The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.
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Seminars, Symposia, and Academic Conferences

Wednesday, January 8~Thursday, January 9, 2014
《International workshop》The Russian-Chinese Border: a ‘Strategic Partnership’ in a Mosaic of Indigenous Societies

  • Date: Wednesday, January 8 - Thursday, January 9, 2014
  • Venue: National Museum of Ethnology
  • Inquiries: 10-1 Senri Expo Park, Suita, Osaka 565-8511, Japan
    Tel: +81-(0)6-6876-2151


While much of the border literature in anthropology, sociology and political science has engaged with the regions of the European Union, North America and the Balkans, today the focus of global geopolitics appears to be shifting to the extremely complicated international situation in the North Asian region. The main players here are influential former empires - China and Russia. These two great powers and multinational countries, with long-standing territorial disputes, are seeing rapid transformations. China has a growing influence in the region and in the world, while Russia is rapidly losing both, underestimating its strength and its rivals [Yang Cheng, 2012:2] or hoping to weaken the influence of China in the dominance in their relationship. Other analyses of the future of relations between Russia and China have been more cautious, pointing to “elements of unevenness in their relations” and suggesting that the “next decades will be marked by greater challenges” [Rozman, 2010:15].
Perestroika brought numerous positive changes in bilateral political relations between China and Russia. It led in particular to the signing of an agreement on the eastern border between the USSR and the PRC, and to the demarcation of the Russian and Chinese borders, finalized in 2008. During the process of political negotiation between Russia and China in 1996 a bilateral declaration was signed on a ‘strategic partnership’ insisting that “cross-border and inter-regional collaboration and cooperation between the two countries” was “an important part of Sino-Russian good-neighborhood, friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation”[Joint].

The declaration introduced a new turn in the development of bilateral relations and led to a rapidly changing social and economic life along the Russian-Chinese border. At the same time, two-way flows of resources through the frontier led to the rapid development of transnationalism in the region. Russia saw an escalation of the theme of national identity, putting into question the very integrity of the state. The most radical features of this debate in the Russian political discourse were expressed in the fear of the inhabitants of the eastern part of Russia that Moscow could lose control of the Far East and Siberia. After agreement of 1991, when Russia had to transfer some territories to China, Russian fears increased in the face of the massive Chinese population allegedly found on Russian territories. These social tensions closely echoed regional campaigns against “territorial transfer” to China [Iwashita, 2004:44]. However, with the advent of the Putin presidency regional authorities were barred from interference in international relations, which led to a decrease in public anti-Chinese tensions in the Far East and to a rise in economic activity between the two countries [Rozman, 2010:21].
Therefore, there are discussions how the joint political and economic steps to mutual cooperation between the two powers in the border regions are recognized by public opinion of Russia and China, with different cultural models and concepts of national identity, and how the central governments in both countries, public institutions as well as regional authorities, are responding to these changes. Some scholars argue that in Russia one of the clearest manifestations of attempts to self-determination is a movement called Neo-Eurasianism, a national ideology considering the civilizational role of Russia as an autocratic spiritual bulwark between the West and the East. [Humphrey, 2012:69]. While Russia is searching for its "Russian ideal", China has recently become obsessed in increasing its national power and justifies its borders and conceptualizes its place in the regional order [Rozman, 2010].

Beyond their uneven bilateral relations, Russia and China are also competing for dominance in neighboring regions such as Mongolia and the Korean Peninsula. If for China both neighboring territories are included in the sphere of Sinocentrism [Rozman, 2012b:96], Russia seeks to develop relations through an economic strategy and friendships. So, the struggle of these trilateral relations – Russia-China-Mongolia - is complicated not only because a wealth of natural resources in the Mongolian steppe, but also due to the historical background and cultural ties between Mongols, which transcend their current political boundaries, linking them with Mongols in China and Buryats of Russia. This situation reflects the opinion of anthropologists Hastings Donnan and Thomas M. Wilson who have argued that “States often have internal political boundaries which mark, in ways not necessarily recognized by the state, inter-national boundaries between groups of people who are viewed from above (i.e., from the centers of the state) as ethnic groups or minorities, but who view themselves as nations, and perhaps nations in search of their own sovereign state” [Donnan and Wilson, 1994:8]. The situation of Mongols shares some analogies with the Korean diaspora, which is also found in the Russian Far East (RFE) and as far as Central Asia. An important difference however is that Koreans fed abroad (or were deported) while Mongolian peoples reside on land which was incorporated through Russian and Chinese territorial expansion and found themselves divided by national borders. 

Examination of trends in Sino-Russian international relations and contrasts in their geopolitical strategies with regard to neighboring countries will allow us to better grasp their "strategic partnership" and outline further compromises or “strategic sacrifices” for collaboration between these two great powers, not only in the region, but on the global international scene as well. We believe that a fertile discussion among experts from different disciplines will lead to a better understanding of the motives guiding these two great political systems in their resolution of geopolitical issues and what is the impact of their decisions on the everyday life of border communities.


  1. Donnan H., Wilson M. “Border: Frontiers of Identity, Nation and State”. Oxford –New York, 1999.
  2. Donnan H., Wilson M. “An anthropology of frontiers”// Border approaches. Anthropological perspectives on frontiers. Edited by Donnan H. M. Wilson. University Press of America, 1994, 1-14 pp.
  3. Humphrey C. Concepts of “Russia” and their relation to the Border with China // Frontier encounters: knowledge and practice at the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian Border. Edited by Franck Bille, Gregory Delaplace and Caroline Humphrey. 2012, 55-70 pp.
  4. Iwashita A. “A 4,000 kilometer Journey along the Sino-Russian Border”. Slavic Eurasian Studies, 2004, Sapporo, Japan.
  5. Joint Chinese-Russian Declaration (sovmestnaya kitaisko-rossiiskaya deklaratsiya) // http:// 2006
  6. Rozman G. The Sino-Russian Strategic Partnerships: How close? Where to? // The future of China-Russia relations (Asian in the new millennium). Edited by James A. Bellacqua. The University Press of Kentucky. 2010. 13-33 pp.
  7. Yang Cheng. The Dynamics for the Trilateral relations between China, the US and Russia // www., 2012. March 26.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Time Contents
9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Registration
10:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Welcome address
Ken'ichi Sudo, Director-General
10:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Opening address
Prof. Yuki Konagaya
Dr. Shaglanova Olga
10:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. Introduction of participants
Session 1 Chaired by Prof. Yuki Konagaya
Time Contents
10:45 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 1-1 Prof. Akihiro Iwashita
Thaws, Freezes, and Flows? : The Realities of Sino-Russian Relations over the Borderland
11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. 1-2 Prof. Park Song-Yong
Different Perceptions of the East Sea/the Sea of Japan between Korea and Japan in the 19th Century
12:15 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. lunch
2:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. 1-3 Dr. Yang Cheng
State-Managed Integration Project as a Contributor to Regional Development?: The Case of "Program of Cooperation between the Northeast of the People's Republic of China and the Far East and Eastern Siberia of the Russian Federation (2009 to 2018)"
2:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. 1-4 Dr. Franck Billé
Manchurian Phantom Pains
3:30 p.m. - 3:50 p.m. break
3:50 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Discussion
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Session 2 Chaired by Dr. Franck Billé
Time Contents
10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. 2-1 Dr. Viktor Zatsepine
Historical Legacies and Cinematic Representations of the Cross-border Contacts between China and Russia
10:45 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 2-2 Prof. Yuki Konagaya
The Origins and Evolution of 'Strategic Partnerships' in Indigenous Societies: Strategy in the Past and Tactics in the Present
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. lunch
1:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. 2-3 Prof. Shiro Sasaki
History of Transborder Activities of Nanai People (Khezhe) between Russian and Chinese Empires's Border
1:45 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. 2-4 Dr. Olga Shaglanova
The "Borderlands Milieu" between Russia and Mongolia: History of Transnational Interaction and Accommodation
2:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m. break
2:50 p.m. - 3:35 p.m. 2-5 Prof. Caroline Humphrey
'Remoteness' and Alternative Spatial Concepts at the Russian -Mongolian Border
3:35 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Discussion
5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Closing of the conference
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