Friendly service makes Hunchun a Russian favorite

Update: 2014-08-15

"Hunchun's very quiet and safe, even late at night," said the 24-year-old Anna, "and the air and temperature are good and there are many Russians," when she was asked to comment on the city, in Jilin province, and its surroundings.

Anna came from the Russian Far East area to study Chinese at the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, in 2007, where she met her husband, who was working for the Russian government. Then she returned to Vladivostok to study Chinese economy at Far Eastern State University, but they often visited Hunchun, because of the many friends her husband had here.

Then in November 2011, her husband quit his job and opened a bar in Huichun, and the couple bought a house a year after Anna graduated from university and became residents, because, in her words, "It's not cold in winter and not hot in summer, while my hometown has violent temperature swings and is a hotbed for mosquitoes."

But what most struck her was how kind the local people were to Russians: "If I ever run into trouble, the local government and my neighborhood will help and things here are much cheaper than in Russia, and better quality, so I always bring lots of goods with me when I go back home."

Other Russians also began taking a real shine to the city in recent years, so many, in fact, that they established a Russian association, on Dec 15, 2012, with the chairman, who stayed in Harbin and Suifen, choosing to relocate to Hunchun, because, "Suifen resembles a big market, while Hunchun feels more like where I belong."

Hunchun is also close to Vladivostok and has an industrial and commercial bureau and even a complaints office for the Russians if they ever run into problems. The day the Russian association was established, the heads of the local industry and commerce bureau, the tourist administration, and other government departments all showed up for the ceremony, which drew more than 200 Russians to celebrate. Many of them had bought a house here after retirement, according to the association's chairman.

Even the Hunchun's Dahai Shopping Mall established its own complaints office for the Russians, back in 2009. Previously, when Russian visitors had complaints they would go to Hong Wanzhuo, head of the shopping mall, who would try to solve their problems. So, Hong contacted the industry and commerce bureau and suggested that they open a complaints window.

"The office helps increase Russian confidence in our goods and this increases mall's sales," Hong said with pride, "and it helped standardize business practices and cut the number of complaints in recent years."

Statistics show more than 200 Russians settling in Hunchun and buying a house, and more than 2,000 Russians passing through the port. That number peaked at somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 during Christmas and Chinese New Year, with the Russians are coming for shopping, sightseeing, or even medical treatment, making Russia Hunchun’s biggest trade partner by far.