The Russian Trade Caravans in Beijing in the Eighteen Century
Since the Treaty of Nertchinsk signed in 1689, which was followed by the Treaty of Kiakhta in 1728, Russia and the Qing Empire inaugurated their diplomatic and economic relations. Tsar Peter I then took the initiative of establishing a continental caravan traffic in order to connect the capitals of the two vast empires. Despite the ups and downs of Russian-Chinese relations, the complex management and the risks involved in long-distance transportation of the shipments of goods, across the whole Siberia, the Russians were able to organize sixteen major caravans to trade in Beijing between 1698 and 1755.These caravans were sent on behalf of the Crown who holds the monopoly on trade with China. The purpose of this paper is to shed a particular light on the activities of these caravans, the actors who are involved in these exchanges and their results, which makes it possible to better understand the specific nature of such trade. Due to the significant role that caravans played in establishing of economic relations between Russia and the Qing Empire, they have also proved to be an unprecedented human and intercultural experience in the history of the two countries.
The Role of Tea in the Relations between the Russian
and Qing Empires in the Second Half of the 19th Century
The article deals with the history of tea trade between China and Russia in the second half of the 19th century. The article shows that at that time this trade conditioned all their economic and commercial relations, that it had a primordial influence on the Russian policy in the Far East, that it was the material basis of cultural interactions. Tea imports represented up to 90% of the total Russian-Chinese trade. It permanently weighed on the bilateral relations. It was this trade that ensured relatively harmonious relations between the two peoples during the second half of the 19th century, and it was this trade that fundamentally changed them at that time. Its enormous imbalance was the cause of the radical changes that took place at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The image of Russia and the Russians in Chinese “social novels”
at the turn of the 20th century.
At the turn of the 20th century in China, Qing dynasty is living the end of its reign (1644-1911). The country is weakened by severe internal crisis while it is enduring the imperialist presence on its soil of many foreign countries, included that of Russia. Among Chinese intelligentsia, some scholars are convinced that the novel is the sole literary genre which can help modernizing and saving the country. “Social novels” [shehui xiaoshuo], published in installments, become very popular then, later known as “exposure novels” [qianze xiaoshuo]. They are very explicit about the political, social and moral problems that China is dealing with at the time. Russia, whether it refers to the Empire or to the pre-1905 revolutionary country, may respectively appear as the cause of these problems or as an inspiration for solutions. We will systematically pick out the Chinese terms related to Russia or the Russians in modern vernacular language at the turn of the 20th century throughout the corpus. We will focus on the literary value of the selected images and stereotypes, and on the writing of the Russian characters.
The Soviet Union and the Second World War in Asia (1937-1945)
The history of the Great Patriotic War (June 22, 1941 - May 9, 1945), which is again at the heart of Russian identity today, hardly includes Asia. However, the Soviet Union has, in a way, waged a defensive war in Asia from the summer of 1937, facing Japanese ambitions, which were part of an enduring Russian-Japanese rivalry in Northeast Asia. Direct fighting even took place, notably in 1939, at the very moment when Moscow was negotiating the German-Soviet pact. The fear of encirclement by Germany and Japan was permanent in Stalin’s mind. The European war (started in 1939) and the Asian war (started in 1931) could have been linked in June 1941 (and not in December), if Japan had attacked the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. From 1939 to 1941, there were many uncertainties about future diplomatic alignments. Japan had a central role, with the signing of the Japan-Soviet neutrality treaty in April 1941. From 1943-44, Stalin became more offensive in this part of the Eurasian space, in order to obtain certain territories and build a protective buffer. This is why he launched a military campaign against Japan on 9 August 1945. The Soviet Union thus actively participated in the establishment of the Asian order that emerged from the capitulation of Japan and the disappearance of its Empire.
Sino-Soviet friendship and common enemies
in the drawings of Krokodil and Manhua from the 1950s
The 1950s are generally regarded as a period of close friendship between the USSR and the PRC. However, a closer study of this decade shows that already at that time there were differences at the state, party and even popular levels. In this regard, it is interesting to analyze Soviet and Chinese publications aimed at affirming a positive mutual image of the two populations. The mainly satirical magazines Krokodil and Manhua allow one to trace the dynamics of bilateral relations and related phenomena, as they appeared regularly during these 1950s and published cartoons that expressed the official view of events in a compact form. This article reports on the images of Sino-Soviet friendship in the 1950s in the context of Cold War events and the desire of both governments to emphasize the unity of the socialist camp. Despite the general similarity of these images, many details differ, reflecting the profound differences between the communist parties of the USSR and the PRC. The comparison of the images also shows which methods the Soviet and Chinese propaganda used to reinforce the impression of closeness between the two countries.
Current Russian-Chinese relations :
an ambivalence that goes back a long way
It was only in the last decades of the 20th century that the long border between China and Russia, modified to the detriment of Russia in the previous century, was stabilized. In this new context, a strong strategic alliance between the two countries developed in the face of United States’ aggressiveness against both countries. However, the persistence of old differences between them, reinforced by new ones, makes the formation of a Eurasian alliance extremely unlikely. In addition, the European Union could interfere in this alliance.
The relationship with China seen from Russia :
a reflection on oneself ?
In the post-Cold War period, were significantly developing relations with Beijing, transforming them into a « strategic partnership », concerns were expressed in the press, the scientific community and the population about the future of this partnership, which was increasingly unbalanced in favor of the PRC, and about the risks it entailed for Russia. After the Ukrainian crisis, which greatly reduced Moscow’s political and economic options in its relations with the West, the Russian government is increasingly emphasizing the strong merits of this partnership, which is accelerating and becoming more dense. The population seems to converge on this assessment of the benefits of the Sino-Russian relationship while the debate on the pros and cons of these strategic choices has taken new directions.
Julie Gerber – Semion Jarinov
A Chinese dream for Russia : the geopolitical image of China
in the neo-Eurasianism of Alexander Dugin
This article brings to light the geopolitical interpretation of China in the work of the Russian neo-Eurasist philosopher and political specialist Alexander Dugin. The various stages in the evolution of this interpretation are examined in the context of the « Eurasian Empire’s » construction and the « multipolar world » he wishes for. This work is based on analyzes of his geopolitical work as well as on interviews and interventions. From the second half of the 1990s to the present day, the geopolitical image of China in Dugin’s speech has gone from one extreme to the other, from very negative to very positive. First seen as an agent of « Atlanticism », China was later seen as Russia’s main Eurasian ally. Today, as a model of an « authoritarian conservative revolutionary » State and of « ethical capitalism », it is erected as the main opponent of the unipolar world led by the United States.