Friday, September 21, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Russians in the Far East More Upbeat on Chinese Workers than are Russians Elsewhere

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 21 – Residents in the Far Eastern Federal District – a region that adjoins China and where more Chinese workers are present than elsewhere in Russia -- are more positively inclined toward these guest workers than are Russians in other sections of the country, according to the results of a new poll.
Yesterday, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion published the results of a poll conducted across the Russian Federation at the end of August concerning how much Russians know about Chinese guest workers and how they feel about them (, Press Release 773, September 20).
Among the most interesting findings concerned the fundamental difference in the attitudes of Russians living in the Far East next door to China where such workers from abroad are more numerous and of Russians living in other parts of the country where there are significantly fewer Chinese.
According to the poll, residents of the Far Eastern Federal District are “inclined toward them as a rule more positively than the rest of those questioned.” While the Far Easterners agree that Chinese labor increases unemployment among Russians (63 percent said yes, but 31 said no), they still viewed the Chinese as making a positive contribution.
First of all, in contrast to Russians elsewhere, those in the Far East said that the Chinese workers help make up the deficit of workers in Russia (52 percent said yes and 35 percent said no in the Far East, compared to 40 and 38 percent respectively in other parts of the country.
Second, the Far Easterners are less inclined than Russians elsewhere to believe that Chinese immigrants led to an increase in crime. In the Far Eastern district, 33 percent thought they did, while 50 percent said no, but in Russia as a whole, those figures were 50 percent and 29 percent.
And third, the Far Eastern residents also tend to believe that the Chinese guest workers help boost productivity in Russian factories, with 43 percent saying yes and only 33 percent saying no, compared to 28 percent and 42 percent in the Russian Federation as a whole.
These findings suggest that those Russians most familiar with Chinese workers – and there are far more of them in the Far Eastern Federal District than elsewhere – are the least prejudiced against them and conversely that those least familiar with the Chinese are the most antagonistic.
The poll results undercut claims by Russian nationalist politicians and xenophobic activist groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), and they indicate that the situation in the Russian Far East may not be as explosive as some have said – at the very least, not on account of Chinese immigration.

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