Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Vladivostok and its Chinese connection

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vladivostok and its locations

Mains level : Wolrd History: Opium Wars

When Vladivostok, the main city of the Russian Far East, marked the 160th anniversary of its founding, it resulted in a wave of abuse from Chinese social media users who claimed that the city historically belonged to China.

Try this question from CSP 2015:

Q.The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events related to:
a) Central Asia
b) Middle East
c) South-East Asia
d) Central Africa

The Vladivostok City

  • Vladivostok is a city and the administrative centre of the Far Eastern Federal District and Primorsky Krai, Russia.
  • It is located around the Golden Horn Bay, not far from Russia’s borders with China and North Korea.

Chinese claims on Vladivostok

  • Before Primorsky Krai became Russian territory in 1860, it was a relatively small Manchu settlement under the sovereignty of the Qing dynasty.
  • At that time, Vladivostok was called Haishenwei or the Bay of Sea Slugs.
  • During the First Opium War that occurred between September 1839 and August 1842, fought between Britain and the Qing Dynasty, the former began exploring and mapping this stretch of the coast.
  • During that time, Vladivostok harbour was named Port May by the British.

Russia occupied the territory

  • In discussions concerning the Opium Wars, the focus is mostly on Britain, France and China under the Qing dynasty, while Russia is often neglected.
  • However, it is because of its unique role, particularly during the Second Opium War, that Russia acquired a significant amount of former Manchu territory, including Vladivostok that is its largest port on the Pacific coast.
  • The southeastern part of Russia, that borders North Korea and China, has historically been a bone of contention between Russia and China.
  • According to Chinese claims, this region once formed ‘Outer Manchuria’. The term ‘Outer Manchuria’ was coined by China in an attempt to lend credence to their territorial claims over this region, according to analysts.

Back2Basics: Opium Wars

  • Opium Wars are the two armed conflicts in China in the mid-19th century between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1912.
  • The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain.
  • The Second Opium War (1856–60), also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French War in China, was fought by Britain and France against China.
  • In each case, the foreign powers were victorious and gained commercial privileges and legal and territorial concessions in China.
  • The conflicts marked the start of the era of unequal treaties and other inroads on Qing sovereignty that helped weaken and ultimately topple the dynasty in favour of republican China in the early 20th century.

How did they begin?

  • The Opium Wars arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade.
  • Foreign traders (primarily British) had been illegally exporting opium mainly from India to China since the 18th century, but that trade grew dramatically from about 1820.
  • The resulting widespread addiction in China was causing serious social and economic disruption there.
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