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Chinese Come To Russia

Some people in Moscow argue that Russia has no choice but to let the Chinese in because the Far East needs more workers. But Kolesnikov insists that the problem of the small population of the Far East is absurd." Indeed, he suggests, the absolute size of the population there is today "greater than is economically justified."
By Paul Goble
Tallinn, Estonia (UPI) Feb 10, 2006
Moscow should act quickly and decisively to limit Chinese immigration into the Russian Far East lest the growing number of Chinese there "polarize" the country, weaken Russian national identity, and give Beijing a lever over Russia in the future, according to a Sakhalin native who works for an international consulting group.

In an article posted on the website this week, Yevgeniy Kolesnikov says that that the number of Chinese residents in the Russian Far East has jumped from 2,000 in 1989 to just under a million now, only one-quarter of whom are officially registered with the government.

Those numbers may seem relatively small relative to the population of the Russian Federation as a whole, the Royal Haskoning consultant says. However, they are quite large in comparison to the 4.9 million people living in the southern portion of the Russian Far East and even the 7.9 million who live in that region as a whole.

Moreover, Kolesnikov suggests the Chinese there are increasingly settling in for the long haul. Polls show that "half live with their families, more than half speak Russian, 70 percent of the youth plan to live in Russia, and their children are studying in Russian schools," even though the Chinese "do not mix with the local population."

Moreover, he continues, "the majority of residents of the Far East are negatively disposed to the Chinese immigration, not only because of their maintenance of a distinct community but also because as a result of their numbers, there has arisen a "de facto new national territorial formation ever less attractive for migrants belonging to European culture."

Moscow must take that into consideration, Kolesnikov argues because "the 'sinification' of the Far East and Siberia is a poor choice for Russia" as a whole. Not because there is any threat that Beijing will seize the region -- "we are all the same a powerful military state," he says -- but because of its social consequences.

Among these are an ever greater polarization between the western and eastern portions of the Russian Federation, an ever greater diversity of the country population, a weakening of Russian national identity and an opening to unwelcome influence "from the site of the Chinese superpower."

Some people in Moscow argue that Russia has no choice but to let the Chinese in because the Far East needs more workers. But Kolesnikov insists that the problem of the small population of the Far East is absurd." Indeed, he suggests, the absolute size of the population there is today "greater than is economically justified."

"The contemporary raw materials sector can develop on the basis of small human resources," he notes, pointing to the cases of Canada and Alaska to make his point. If industry develops, it will need more people, but it will need more people who are both highly skilled and willing to integrate into the Russian community.

In the medium term, Kolesnikov says, such workers will not come from China -- they simply won't integrate -- but rather should be drawn from rural regions and dying industries elsewhere in the Russian Federation or from immigrants and repatriates from culturally similar nations -- like Ukrainians -- in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

In the longer term, he argues, Moscow should adopt an immigration model like the one used in Canada, a set of policies intended to attract qualified and workers who are "similar in civilization" to the region.

In this situation, the question that Russian policy makers should be asking, Kolesnikov says, is not whether to "stop" the influx of Chinese into the Far East but rather "how to do this with minimum losses." In the short term, there will be some, he admits, but they will be "a small price to pay for the preservation of the well being of Russia."

Source: United Press International

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