Tags: Chinese | Russia's | Maritime | Region | Part

Chinese in Russia's Maritime Region, Part 2

Saturday, 19 January 2002 12:00 AM

The number of Chinese in Vladivostok and the entire peninsula to its north (with a total population of over 1 million) definitely has surpassed 12,000, and could be twice as much. And thousands of Chinese are concentrated in the southernmost part of the Maritime Region, near the North Korean border, along a newly built "second transportation corridor," running from Hunchun (Chinese border point) to Kraskino (Russian border point) to Zarubino (a port on the Sea of Japan).

In addition, thousands of Chinese are working throughout the Maritime Region in timber cutting (legal and illegal), as well as in poaching and smuggling of rare species (mammals, fish, turtles, etc.) By late 2001, the Chinese side had established a highly developed and sophisticated infrastructure in the region for this purpose.

Finally, one must admit that the number of Chinese – all kinds, including "traveling traders," poachers, and other illegals – in the Maritime Region by the end of 2001 had neared 100,000 or even surpassed this level. And this is a modest estimate.

The ratio of Chinese to the local Russian population rose from about 2 percent in 1995 to over 4 percent in 2001. In every year from 1995 to 2001, the local population fell by at least 20,000, while the number of Chinese – all kinds, at any given moment – rose by at least 10,000 annually.

A continuation of this trend (and what could end it, let alone reverse it?) would result, by 2005, in shrinking the population of natives to the 2 million mark, with simultaneous expansion of the Chinese presence to 150,000 or more.

The local authorities in effect have lost control of the situation. Proof of this is in the fact that a "private border checkpoint" is operating, not far from a major official checkpoint in Pogranichnyi, according to mid-to late 2001 Russian TV and magazine sources.

Some "new Russian businessmen" rented a small piece of the border from the Russian Border Guard Service. The number of Chinese entering Russia through this checkpoint without registration is evidently measured in the thousands.

"The economy of the Maritime Region is ruined; people make their living by selling whatever possible to the Chinese and getting Chinese goods in exchange" was the refrain often repeated by the Russian media in 2000-2001.

The social infrastructure is also ruined. Beginning in 1995, the lack of heating, electricity and even water in the apartments in Vladivostok and other Maritime cities have become routine reports in the Moscow media. Every winter puts the Maritime Region on the brink of survival – for which Moscow and Vladivostok blame each other.

The local people use every means available – including crime – to survive. They help the Chinese by transporting consumer goods, collecting non-ferrous metals (in many cases stealing transformers, power lines and other working equipment) and selling them to the Chinese, and participating in illegal timber cutting and transport of the logs to China. In short, local socioeconomic disaster and political chaos have greatly eased the Chinese invasion.

The major areas of Chinese economic activity (other than transporting goods over the "Golden Road" to East Asian countries) are as follows:

In addition, Vladivostok, Ussuriysk, and Nakhodka have become warehouses for hundreds of thousands of tons of scrap metal – mostly of illegal origin – from Siberia and the RFE. This scrap goes to China.

Those who try to resist this reality don't live very long. The Chinese are not directly involved in such murders, but they pay off the "timber mafia." In China itself, timber cutting is nearing zero due to environmental problems, while demand for timber is rising. Rapidly growing imports, mainly from the Russian border regions, fill this gap.

Thousands of Russians and Chinese are working here, and the "poaching mafia" is as merciless as the "timber mafia."

More specifically, in every month during 1998-2001, several million liters of such vodka – also known as khanzha and most of it illegal – crossed the Sino-Russian border into the Maritime Region. This rotgut is extremely popular – despite its lethality – with hundreds of thousands of the locals because of its very cheap price.

Chinese control over most of the local retail and wholesale market provides unlimited opportunities for khanzha sales. The local police are bribed and don't interfere. Some of this poison is consumed on the spot, while the rest is delivered to points all over the RFE and Siberia.

Ephedrine, a medicine widely used in China to fight colds, is formally banned in Russia. However, Chinese traders deliver this substance in large batches to the Maritime Region, where it is used – in dozens of underground workshops – as a precursor for making the dangerous illegal drug Ephedrone. This comparatively cheap drug has spread all over Russia, but is especially popular in the RFE and Siberia.

Without doubt, Beijing and Harbin tolerate – or even support – the supply of khanzha and ephedrine to the Maritime Region and their spread into other eastern regions of Russia, because such practices contribute to the subjugation and even elimination of the locals, and, consequently, ease Chinese expansion into this zone.

While the mortality rate is extremely high in Russia, it is even greater in the Maritime Region and other eastern regions, blessed with such poisonous "gifts" from China.

It is impossible to calculate the total annual volume of all Chinese businesses in the Maritime Region, but a very rough estimate would be many billions of dollars. These businesses, while unprofitable or even destructive to the region, provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of the locals.

Chinese economic domination of the region cannot be denied. And economic control, along with paying off the local police and politicians, leads to political control. Former Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko and present Governor Sergei Darkin make no attempt to hide their hatred of the Chinese, but this changes nothing.

And how do Moscow, the Kremlin and strongman Putin react to this Chinese domination? Evidently, Moscow understands its impotence and just tries to get all the revenue it can, or even to sell off the Maritime Region's resources for the best available price. Russian media such as the newspaper Nezavismaya gazeta have published articles on this subject. Again, this changes nothing.

By 2001, the Maritime Region in effect had become a semi-occupied territory of China and a Chinese base for invasion into other regions of the RFE. How will this influence the geopolitical situation in the entire Far East? The insightful reader can draw his or her own conclusions.

Dr. Thomas J. Torda has been a Chinese linguist specializing in science and technology with FBIS, and a Chinese/Russian defense technology consultant with the Office of Naval Intelligence.

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The number of Chinese in Vladivostok and the entire peninsula to its north (with a total population of over 1 million) definitely has surpassed 12,000, and could be twice as much. And thousands of Chinese are concentrated in the southernmost part of the Maritime Region,...
Saturday, 19 January 2002 12:00 AM
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