DU4 Peasant

DIALOGE UNIT 4: Chinese Peasants in Russia’s Far East


Based on villages communities and a scarcity of lands, most peasants in China’s Far East have extremely limited opportunities to develop their own agriculture farms. Since the opening of the borders between China and Russia in the 1990s, Chinese peasants have been eager to migrate to Russia to develop agricultural enterprises. The agriculture of Chinese farmers now in the Socialist period consists of family based “semi-enterprises” with a broad spectrum of activities. Due to the sophisticated knowledge Chinese peasant migrants have, they have been able to establish well-run farms and have become more successful compared to their Russian “rivals,” who often fail to survive in the case of absence of new technology and centralized supplies of seeds or fuel. Russian formal and informal rules have, however, by and large prevented Chinese farmers from entering the Russian market. As a result, the competition on this market, including competition over farmland, has not been high. Even when some Chinese farmers have been lucky enough to enter the market, they often run businesses quite informally.

A new player entered the stage in 2005 when Russia announced that foreign enterprises are allowed to invest in agriculture. In reality major players faced similar problems when the announcement was made and the formal rules were not accompanied by actual steps. In order to understand the complexity of the actual economic rules, Chinese’ major players in the agro-business needed to comprehend small business practices. At the same time this understanding would open up new competition for vegetables, fruit and pork which placed pressure on the small scale farms of the Chinese migrants in Russia’s Far East. With the European sanctions and the embargo of Russia on all food imports from Europe, the picture became more complex. The Russian Ministry of Agriculture has been engaged in the growth of domestic agro-business and large food corporations. Private farmers have also been encouraged to enhance their production. This placed even more pressure on Chinese farmers who had once entered the country with hopes for a bright future and stability.

Hence, this Dialogue Unit aims to analyse the current trends in these migration activities between China and Russia:
Is there a backlash in migrants back to China because of the increased living standards of the last decades and the growth of possibilities outside the farming labour market inside China?
Is the horizontal mobility of the Chinese farmers closely connected to prospects in vertical mobility?
Are there instead sustained cultural motivations which keep Chinese farmers in a more competitive market in Russia?

Dr. Natalia Ryzhova
PhDr. Daniel Dědovský, Ph.D.


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