Monday, February 14, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Russians Moving to China for ‘Peaceful and Inexpensive’ Life, Study Finds

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 14 – While many analysts have speculated that demographic pressures will lead many Chinese to settle temporarily or permanently in Russia’s under-populated Far East, few have pointed to the reverse flow of Russian citizens from that area or further afield moving part-time or full-time to China.

In an article in “Svobodnaya pressa” yesterday, Galina Kosareva corrects that gap. She says that “from 30,000 to 40,000 Russians have already purchased apartments for themselves” in China, having concluded that they will be able to enjoy the kind of “peaceful and inexpensive life” they cannot get in their own country (

On the one hand, her report undercuts suggestions by many Russian writers of a deep and unbridgeable ethnic divide between Russians and Chinese in the border regions. And on the other, it suggests that precisely because the two groups are less opposed to one another than many in Moscow think, there may be far more cross border moving in the future than in the past.

That in turn may work against Russia’s interests in yet another way, Kosareva says. While Russia is importing primarily unskilled construction workers, she points out, China has no need for such people and instead is attracting more highly skilled workers in the information technology sector who may not now be able to find jobs in Russia.

Despite the restrictions China continues to impose on foreigners seeking to buy property there – including evidence of the absence of other property in that country – Russians have been buying property in china since 2001 either as a place to live or as an investment, given rapid increases in the urban population of China and the expectation that prices will rise.

For the last decade, Kosareva notes, “the main wave of emigration into China has become from Russia, most of whom are businessmen and pensioners from the Far East” of the Russian Federation. Many of the former are seeking to take advantage of China’s booming economy, while many elderly Russians are interested in purchasing less expensive places to live.

In the Chinese cities near the border, the Moscow journalist says, one can “purchase a beautiful apartment of about 50 square meters for 20 to 30,000 dollars [whereas] in Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, one could not acquire even a room in a communal apartment for the same amount of money.”

According to Kosareva, “Russians are going to China not only for goods but also to work. Russian information technology specialists, engineers, scholars and instructors are much in demand in China” – or at least in vastly more demand than they are in many of the more depressed parts of the Russian Federation.

As a result, the journalist says, Russia’s top minds are leaving to work in China, while the Chinese moving to Russia are people “which their country doesn’t need because there is simply no unqualified work for them in their homeland. Or put more simply, Russia is sending China its best and brightest while China is sending Russia something less than that.

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