A Certain Irony

In a post back in May about the bloody repression in Uzbekistan I noted that Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin was suggesting that US troops should be withdrawn immediately (I didn’t agree if you read the post). Well he seems to have got his way, and the reasoning behind the Uzbekistan parliament decision is of course interesting. The parliament has backed a government order which gives the United States six months to vacate the Karshi-Khanabad airbase. The suggestion is that this order is not entirely unconnected with the U.S. decision to join international demands for an independent investigation into May’s bloody crackdown.

While I’m up posting on Uzbekistan,

Registan has a brief resum? of the Population Reference Bureau 2005 report on global population trends as it affects the former CIS states. There is a clear divide between the Eastern half and the western one, with TFRs generally on the slightly high side (circa 3 TFR) in the east, and disastrously low (circa 1.2) in the west. This suggests a steady movement of population eastwards, and a rapidly changing demographic inside Russia itself. Since the eastern accession countries have been loosing population to the western EU states (especially the UK) this looks like a general east-west gradient.

On detail on the Registan post: the poster doesn’t seem to appreciate the ageing dimension of some of the population growth anticipated between now and 2050. Take Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s TFR is at a below reproduction level of 2.0, so if population remains around the 15 million level this will imply a substantial ageing. Or Armenia with a TFR of 1.3 which is projected to rise from 3 to 3.3 million.

Going back to the ‘westward drift’ issue, this story this week suggests that the Chinese presence is growing rapidly in Russia’s far east.

Sergei Sim, an independent journalist in Vladivostok who has specialized in interethnic issues, said the Chinese aren’t seeking conflict and have a strong lobby in the local government. So far, their main goal appears to be in business. “Economically, they’ve already taken over,” he said.

Some 50,000 Chinese work legally in Russia’s Primoriye region, along the Pacific coast, but their actual number is believed to be twice that, Shinkovskiy said. They earn an average of about $100 a month, half the regular Russian salary but far more than what they could get back home.

At the Ussuriisk bazaar, the region’s largest, Russian and Chinese flags fly over the entrance and merchants wear name tags printed in both languages.

All of which put me very rapidly in mind of this analysis from Brookings Fiona Hill. In particular this part:

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of Soviet subsidies, life for many people living in Siberia has become quite grim. After Soviet controls on residency and place of employment were lifted in the early 1990s, it was reasonable to expect that many people would move out of Siberia and into European Russia of their own accord. As World Bank demographer Timothy Heleniak and others have observed, an initial large outmigration did occur from the most remote and marginal regions of Siberia in the early 1990s. Magadan and Chukotka, for example, lost 53 percent and 66 percent of their respective populations, and the total population of remote regions designated in the Russian ?North? declined by more than 14 percent between 1989 and
2002. But despite speculation that the harshest parts of Siberia might ?empty out,? migration tapered off by the end of the 1990s. And, for the most part, those who relocated did not move from the Far East and Siberia to the ?sunbelt? of European Russia. Most moved from the permafrost to the frost belt ? from isolated villages and small towns to larger cities elsewhere in Siberia and the Urals…

Russian government officials are also fearful of the possible ?emptying out? of Siberia. Of particular concern are the security implications of a continued population decline in the Far Eastern region on the border with China, where there is now a glaring demographic imbalance with China and recent memories of cross-border conflict. In the 1990s, some Russian analysts claimed that as many as 2.5 million Chinese migrants were living and working in Russia, predominantly in the Russian Far East, and raised the specter of a future land grab by China. Perceptions of the size of Chinese migration tend to outweigh the reality, however, and more conservative estimates put these numbers at around 200,000. Surveys of Chinese in Russia indicate that most are economic migrants who do not intend to stay in Russia on a permanent basis. Over the past several years the issues of Russia?s demographic imbalance with China and Chinese migration have not receded, but the major focus of Russian-Chinese relations in Siberia and the Far East has been the potential for Russian energy exports to fuel continued Chinese economic growth. China?s near-insatiable demand for energy is driving new competition between China and Japan over access to regional energy supplies, and over export pipeline routes from Russian oilfields in the eastern expanses of Siberia?again underscoring the importance of Siberian oil to the Russian state and its future. While migration from China to Siberia may not be as significant as perceived, economic migration from Central Asia to the Urals region and West Siberia has become a major regional phenomenon?with a huge influx of ethnic Kyrgyz,Uzbek, and Tajik traders and workers. There are now so many Kyrgyz citizens working permanently in the Urals and Siberia (as many as 500,000) that, in 2002, the government of Kyrgyzstan received permission to set up a consulate in Yekaterinburg to deal with their needs.

I don’t know if Andy is around with any insights, but all this gives me the feeling the Chinese are visiting Russia as much more than tourists these days.

1 thought on “A Certain Irony

  1. and a rapidly changing demographic inside Russia itself.

    There is also this shocking statistic:
    “More Abortions Than Births in Russia.

    About 1.6 million women had an abortion last year, a fifth of them under the age of 18, and about 1.5 million gave birth, said Vladimir Kulakov, vice president of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. ?Many more? abortions weren?t reported.”

    Furthermore, upwards of 10 million Russian men and women are infertile due to ‘abortion and evironmental damage’. And this is on top of Russia’s well know AIDS and life expectancy problems.

    Quite depressing.

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