terrified. They are desperate to keep the Chinese out, while the...

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