Russia should embrace, not fear, possibilities of Chinese immigration

By Kondrokov Alexander Source:Global Times Published: 2013-9-10 23:48:01

Recently Alexander Zurawski, Secretary of Russian Ministry of Regional Development, stressed that the Chinese immigrants' endeavors to build ethnic villages in Russia in the form of "Chinatowns" would be banned by local authorities.

He said that immigrants in Russia must do as the Russians do and seek to integrate into Russian society. Most Chinese immigrants, according to Zurawski, still prefer a small circle of life, and their manners violate Russian ethical standards at times.

Russia is the world's second largest destination for immigrants following the US. Nonetheless, the Russian government insists on banning immigrant villages inhabited by a single ethnic group, which it believes may cause turmoil.

The authorities promise that "Chinatowns" will never appear in Russia. Broadly speaking, these "Chinatowns" refer to immigrant villages of single ethnic group, not just Chinese, but also other groups like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Georgians, Chechens and Tatars.

Moscow's population structure has undergone prominent changes in the two decades following the Soviet Union's collapse. Nowadays it is actually the location of one's workplace, rather than ethnicity, that matters most to immigrants' residence.

Azerbaijanis largely live in eastern, southeastern and southern region of Moscow, Armenians in the town's south and southwest, and Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chinese and Vietnamese mainly in northeast, southeast or the suburbs.

Generally, rich immigrants prefer residing in downtown or the city's southwest, and others choose to stay in suburbs or old five-floor buildings without electric lift.

Currently in Moscow, although there is no "Chinatown," there is "China-building" in which immigrant from one ethnic group live together. Official statements negate its existence, but real estate brokers and journalists say differently.

Immigration problems are common in many other countries. But Muscovites cannot accept the influx of a large number of immigrants yet.

Partly due to negative media reports, there is a deeply rooted public conception that climbing crime rates in cities are related to soaring numbers of immigrants from different ethnic groups,

While the public blames immigrants for terrorism, theft and market conflicts, the immigration issue also becomes a political card, and one that almost all the candidates of the latest Moscow mayor election played.

While Chinese or other immigrants make Russians fear, the only way to prevent such fear would be to completely shut down the borders. But this is impossible.

Take Chinese immigrants. They lived and worked in Russia even before the revolution of 1917. In Far East cities like Blagoveshchensk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, Chinese ethnic communities began to take shape after 1870.

In the 1920s, Chinese clubs, hotels and restaurants appeared in Moscow. In the 1930s, more than half of state-owned laundry shops had Chinese names, such as Dalian Port Laundries.

Moscow saw the arrival of a great number of Chinese immigrants in the early 1950s. It was a honeymoon between China and the Soviet Union, and "friendship" was a famous brand name for imported Chinese goods. Thousands of students and experts arrived to learn and work.

After the frozen period between the two countries, the Chinese appeared again in Moscow in 1987. Again, students and experts came first. Besides studying and researching, they also engaged in trade. In that era, China's own modern economic foundation was starting to take shape.

Nowadays, the only choice that Russia has is to allow immigration, like other countries do. Generally, this is a good thing. At least local residents who are not so rich can easily get cheap goods, and wholesalers can explore brand-new fields and have new platforms too.

The authorities need to consolidate regulations to adapt to this trend, rather than adopt a set of radical and impossible measures.

In fact, it is the Chinese themselves who decide whether they will live in Russia or elsewhere in the world. The world has already recognized the fact that the 21st century will witness the vigorous development of China. The long Chinese history has already proven one thing: The Chinese are a perpetual reserve, and they themselves can constantly create wealth and growth.

The author is a manager of Grand Renome Co, Ltd and lives in Moscow.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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