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Forum LockedWhy China doesn’t reclaim lost territories from Russia?

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    Posted: 14-Mar-2006 at 23:48

All the "Unequal Treaties" signed by China with the European imperial powers were officially dissolved following the Communist takeover in 1949 - with the exception of huge amount of Chinese territory that Russia annexed from China under the Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Treaty of Beijing (1860). As a result of those two treaties and some other smaller treaties, China lost over 1 million km (400,000 square miles) of territory in Manchuria (called "Outer Manchuria") and another half million km (200,000 square miles) in the western regions to Russia. The combined 1.5 million km comprises an area three times the size of Spain.

As the result of the loss of "Outer Manchuria" to Russia, China lost the port of Vladivostok, the island of Sakhalin, and also access to the sea of Japan.

The following map shows how large that territory (in pink) is. The island of Sakhalin, however, is not painted in pink.  

Outer Manchuria is in light red on this map.

Interestingly, even though the official Chinese position still regards those previous border treaties signed with Russia as unequal ones, the current Chinese regime no longer wants to reclaim all the lost territories. Instead, they have been negotiating with the Russians on the basis of the modern boundaries, leaving out just about 35,000 km of territory in dispute, with about 28,000 km in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, 6000 km elswhere along the western border, and about 1,000 km along the Argun, Amur, and Ussuri rivers on the eastern border.

My question is, why was China willing to give up such a huge amount of land to Russia but its attitude towards Hong Kong and Macau, two tiny city-states, was so different? Of course, economically speaking, Hong Kong (and to a smaller extent, Macau) is very important to China. However, "Outer Manchuria" (including the "ice-free" port of Vladivostok) and the "Western border" region (near the Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture) are not only strategically important, but may also be economically important to China one day too. If the reclaiming of Hong Kong and Macau was an indication of Chinese national pride, why not the reclaiming of those territories whose combined size is three times that of Spain, given the fact that all those territories were lost to a foreign power as a result of Unequal Treaties?   

PLEASE NOTE: This thread is intended to ask a genuine historical question. It is not an excuse to talk about Chinese territorial expansion.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Aigun

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_of_Peking

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Manchuria

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Sino-Russian_border_agreem ent#Western_border

 

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redefine of the Qing China with PRC China, reversely, the Tsarist Russian with the Soviet Union.

Chinese communists need the Russian as alliance since before the founding of PRC, though not an easy allied relation, conditional alliance is still much needed. whether thats since the WWII- Cold War era or nowadays.

The "outer Manchurian" region was claimed by the Qing&Ming dynasties, but it has always being a sparsely populated place during those periods, although the loss of it may stir up "painful memory" by the "unequal treaties", but to be more realistic and practical, its strategical importance could not be compared to the cases presented by HongKong&Macau, as nowadays, the "outer Manchurian" region is effectively colonized and populated by the Russians whereas HongKong&Mancau even still under colonial rule were in this light effectively "Chinese" territories. And obvious this difference was partly caused by the fact that the province of Canton was under much longer direct Chinese influence, whereas the "Outer Manchurian" region was always under loosely nominal subjugation by various Chinese dynasties. And also by the fact, the Manchu were historically consider non-Chinese, and seen by the Chinese as outsiders, the Manchu rulers in fear of Chinese taking over of their homeplace in "Manchurian" region, issued ban of Chinese immigration into the area, its only until the situation in the far east region got out of control, for the purpose of strengthening the position in the region, did the Qing government began to revise their former immigrant policy regarding the Han-Chinese. but by then the Russians had already effectively seized most of "outer Manchurian" region and exerted their influence ever since. This too is counted as the result of overall miscalculation of its foreign policy and strategical measures by the Qing government in the face of global competitors. Which somewhat inevitably bound to happen.

"No pain no gain", the loss of "outer Manchuria" IMO is a gain for China rather than a pain.

P.S. (including the "ice-free" port of Vladivostok), this is another example of "put the cart before the horse" perspective of looking at history and current affairs. Were the Qing period Chinese realizing this advantage of Vladivostok port? and because this has now been developed by the Russians through the time and demonstrated such advantage, China then should regret or reclaim?

same as to say, because China&America is now engaged busily with each other in trade, so the Korean war was a "regretful" mistake?  Or because the Han&Manchu eventually would all became Chinese citizens, so the Han-Chinese resistance against the Manchu of the late Ming&throughout Qing period were "uncalled-for" actions? This is rather disregard of history than "historically" looked upon.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote flyingzone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Mar-2006 at 10:04

Another insightful and thoughtful response from Charioteer!!!!

I agree with you that the Chinese approach to the huge "lost territories" to Russia is a very pragmatic one. To demand the land, now heavily populated by Russians, from Russia could only provoke an unnecessary full-scale war.

I have two further reflections, one in relation to the Daoyu Ta Islands and the other to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

If China is able to adopt such a pragmatic attitude towards Outer Manchuria and its western border with Russia, why is its attitude towards Japan regarding the Daoyu Ta Islands so different? Does the Chinese's longstanding (and perhaps even justifiable) distrust of the Japanese have something to do with the difference?

I think the Chinese's pragmatic approach towards Outer Manchuria could serve as a "model" to serve the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Of course, there are some dissimilarities between the two situations (e.g. Palestine WAS the homeland of the Palestinians before the establishment of the State of Israel while Outer Manchuria was quite peripheral in relation to the core of the Chinese state). However, as the Chinese realize that it's impossible to demand Russia to relinquish its sovereignty claim over Outer Manchuria, the Palestinians (and their supporters) should realize that the idea of wiping out the State of Israel from the world map is as equally absurd. Yes, both the Chinese ("Unequal Treaties") and the Palestinians (forced occupation) have been wronged historically, and the Russians and the Israelis have always to acknowledge that. The important thing to do now is not to "revise" history, but to come up with a pragmatic solution to the problem. The Chinese and the Russians are still negotatiating their borders, but the Chinese have largely abandoned the claim of sovereignty over Outer Manchuria. I think the Palestinians and the Israelis should do the same - negotiate a reasonable border between the two "states" - the State of Israel and the State of Palestine - and try to find a way to co-exist instead of trying to "destroy" one another which will definitely prove to be futile.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jiangweibaoye Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Mar-2006 at 12:12
Originally posted by flyingzone flyingzone wrote:

Another insightful and thoughtful response from Charioteer!!!!

I agree with you that the Chinese approach to the huge "lost territories" to Russia is a very pragmatic one. To demand the land, now heavily populated by Russians, from Russia could only provoke an unnecessary full-scale war.

I have two further reflections, one in relation to the Daoyu Ta Islands and the other to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

If China is able to adopt such a pragmatic attitude towards Outer Manchuria and its western border with Russia, why is its attitude towards Japan regarding the Daoyu Ta Islands so different? Does the Chinese's longstanding (and perhaps even justifiable) distrust of the Japanese have something to do with the difference?

I think the Chinese's pragmatic approach towards Outer Manchuria could serve as a "model" to serve the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Of course, there are some dissimilarities between the two situations (e.g. Palestine WAS the homeland of the Palestinians before the establishment of the State of Israel while Outer Manchuria was quite peripheral in relation to the core of the Chinese state). However, as the Chinese realize that it's impossible to demand Russia to relinquish its sovereignty claim over Outer Manchuria, the Palestinians (and their supporters) should realize that the idea of wiping out the State of Israel from the world map is as equally absurd. Yes, both the Chinese ("Unequal Treaties") and the Palestinians (forced occupation) have been wronged historically, and the Russians and the Israelis have always to acknowledge that. The important thing to do now is not to "revise" history, but to come up with a pragmatic solution to the problem. The Chinese and the Russians are still negotatiating their borders, but the Chinese have largely abandoned the claim of sovereignty over Outer Manchuria. I think the Palestinians and the Israelis should do the same - negotiate a reasonable border between the two "states" - the State of Israel and the State of Palestine - and try to find a way to co-exist instead of trying to "destroy" one another which will definitely prove to be futile.

Well put.  I totally agree.  I also agree on that Palestine/Isreali statement too.

I think there is a lot of historical baggage between China & Japan.  I personally believe that it can be overlooked, but those annual visits to that Shrine in Japan makes it so much more difficult to reconcile.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sino Defender Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 01:40
well, the situation of palestine/isreali is so much different. the palestinians consider jerusalem as their occupied capital. the lost land to russia is not as important to china as jerusalem is to both the jews and palestinians.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 11:42

this topic needs not to get involved with affairs in the middle east, so i dont want to comment on that. unless thats what you intended. but the dissimilarities between the two cases are too great, they are incomparable.

the case of DiaoYu island is different from "outer Manchuria" one, as Japan is not Russia, and Koizumi is not Japan.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote flyingzone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 12:04
Originally posted by The Charioteer The Charioteer wrote:

the case of DiaoYu island is different from "outer Manchuria" one, as Japan is not Russia, and Koizumi is not Japan.

So are you acknowledging that China is indeed applying some sort of "double standard" in dealing with the territorial disputes with the two countries?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 12:41

Quote So are you acknowledging that China is indeed applying some sort of "double standard" in dealing with the territorial disputes with the two countries?

the dissimilarities between the case of Sino-Russian dispute and the case of Sino-Japanese dispute is as great as they are with Palestine-Israel one IMO.

"Double standard"? if they are not essentially equal matter, why should one use "uniform standard", just because they all fall into the same category of "territorial disputes"?

Assume, if China giveup DiaoYu island's sovereignty, would such make the right wings of Japan stop visiting the "Yasukuni shrine", thus rationalize relation between the 2 countries? there is no guarantee of that as long as Koizumi and his right wing ministers are in power.

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote flyingzone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 15:43
Originally posted by The Charioteer The Charioteer wrote:

"No pain no gain", the loss of "outer Manchuria" IMO is a gain for China rather than a pain.

Charioteer, in your opinion, what did China "gain" from losing "Outer Manchuria"?

Originally posted by The Charioteer The Charioteer wrote:

P.S. (including the "ice-free" port of Vladivostok), this is another example of "put the cart before the horse" perspective of looking at history and current affairs. Were the Qing period Chinese realizing this advantage of Vladivostok port? and because this has now been developed by the Russians through the time and demonstrated such advantage, China then should regret or reclaim?

I agree the "Vladivostok argument" was very ad hoc.

I think that Vladivostok is strategically much more important to Russia than to China because it's the only "ice-free" port on Russia's Pacific coast. The only thing that China's lost as a result of losing Vladivostok is its access to the Sea of Japan.

I wonder what Vladivostok was like (under Chinese rule) before the Russian annexation.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Maju Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 18:02
I think that "outer Machuria" was a "markland", a broder territory like Mongolia or Tibet. It had no significative Chinese population, so it's difficult to back up that claim with nationalist discourse other than scratching in old wounds.

Unlike that case, HonKong or Taiwan are 100% Chinese territories. It's the diference between Ireland or Kent - if you know what I mean.

You can say that China is applying double standards to outer Manchuria and Mongoli on one side and to Tibet or sinkiang on the other - but that's because they can: no great power disputes them that.

What China gets from not scratching the wounds of the borders with Russia is an ally. Also, may think that, long term, Russia will lose all Siberia to China just because Russia is losing population while Chinese emigration to Siberia is huge.

The case can't compare with the Palestinian case at all. It could copare with the Mexico-USA relationship maybe but not with Palestine: a conflict that is essentally impossible to solve becaue they are not fighting for a markland but for the heartland of their country: both Plaestinians and Israelis claim ALL and I believe that they can't live without conrolling ALL. That's why I think that only viable solution is the creation of a non-ethnic unified state.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sino Defender Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 19:39

Originally posted by Maju Maju wrote:

I think that "outer Machuria" was a "markland", a broder territory like Mongolia or Tibet. It had no significative Chinese population, so it's difficult to back up that claim with nationalist discourse other than scratching in old wounds.

Unlike that case, HonKong or Taiwan are 100% Chinese territories. It's the diference between Ireland or Kent - if you know what I mean.

You can say that China is applying double standards to outer Manchuria and Mongoli on one side and to Tibet or sinkiang on the other - but that's because they can: no great power disputes them that.

What China gets from not scratching the wounds of the borders with Russia is an ally. Also, may think that, long term, Russia will lose all Siberia to China just because Russia is losing population while Chinese emigration to Siberia is huge.

The case can't compare with the Palestinian case at all. It could copare with the Mexico-USA relationship maybe but not with Palestine: a conflict that is essentally impossible to solve becaue they are not fighting for a markland but for the heartland of their country: both Plaestinians and Israelis claim ALL and I believe that they can't live without conrolling ALL. That's why I think that only viable solution is the creation of a non-ethnic unified state.

just curious. where are u from?

"Whoever messes with the heavenly middle kingdom, no matter how far s/he escapes, s/he is to be slaughtered"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2006 at 23:27
Originally posted by Sino Defender Sino Defender wrote:

just curious. where are u from?

he is from Basque

check it here,

http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~ja/bc.html



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sino Defender Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2006 at 02:44
he knows quite a lot about chinese history and politics. so he is a spanish?

Edited by Sino Defender
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2006 at 05:20
Originally posted by flyingzone flyingzone wrote:

Charioteer, in your opinion, what did China "gain" from losing "Outer Manchuria"?

I think i have already answered this in my ealiest post.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote flyingzone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2006 at 08:51
Originally posted by The Charioteer The Charioteer wrote:

And also by the fact, the Manchu were historically consider non-Chinese, and seen by the Chinese as outsiders, the Manchu rulers in fear of Chinese taking over of their homeplace in "Manchurian" region, issued ban of Chinese immigration into the area, its only until the situation in the far east region got out of control, for the purpose of strengthening the position in the region, did the Qing government began to revise their former immigrant policy regarding the Han-Chinese. but by then the Russians had already effectively seized most of "outer Manchurian" region and exerted their influence ever since. This too is counted as the result of overall miscalculation of its foreign policy and strategical measures by the Qing government in the face of global competitors. Which somewhat inevitably bound to happen.

"No pain no gain", the loss of "outer Manchuria" IMO is a gain for China rather than a pain.

I always read your posts very carefully, and honestly, I don't think you really gave an explanation for this "gain" thing that you mentioned earlier in your post. To gain something means one benefits from a situation, so in the case of "losing" Outer Manchuria to Russia, what specific benefits did China get? 

Charioteer, whenever I ask you a question, I don't mean to challenge you or put you down. I just want to clarify things especially because a lot of your posts are very long and sometimes your English isn't very clear. 

I hope you know how much I appreciate your input.   

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2006 at 09:24
Originally posted by flyingzone flyingzone wrote:

Originally posted by The Charioteer The Charioteer wrote:

And also by the fact, the Manchu were historically consider non-Chinese, and seen by the Chinese as outsiders, the Manchu rulers in fear of Chinese taking over of their homeplace in "Manchurian" region, issued ban of Chinese immigration into the area, its only until the situation in the far east region got out of control, for the purpose of strengthening the position in the region, did the Qing government began to revise their former immigrant policy regarding the Han-Chinese. but by then the Russians had already effectively seized most of "outer Manchurian" region and exerted their influence ever since. This too is counted as the result of overall miscalculation of its foreign policy and strategical measures by the Qing government in the face of global competitors. Which somewhat inevitably bound to happen.

"No pain no gain", the loss of "outer Manchuria" IMO is a gain for China rather than a pain.

I don't think you really gave an explanation for this "gain" thing that you mentioned earlier in your post. To gain something means one benefits from a situation, so in the case of "losing" Outer Manchuria to Russia, what specific benefits did China get? 

"redefine of the Qing China with PRC China, reversely, the Tsarist Russian with the Soviet Union.

Chinese communists need the Russian as alliance since before the founding of PRC, though not an easy allied relation, conditional alliance is still much needed. whether thats since the WWII- Cold War era or nowadays."

the PRC is not Qing government, what the Qing lost of the territory of "outer Manchuria", the PRC's pragmatic handle of the issue gained China  assured trust of Russia. Under the situation of American containment of China and the rise of Japanese right wing politicians,Russia is a very valuable ally.

China lost a territory which it never truely exerted real significant influence, whereas the alliance with Russia could prove beneficial for both countries in long run since they share long borders.



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Thanks for the clarification!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2006 at 11:57

Originally posted by flyingzone flyingzone wrote:

Thanks for the clarification!!!

yes, when i say "the loss of "outer Manchuria" IMO is a gain for China rather than a pain", i was refering to PRC, as i begin with "redefine of the Qing China with PRC China".it was self-consistent.

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Originally posted by flyingzone flyingzone wrote:

I wonder what Vladivostok was like (under Chinese rule) before the Russian annexation.

I found some information on the pre-Russian history of Vladivostok.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Vladivostok

http://www.physicsdaily.com/physics/Vladivostok

Little is known about pre-Russian history of this place. The vicinities were populated since Palaeolithic, but the present location remained unpopulated until c. 1300. The area that is now Vladivostok was successfully settled by ancient peoples and kingdoms such as the Mohe, Goguryeo, and Balhae, and later, the Khitans and the Jurchens.

On Chinese maps of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), it is called Yongmingcheng ( [Yngmngchng], literally "city of eternal light"). Probably it was merely an outpost. During Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) it was visited by Chinese expeditions. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it was visited by Chinese expeditions, and a relic of that time a Chongning stela is displayed in the local museum.

The Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689 defined the area as a part of China, under the Manchu Qing Dynasty. Later on, as the Manchus banned Han Chinese from most of Manchuria including the Vladivostok area it was only visited by shnzi (\, lit. either ginseng or sea cucumber thieves) who illegally entered the area seeking ginseng or sea cucumbers (ambiguous since both terms use the Chinese , shn). From this comes the current Chinese name for the city, (Hishnwi) meaning "Sea Cucumber Marsh". A French ship which is believed to have visited the area around 1858 discovered several huts of Chinese or Manchu fishermen.

Though extremely rare, this information is widely used by modern Chinese to justify claims to Vladivostok.

MY COMMENTS:

While I was searching on the internet for information on the pre-Russian history of Vladivostok, I was surprised to discover that there's almost NO mentioning of such on most Russian sites (mostly for tourists). It's almost as if the history of that area only began after Russian colonization. But I guess since the Russian annexation of Vladivostok was kind of questionable, it's only understandable that officially they try to avoid mentioning the pre-Russian history of the city as much as possible.   

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2006 at 15:27

the wiki links are not working on my PC. so i currently cant do searches via it.

right, Russian sites regarding history of  Vladivostok tend to erase history. im aware of this because for the same curiosity of wanting to know Russian perspective regarding the history of Vladivostok, thats few years ago i randomly checked some Russian sites, which were also tourist sites, and i found out they dont mention certain part of history. but i was not surprised, its rather consistent with the Russian. Besides, why would tourist boards mention those history when what they need to do is to attract tourists rather than involving into historical controversy.

Nevertheless, some Russian tourists in China have visited local museums which exhibit some unpleasant history between the two now "allied" countries. And the Russian tourists acknowledged that those history were not taught to them In Russia, that they never know such things happened. This is from a Tv program i watched few years ago.

Just in case you dont know flyingzone, try search wiki with "Hai lan pao", see if wiki can provide some useful information.



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