The Bear and the Dragon: Do Not Fear a Chinese Land Grab in the Russian Far East

Via Future Directions International, a look at whether Russian farmland in the Far East is under an imminent Chinese threat:

It is both popular and unwise to assume that Russian farmland in the Far East is under an imminent Chinese threat. Popular in the sense that, with Russia hosting 6.2 million people in a federal district that occupies around one-third of the Russian mainland, and China boasting 38.3 million people in its northernmost province of Heilongjiang, it is no surprise that many picture a David and Goliath scenario where Goliath actually wins. Nonetheless, it is unwise to go from those statistics alone. Population figures do not accurately take into account the number of Chinese in Russia and the economic and migratory realities on the ground that guide Chinese thinking.


According to a study done by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in 2009, ‘the number of Chinese visiting, working, or living in Russia has been among the most wildly abused data points in a country known for statistical anomalies.’ A commonly cited projection suggests that Russia will host up to ten million Chinese by 2050. Academic data posits that the number of Chinese in Russia is now between 400,000 and 550,000, whereas the most recent Russian national census in 2010 estimates that there are around 30,000 Chinese people living in Russia. Others maintainthat there are around 10,500 Chinese migrants living in Russia.

The number of Chinese living in the Far East is difficult to narrow down. Current economic realities in both China and Russia are causing Chinese labourers to consider agriculture, an occupation popular with Chinese migrants in the Far East, as a temporary source of income. Usually, however, these Chinese migrants work on a farm, send their pay back to China and then return home. Most Chinese migrants in Russia do not actually live in the Far East, they prefer the richer, more urban western parts of the country; evidently more Chinese prefer Moscow to Vladivostok. The decline of the rouble, increased inflation and the drop in oil prices is causing many Chinese to head back to their homeland in search of better work opportunities and better living standards. A decline in the Russian economy will see more Chinese return home, where there are more long-term economic opportunities to take advantage of.

Chinese migrants are less inclined to stay in the Far East for a long period of time because of the limited size of the market and the region’s hostile investment climate. Only 6.2 million people live in the Far East and that population could decline as people leave the region for wealthier urban centres in either western Russia or China. A greater number of Russians choose to do their shopping in China, where consumer products are more abundant and are significantly cheaper. Chinese entrepreneurs may consider long-term farming endeavours in the Far East but only if the stability of the investment environment can be better assured. For example, if farmers know that regulatory bodies in the region are capable of setting out and enforcing the rules of investment, then Chinese labourers may be inclined to remain in Russia and establish more permanent agricultural businesses.

Most Chinese workers, however, occupy construction and agricultural positons and work on a short-term basis. This demonstrates a lack of confidence in the region as a stable, long-term investment hub. Better economic opportunities for Chinese job seekers can be found in the north-east and inland provinces of China and a small market and perpetual corruption all run contrary to the stability that the Chinese are looking for in the region. Unless the Russian Government  makes living, working and investing in the Far East more competitive and attractive than north-east China, the Far East will struggle to attract an increasingly permanent Chinese migrant population, that, at present, is only interested in temporarily taking advantage of Russian fields.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 at 3:35 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at and frontier investment markets at