Manzhouli: China’s Forgotten “Port City” on the Russian Border


Manzhouli, China’s busiest land port bordering Russia is often overlooked as one of the first cities to open up during China’s economic reforms. Labeled as the “Shenzhen of the north”, Manzhouli has since grown into an important border crossing responsible for nearly 70% of all trade with Russia.

Chinese netizens react to the massive Chinese border crossing gate at Manzhouli that absolutely dwarfs the Russian gate on the opposite side.


From Sina Weibo:

Sorry Russians, We Didn’t Do This On Purpose

Here is the imposing border crossing gate at Manzhouli…across the border, that small gate you need a binocular to see is the Russian border crossing gate built 30 years ago. In the distance is Zabaikalsk Station under the administration of Chita. The Chinese border crossing gate at Manzhouli underwent 5 generation of construction, from a crude steel gate to the massive structure today, it reflects the shift of national power between China and Russia. The border gate have a total length of 105 meters, width of 46 meters, height of 43.7 meters, the connecting bridge is 16.9 meters tall, with a total area of 6000 square meters, it is the largest border crossing gate in China. Manzhouli border crossing is the largest inland crossing in China, it’s responsible for over 70% of land trade that are transported through here.


First generation of the gate was built during the Qing Dynasty, it was set up by the Russians; about a dozen kilometers away from the current gate was a wooden pole, but by the early Republican era it no longer existed. The second generation gate was built in 1920 and was constructed out of wood, on top carved the words “China-Russia Gate”; in 1949 it was torn down by the Soviet Union. The third generation gate was built in 1968, it was a metal gate over rail tracks, on top written the words “All the Proletariat in the World Unite”. The fourth generation gate was built in 1989. With the improvement of Russian and Chinese economic relations and the rise in volume of railway freight, the old gate can no longer meet the needs of the rapid rise in commercial trade between the two countries. To meet the demands of the newly rebuilt border railway, the fourth generation gate was demolished in 2007 to be reconstructed. Today, the fifth generation gate took into full account of the future growth of Sino-Russian trade, the railway was expanded from single lane to double lane tracks with standard gauges. The fifth generation border gate costed a total of 82 million yuan, with a length of 105 meters, width of 46.6 meters, and area of 6000 square meters, the architecture style is of post-industrial style. This project took only 100 days to complete, and on the day of completion Chairman Wu Bangguo climbed on top the gate as the first leader in the central leadership to do so.


Manzhouli’s border gate is designated as a national 4A scenic spot, it is located 9km west of the city occupying 13 square kilometers and a total area of 200,000 square meters including the border gate, the #41 border marker, the peace gate theme sculpture and Manzhouli historical reliefs, the historical site of Manzhouli underground transportation line, red tourism exhibition, locomotive plaza and other scenic areas, attracting 2 million visitors each year.


Climb on top of the gate, Zabaikalsk Station, buildings, streets on the Russian side can be clearly seen. Not far from the Chinese gate lies the Russian border crossing gate, written on top are the 6 gold letters “РОССИЯ” [Russia] that are especially eye catching. The Russian national emblem is on top of the gate, behind the gate is the small town of Zabaikalsk administered by Chita, located at the junction of China, Mongolia, and Russia, just 9km from Manzhouli with a total population of 7000 people.



Comments on Sina Weibo:


There is no need to build it so big, it is just a gate, waste of money!


Vanity project, what is there to boast about? Looking back at all the wasteful spending due to vanity projects across the country, the corruption caused by it can be seen everywhere.


Sigh! The times have changed!!


When I visited in 1997, the other side still had the big USSR symbol.


Just by looking at the border gates, China has become the big loser here.


What is the point of building a beautiful gate, even if Russia built one out of wood would you dare to trespass on it?


I think by comparing Chinese and American (you can also add Japan) government buildings, it can even better reflect the Heavenly Kingdom’s rapid advancement.


What is the point of comparing? There is nothing comparable, because Russia to this day have occupied 3 million square kilometers of Chinese territory. It seems China, after losing land didn’t go occupy an inch of Russian territory, you still make the comparison?


Russia does not pay attention to development in the Far East, so comparing border gates means little. China’s side really is wasteful, put too much value on face, they should spend money on promoting trade and commerce, such as building more trade markets.


If China and Japan share a land border crossing, China’s side will definitely be more luxurious, and Japan’s side will be simple.


Your country’s government buildings are all so majestic, they are also the only buildings still left standing after an earthquake.


China’s gate is in reality two connected malls.


What’s the fucking point of having a big gate.



Written by Joe

Joe is a documentary producer and journalist based in Shanghai


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