Bringing together seemingly distinct but overlapping topics and disciplines, namely geography, environmental history and migration, this panel combines an analytical overview of the ways in which a specific category of anti-Chinese narratives play out in the Asia-Pacific Region with some insights into environmental developments within the region.
The sheer size of China, its vast population and (in recent times) its economic and military might and leverage, as well as racialized ideologies, have stimulated various forms of Sinophobic sentiments, representations and stereotypes in neighbouring countries in past and present times. Complaints about the (mostly negative) environmental impact of Chinese citizens and enterprises and of various forms of Chinese economic and everyday activities can be regarded as one specific form of these kinds of discourses. It is one main aim of this panel to investigate discourses and public debates about Chinese environmental impacts and China’s role as an ‘ecological sinner’ across time and space in two sub-regions of the Asia-Pacific: Periodically in the decades preceding the Russian revolution, when many Chinese labourers constituted an often indispensable part of the workforce in the Russian Far East, and the period from the early 1990s until today, which witnessed China’s rise to a global economic superpower; geographically in Russia’s Far East, whose scarce population has been in stark contrast to China’s more densely populated northern regions, and in South East Asia’s Mekong River and South China Sea locales, where China has as of late increasingly been perceived by local stakeholders as a bullying neighbour. The panel therefore allows for a double comparison across time and in space, which can shed light on continuities, shifts, and disruptions in perceptions on China as environmental ‘villiain’.
While discourses are one main focus in all three papers, all papers seek to decipher factual environmental influences on the hand of Chinese actors in both regions under investigation. Therefore, Chinese citizens, labourers, farmers, corporations and state agencies will appear not only as objects of stereotypes and representations, but as well as actors with their agenda and with some environmental impacts, although the nature and evaluation of these impacts might be subject to discussion.