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Luo Yi is a Chinese pig farmer eking out a living in a decrepit former aluminum parts factory near Khabarovsk in the Far East of Russia He is a small part of a smoldering conflict that could prove to be one of the biggest geopolitical problems of the 21st century The land that Luo is on is part of a vast area that Russia annexed 140 years ago when China was too busy fighting the Opium Wars to object Through pogroms massacres and mass deportations between 1860 and 1937 the Russians purged a Chinese presence that dated back at least a thousand years But now the Chinese are returning lured by a landmass that is 23 million square miles almost as big as China itself but with a population of only 6 million people Luo 40 was a village headman and Communist Party official in his native Heilongjiang province before going to Russia on a trade visit in the early 1990s He stayed One reason the vast tracts of derelict farmland largely unpopulated In his native district near the Russian border Luo says there were 186 people per square mile In southern Khabarovsk which has the same climate there are only 3 people per square mile meaning the region could support tens of millions--if not more--of Chinese he argues You cannot say whose land it is Wh have only one Earth and throughout history the strong races prevailed over the weak ones Driving the migration as well are severe water shortages in the impoverished north and west along the Russian border In tandem with the collapse of state-owned enterprises these vast new dust bowls have created at least 100 million economic and ecological refugees who have no place to escape to in their own country Many poor Chinese have been filtering across the border building illegal peasant villages and working in factories We have to hide from the police because they come to ask for
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