The border between Russia and China is one of the world’s longest, spanning thousands of miles. It’s one of the few extended land borders between two great powers, subject to years of history, conflict and cooperation. Yet for such an important division, there are surprisingly few crossings, with not one passenger bridge in operation.
On the Edge: Life along the Russia-China Border (Harvard University Press, 2021), by Caroline Humphrey and Franck Bille, is an in-depth study of this border. Looking at the divided island of Bolshoi Ussuriiskii and the border towns Blagoveshchensk and Heihe, On the Edge gives a picture of how people live, work and trade along this little-studied border.
Franck Billé is Program Director at the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is the author and editor of three books about East Asia, including Sinophobia: Anxiety, Violence, and the Making of Mongolian Identity.
Caroline Humphrey is Fellow of King’s College, University of Cambridge, and founder of the university’s Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit. She is the author of several books about the anthropology of Inner Asia and recently edited and contributed to Trust and Mistrust in the Economies of the China–Russia Borderlands.
We’re also joined by Yvonne Lau, who became interested in Russia and China’s long history and complex ties, and has been tracking developments along the Sino-Russian border ever since.
In this interview, the three of us talk about, well, the border, and the people that live on either side of it.
You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of On the Edge. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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