Russia Eyes Consulate in Harbin
Russia will consider establishing a consul in the city of Harbin, in Northeast China, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zhakarova. The decision had already been made in principle as part of an intergovernmental agreement with China signed on September 3, 2015.
The announcement, however, comes after successful Sino-Russian trade and supply talks at the recently held Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, which was attended by both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zhakharova elaborated that the decision to proceed with a consul at Harbin would be based upon “the current state and prospects of developing political, economic, humanitarian and other bilateral ties, as well as the intensity of tourist flow to certain regions of China.”
Harbin is the capital city of China’s northernmost province of Heilongjiang, which shares a long border with Russia running down the center of the Amur (Hei Long or Black Dragon) river. The city experienced a large influx of Russian emigres fleeing the 1917 revolution and retains a strong Russian flavor.
Harbin was also the main rail hub for goods coming from Europe and Moscow into China. In the 1920’s, it was known as the Paris of the North and as China’s most fashionable city, as the latest clothes and trends from Paris would arrive in Harbin first before heading south to Shanghai.
Harbin retains its rail hub status and possesses several large markets at which Russian-made goods and products are sold. The city also possesses a large number of Russian restaurants since the 1920’s, including the Huamei on Harbin’s main thoroughfare, famous for its caviar and hotpot. St. Sophia’s Cathedral is a city center tourist attraction, while Harbin’s ice festival, held on the banks of the Songhua River, continues to be a main winter tourist attraction for visitors across Northeast Asia.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates’ Russian Desk says, “Increasing Russian travel and trade in Northern China requires consular development support and Harbin is well known to Russians. Reconnecting the city’s soul with its Russian cultural origins will be part of the consular function and we look forward to the consular service opening.”
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