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Journey to the Northeast

June 26, 2010

First of all, I want to thank everyone who contacted me to tell me that they heard my interview on NPR, discussing China’s new currency policy.  For those who missed it, you can listen to the story here.  You can also read a few more of my comments in an AFP wire story here.

I just returned from a week-long trip to Jilin, one of the three northeast provinces that make up the region I call (in my Nine Nations of China framework) the Rust Belt.  The trip was organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in China (Amcham-China), and our delegation visited a range of companies in the automotive, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and property sectors, as well as meeting with provincial and municipal officials in both Changchun and Jilin City.  Over the next day or so, I’ll share some of my impressions and insights from the trip.

On Wednesday, I’ll actually be heading back to Jilin to begin a 10-day journey to North Korea and Russia.  Those who are already familiar with this blog know that this will be my second trip to North Korea (you can read the series of posts I wrote about my first trip here).  This time I’ll be visiting a very different part of the country, crossing over the Tumen River into the Rason special economic zone, which is the focus of most Chinese investment in North Korea.  Our group will then cross by train into Russia, completing our trek in Vladivostok.  To my knowledge, if I’m not the first, then I’ll certainly be one of the first Americans either to visit Rason or to cross the Russian border with North Korea.

Unfortunately, this means I probably won’t be able to share the presentation I gave on China’s monetary policy at the FCC last week, or my thoughts on rising wages in China, until after I return on July 10.  But both topics, along with impressions of my North Korea-Russia trip, will be something I promise you can look forward to.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2010 8:25 am

    I hate to burst your bubble, but I must know at least a half a dozen people here in Seattle who have gone from Russia (usually Vladivostok) to North Korea. Believe it or not, there was a time when that was a not terribly uncommon trip for people associated with the fishing industry. One of the strangest things I remember someone telling me about their stay in a North Korean hotel near the Russian border was how the hotel sold cans of Japanese beer for 30 cents a can, which price this person (and me also) was convinced was less than the wholesale price of the beer, not even accounting for the transportation charges. We concluded the beer was either counterfeit (my friend insisted the taste indicated otherwise) or stolen.

    In any event, have a great trip.

    • prchovanec permalink*
      June 28, 2010 8:44 am

      I had a funny feeling that my comment would elicit a reply by someone who has either been there or knows someone who has — in fact, I was sort of hoping to hear from them!

      So I’m evidently not the first, but I’m still excited. As I understand it, only 10,000 people (all nationalities included) cross that border every year. I’d be curious to hear more details about your friends’ travels and the link to the fishing industry.

  2. July 4, 2010 9:54 pm

    Seattle used to be the financial and technological center for the Russian Far East fishing fleet. There were maybe a half a dozen good sized vessel management companies based here, along with a good sized contingent of companies that supplied parts, fuel, etc. to the fishing fleets.

    Most of these companies had a at least a few Russian employees.

    The fishing industry in those days was a sort of triangle: Seattle, Pusan, Korea, and Vladivostok, Russia. A few other cities in Korea, Japan, and Russia also would play a part. There was a time maybe 6-8 years ago, when the US started relaxing relations with NK and at that point, many of these companies started looking at the possibility of bringing NK into the fold. It was at that point that many of the Russians from these Seattle companies started going over to NK to scope out its fishing industry. There were big plans to process Russian caught fish and crab in NK at ridiculously low prices, and then ship the finished product elsewhere in Asia. There was even talk of using NK shipyards for vessel repair. Lastly, NK ports have long been a refuge for Russian ships seeking to avoid being seized for not paying bills.

    It was during this time that many Seattle Russian-Americans (typically with dual passports) would go to Vlad on business and then go up into NK.

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