18.05.2005
Russian Colonization and Chinese Competition
№2 2005 April/June

In the very first days of my arrival to our Pacific province, I
continuously heard a phrase that accurately and vividly described
the role the manzi – the local word for the Ussuri Chinese – were
playing in that young and sparsely populated territory of
Russia.

Strictly speaking, the Manzi (a Russian derivative from the
Chinese words ‘man zi’) come from Manchuria and Mongolia. According
to Archimandrite Palladius, an acclaimed researcher who visited the
area in the 1870s, ‘manzi’ was once a derogatory name that the
Mongols of the past used to describe the people from South China.
Now it is applied to all the Chinese living in Russia’s Ussuri
area.

“Were it not for the Manzi, we’d have died of hunger here,” the
locals would say to me.

As I continued to gather details of the local life, I discovered
that there was no exaggeration to the stories I heard. In the
present situation, civilized life in the Ussuri territory would
simply cease to exist should the Chinese vanish for some calamitous
reason.

This is easy to understand: the presence of the Manzi is
essential for maintaining a basic level of living standards for the
Europeans; the province has practically no permanent Russian
population. Without the presence of the Chinese, those same
Europeans would have no food, water or fuel and would face a
shortage of basic social services.

A European colonizer cannot make a step without a Manzi. Whether
you need a servant, a supplier of meat and vegetables, a workman
for odd jobs, a carpenter, or a contractor, you must turn to a
Manzi. A Manzi is a jack of all trades, and can perform the job of
carpenter, gardener, meat trader, commissioner, shop salesman, and
a farmer. Just about anything you want. The Manzi keeps a hand on
virtually all spheres of manual labor and local manufacturing.

A surprising thing is that the Ussuri territory did not have a
settled Manzi population before becoming a part of Russia.
Immigration from the neighboring regions of dormant China only
began after the Russians had spread their influence over the
province [that is, after Russia and China signed the Peking Treaty
of 1860 – Ed.] and established firm state power there.

This immigration grew stronger year by year, and was intensified
by the level of poverty that was overwhelming the Chinese nation.
Also, the Russian government required workers in the land it had
just acquired. The number of new arrivals reached an apogee in
recent years during the construction of the Ussuri Railroad; up to
12,000 Chinese were arriving annually to fill the ever-growing
demand for labor.

At first, the Russian authorities accepted the immigration of
the Manzi people – the Russian territory was practically void of
people, while the scattered military bases and local administration
outposts were separated from one another by vast spaces, many of
them totally unexplored.

It was then that the peaceful Manzi, who had begun pouring in
from China’s border provinces, were viewed as being immensely
convenient. With their arrival, trade began to flourish in the
Ussuri territory. These people gave birth to local handicrafts and
farming, or became workers at the construction sites of various
buildings and installations that could not be built by the rather
limited numbers of soldiers and sailors.

The Manzi enjoyed amazing success over a period of just ten to
fifteen years. Step by step, and without drawing much attention to
themselves, their emaciated but prehensile hands came to grab all
the trading, industrial, and manufacturing ventures in the
territory. There might have been no serious purpose on their part;
nevertheless, they became an integral element of civilized life in
the new province.

A few years passed and the Ussuri’s economic dependence on the
Manzi had become intensified. The Chinese firmly settled on the
Ussuri soil, sometimes accumulating large fortunes in all areas of
labor and manufacturing. They bought land and homes and seemed to
have assimilated themselves into the Russian province. At the same
time, however, they never severed connections with their historical
homeland – they remained the subjects of the Chinese emperor de
jure and were alien to Russian life de facto. From a definite point
of view, their accumulating strength in the region was not a
promising situation for Russia. The Manzi were undemanding beyond
compare, but they left behind only a meager share of their revenues
in Russia, while taking the bulk of their money back home. This
meant their earnings were useless for Russia.

Although the contribution of the Manzi was not altogether
“useless,” this was one of the main factors responsible for
breeding a hostile attitude toward “the Chinese element.” While
bringing back home the gold the Manzi had obtained in Russia, they
left behind the tangible and precious equivalent of their labor,
namely, the products of their work.

Other circumstances which proved highly disadvantageous for the
Manzi soon emerged. In 1883, the Russian government decided to
begin colonization of the territory by sea. The Russians had
learned the Manzi’s habits quite well by this time, and realized
that to compete against them was next to impossible. The Chinese
workers could be content with almost nothing. Whereas a Russian or
a German, for example, would be leading a life of misery under such
conditions, a Manzi would thrive – be it in trade, craftsmanship,
or hard manual labor. This should not come as much of a surprise,
however. After all, how big can a man’s demands be if he is willing
to eat mice and rats back in his home country?

There were growing fears that Russia’s colonization of Ussuri
would meet with disaster if the surprisingly undemanding and
hardworking Manzi continued to enjoy similar conditions in the
future. Very soon, such fears were transformed into a set of
measures. Starting in 1885, the Manzi began to be gradually but
persistently forced out of the region’s internal districts. The
Caucasians [Europeans, representatives of the white race – Ed.]
found themselves in a more favorable legal position due to the
change of views of the territorial administration toward them and
anticipated a quick victory over the yellow race.

They had good reason for optimism – the changing conditions made
the contention between the two races unbalanced, as the amount of
rights bestowed on the yellow race, which is still an essential
element of civilized life in the young Far-Eastern province, began
to shrink. The Manzi began to lose one right after another. First,
they were denied the right to purchase land. Second, they were
prohibited to build private houses in local towns. A European
victory over the Manzi was beginning to look like an accomplished
fact, yet there are hitches that keep the bugbear of a “yellow
encroachment” in the minds of the upper classes even now.

The problem is that the Manzi’s rights have been slashed to an
extent that makes living still possible for them – the Ussuri
territory cannot do without them now, as it could not do in the
past. The Manzi are gradually losing their preferential positions
as the Russian colonization of the territory proceeds. This means
that the first day when the Europeans fully occupy the territory
will likely be the last day for the Manzi settlers.

The Manzi, however, are perhaps the only people who find it
possible to live in a region where they are denied almost all of
their rights. People of all other nations would flee, or would
simply return home. A Manzi, however, will not do this. He has at
least a handful of rice a day here in Russia, while back home he
will be doomed to starve.

The policies that were begun in the 1880s, however, began to
produce an effect. The numbers of the settled Manzi population
began to decrease sharply in the inland parts of the Ussuri
territory. Eventually, Vladivostok, where the seasonal Manzi
workforce is concentrated, became the center of the Manzi
population.

Five years later, God seemed to shed a new grace on that
hitherto remote and half-forgotten province as construction began
on the Ussuri section of the “great Siberian railroad.” And shortly
before that, the construction of the Vladivostok dock was begun.
These two projects ushered in a new stage of life in the Ussuri
territory; thousands of new workers were needed. Naturally,
immigration from China shot up immediately. Rumors about the high
demand for workers spread far beyond the borders of the Ussuri
territory, prompting crowds of hungry people from neighboring
provinces of the Celestial Empire to cross over into the Russian
Far East. These people were lured by the stories of abundant and
well-paid work in the “golden” land. The inflow of immigrants
intensified to the extent that three years later the number of
Manzi coming to Vladivostok during a single navigation season
exceeded 10,000 people!

These newcomers differed from the previous Manzi, however. They
were not the unrestrained vagabonds or courageous hunters of the
past. Nor were they like their compatriots who had been arriving in
the hope of becoming rich. These were the outcasts of their
motherland whose labor resources were unwanted at home. They came
to earn their daily bread in Russia.

As it turned out, too many new arrivals entered that year – much
more than the territory actually needed and much more than
Vladivostok’s Chinese barracks could handle. Thus, the daily pay of
work fell to just 30 kopecks from one ruble the previous year.

Yet many Manzi remained in the Ussuri territory. There, the
exiled Russians, convicts and the military were not enough to meet
the swelling demand for labor. Even now, Manzi in the capacity of
unskilled workers are a crucial factor for the region’s
development, and Russian colonization will obviously need quite
some time to attain the successes that will make it possible to
rely solely on Russian workers and thus remove the dependence on
the Manzi – an alien and haphazard element.
In the years that followed – or more precisely, three years later –
the authorities made a first attempt to secure a reliable source of
Russian workers in order to curb the endless Manzi immigration.

In January 1893, the defense minister issued permission to the
lower ranks of army men to find private jobs locally. He also gave
them the right to return home for free during the twelve months
following their discharge from the army. His order allowed more
than 400 retiring servicemen of different ranks to get jobs in the
Ussuri territory that year, as seen from a resolution by the Amur
Governor General, Dukhovskoi. These former servicemen secured
employment at the Ussuri railroad, as well as in other places.

While making an inspection of the railroad works in the same
year, Gov. Dukhovskoi “got convinced that the measure was useful
and that it would be desirable to continue with the practice in the
future.” Also in 1893, the governor asked for the Emperor’s consent
to allow retiring army men to temporarily settle in the territory
and to enjoy a free return home within three years upon retirement.
This privilege was soon applied to naval retirees, as well.

The above measures mark the first step to rid Ussuri of
dependence on Manzi laborers. As a regional newspaper commented,
they apparently aim to “give patronage to regional colonization and
put it on a new footing, and to ease the Russian workers’
competition with the Chinese engaging in manual labor.”

The earlier system of thwarting the ever-increasing immigration
of the Manzi boiled down to containing the spread of the Chinese
across the country; it let the competition between Russian and
Chinese labor take its own course. That stance has obviously given
way to a direct patronage of the Russian worker.
Adepts of the new system view it as a firm guarantee of a future
domination of the Russian element over the Chinese element in the
remote eastern province. They may cherish the hope that the
low-rank military personnel who remain in the area after retirement
will annually produce a small percentage of the regular population,
as has been the case from instances in the past. Their hopes may
have some basis, as work will be thriving there for many more
years. Incidentally, labor costs in the Ussuri territory are still
rather expensive.

And yet the system gives rise to certain doubts, and its
proponents make no secret of them. Will the soldiers and seamen who
voluntarily remain in the area live up to the expectations that the
others pin on them? Will they stay as workers or will they
eventually shift to higher-earning trades, such as craftsmen,
farmers, kitchen gardeners, house servants, traders, etc.? Some
people fear that this is exactly what will happen. They say the
government’s measures will only have a provisional effect that will
last as long as the size of construction projects keeps up the
demand for workers, and will vanish right after those facilities
are commissioned and the shortage of labor disappears. Critics
argue that the servicemen of lower ranks will unlikely remain in
the territory after the need for workers and the price of their
labor fall. Thus, as the argument goes, the authorities will have
to accept Manzi labor once again. At the same time, a different
solution envisioning barriers to Manzi immigration is impossible,
as the need for workers totals several thousand a year, while only
a few hundred decommissioned servicemen remain in the Ussuri
territory. This means the Russian population alone will be unable
to complete the projects.

The issue also has a different side. As stated earlier, Manzi
labor is extremely cheap, which makes competition against them
impossible, while the Russian worker, including the former military
personnel, gains no benefits from competing with the Manzi. The
absence of benefits explains why this way of solving the Manzi
problem is viewed as a doomed one.

Chinese competition is a perennial and incessantly pressing
issue for Russian tradesmen and manufacturers in the Ussuri region,
and that is why the local media have been debating it endlessly
over the past several years. But not much has been done in
practical terms to sort out its essence, and as years pass by, it
is getting more and more complicated and obscure. Debates on the
issue involve too much frustration and emotion, the two things that
deny unbiased judgment.

Anyone who has lived in the Ussuri territory knows that Russian
employers always give preference to the Manzi, whose labor is cheap
beyond parallel. This fact has led to the conclusion that the
province will entirely depend on Chinese workers for many years to
come, if not forever.

“The labor productivity of the Manzi people is far lower than
that of the Russian workers,” say the rank-and-files. “The Chinese
are too small and weak. In a single day, a Manzi can do just 40 or
50 percent of what a Russian worker can do. But he has some really
invaluable assets, too, and they make it possible to forget about
his shortcomings. The Manzi don’t drink, don’t observe holidays,
they work one day after another, they don’t demand much, and they
are obedient.”

“But a Manzi loses half of the work for you,” some may object.
“The way he works means you actually pay him two rubles for a job
that is worth one ruble, because he spends two days doing an
assignment instead of just one day.”

“Arithmetically speaking, what you say is true,” the employers
reply with a smile. “But reality is altogether different. The
Manzi’s work actually costs us not a ruble but 50 kopecks. Russians
who enter into contract with us work 26 days a month, on average
(usually the amount is 24 days, as two days are taken up by
holidays, apart from regular days off on Sunday). A Manzi works 30
days, which means we get a surplus of six days to our benefit. Food
for a Russian worker costs us 30 kopecks a day and we feed him 30
days a month, but they only work 24 days. Feeding a Manzi costs
five kopecks,  he doesn’t need much, indeed. Once again, this
is simple economy. Russian workers living here don’t agree to less
than 25 to 30 rubles a month, or one ruble per day. And why should
they, after all? Any business where the Manzi are losing positions
– craftsmanship, trade, market gardening, farming – will mean more
earnings for the Russians. And if you take the Manzi, they’re left
with nothing else to do than to engage in hard manual work. The
reason is the Manzi are arriving by the thousands, and the
competition is so high between them that we offered them 30 kopecks
a day this summer and they rushed to accept those jobs all the
same. Remember now, just one year ago they charged a ruble a day or
80 kopecks as a minimum. The only thing we don’t like about the
Manzi is they’re slow and love smoking. Don’t expect fast work from
them. But their results are always nice – accurate and very clean.
The Manzi show taste for work and give their products model
finishing.”

I eventually got a chance to witness the Manzi’s special ability
for work, so much praised by local employers (most of them vehement
adversaries of the Chinese element, by the way). I went to a site
not far from Vladivostok where a large stone bridge was being
built, and work was in full swing when I arrived. Everyplace near
the bridge, which included a small dell nearby, the bare backs of
the Manzi workers were visible. They were sitting astride huge
stones and striking them with small hammers. That was how they
prepared stone for the facing of the bridge. The Russian laborers
worked nearby. The difference in the methods of work struck me at
the very first glance. I saw tall muscular men. On the other side,
small lean males with narrow chests and with hair braided tightly
on their napes. With the Russian workers, there were powerful and
deft blows of hammers. Strike after strike pounded away at the
stone blocks, producing sparks and metal chips that flew sideways.
On the other side, by comparison, were the seemingly shy, diffident
and slow strokes of the Chinese workers, similar to grownup
children in an imitation of work. Compared with their Russian
counterparts, the Manzi looked like gnomes stirring a heap of
stones.

But on closer inspection, the scene revealed details that gave
the Europeans a far more disadvantageous characteristic. It is true
that the Manzi produced a much smaller amount of stone, but all of
their produce went straight into the construction process. Their
strokes did look rather feeble, barely touching the stones, and yet
they did not spoil a single rock. They worked as if half-asleep,
yet one of the Russian supervisors described their facing work as
“heavenly.” On the contrary, the Russians made fascinating blows of
the hammer worthy of being painted on canvas. And yet, instead of
rough-hewing the stone, they often beveled the cut. As for the
facing – “a subtle thing” – it looked considerably worse than the
product made by the men with long hair. There was the stunning
realization that those mighty men had problems controlling the
power of their hammer blows.

“They’re not fit for this laborious work,” the supervisor who
escorted me said. “It’s only the Manzi who can cope with such
unrewarding tasks. He will sit for hours upon a lump of rock and
hammer slightly at the same place, and not a single line will be
out of place.”

As I listened to those two men and watched the stirring Manzi,
an observation on the Chinese that the Russian traveler Sergei
Maximov had made 30 years before came to mind. I believe he
highlighted the specific traits of that bizarre people that are
made manifest even in things quite trivial.

“The reason why China is motionless lies in the fact that,
having made great achievements once, the Chinese have immersed
themselves in further developing them to the tiniest possible
details, in a minute polishing of what has already been done,”
Maximov wrote. “A Chinese does not paint a picture in broad
brushwork on canvas, he fashions hundreds of figurines instead, and
he does this on a spot so small that it would not be big enough for
a European painter to sign his name. The Chinese do not create
plastic beauty of marble and granite, but rather cut astonishingly
detailed landscapes on stone plates. One needs a European-made
microscope to appraise the ugly laboriousness of that temperamental
southern nation, whose veins contain intrepid blood and whose
character is marked by tropical passions. One is puzzled while
trying to identify what is most amazing about it – the cheapness of
the notion of time in China, the uselessness of life predetermined
by that cheap, senseless and obliterated labor, or the excessive
population, which the government finds appropriate to load with
strange, unproductive work.”

Meanwhile, these scruples concerning labor go hand-in-glove with
the incomprehensible laziness that is duly called Chinese
sloth.

I spent three hours in the place where the bridge was being
built, and during that brief period of time each Manzi stopped
working six or more times to have a smoke. No one would have made
any complaints about smoking had they done it in the process of
their work, but the problem was that each Manzi treated smoking as
a kind of sacred ritual. Each worker would unhurriedly stuff his
pipe with finely meshed tobacco, then squat with comfort, light the
pipe, and draw in a bluish smoke for five minutes or longer without
paying much attention to the people around him. “As if stones could
be rough-hewed without them at the same time,” the displeased
supervisor said.

“Hey you, Manzi, why are you sitting?” the supervisor would
shout at the Chinese. The latter would unhurriedly shake tobacco
out of his pipe by beating it against his shoe, spit and answer
indifferently: “Me smoka little-little.”

Then he would just as slowly rise to his feet, take up the
hammer and get down to his delicate task once again.

All their actions seemed rather reluctant and sluggish. During
the lunch break, they would slowly return to their barracks. There
was not a loud word or joke from them, nor a fast movement. They
would walk while looking down at the ground melancholically –
half-naked, not uttering a sound, never looking directly in front
of themselves. It seemed their thoughts were hovering high above
the earth, in a realm that is free of work or any other things
around them.

As they passed by in files of two or three, the meagerness of
their bronze bodies struck me even more. They were so lean,
overworked, and exhausted as if they had withered. Their motherland
had apparently never caressed them, and life in general had not
been kind to them. This conviction of mine intensified when I
visited them at lunch, which was served to them in small Chinese
cups by a little grayish Manzi.

Frankly speaking, lunch is too great a word for what they were
given to eat – some rice, herbal seasonings, and lots of ramson.
But the workers looked quite content with it – back home, even that
meal might look wonderful. Is it really astonishing then that an
average Manzi is so weak and lean while his labor productivity as
well as consumption demands do not compare with any other nation in
the world? I had heard before about the modesty of the Manzi’s
demands, and yet the scene of their “lunch” shocked me.

As if to forestall a question that was perched on the tip of my
tongue, a Manzi contractor, a man with a good belly and a semi-silk
shawl over his shoulders – a kind of labor agent who was always
near me – pointed with a smile of superiority at his subordinates
and said with a good deal of irony: “He don’t needa muts. In Tsina
he don’t eata muts before.”

That fat and merry Manzi was very close to the truth. Those
impoverished men who had been born at the low depths of Chinese
society, did not see much sweetness at home. Maximov wrote in this
connection: “Not a single remote province in the world offers as
revolting a picture of popular mischief and suffering as the
colossal Celestial Empire.”

…Upon their arrival to the Ussuri territory, the companies or,
rather, the crowds of continuously hungry people discovered that
they had gotten out of the frying-pan and into the fire.

The newcomers do not know a word of Russian, and have no idea
about the conditions of the territory that has become their
provisional home. They immediately become dependent upon the person
who takes patronage over them. In most cases, this patron is a
Chinese who has already established himself in Russia. He recruits
the workers in China and brings them to Russia at his own risk. The
person is usually a contractor who has become accustomed to the
local situation. For the new arrivals from China, he is a landlord,
a liaison with other people, an employer, and a translator.

Incidentally, the lack of knowledge of the territory and the
dominating language has paradoxically generated a class of people
with a strange social status of “translators” or “interpreters.”
Most of these are Manzi who have spent some time living in the
Ussuri territory. They have learnt a handful of Russian phrases and
are building their welfare on that shaky ground. The uneducated
masses of the semi-beggar workers have the same trust in their
“trung-lators” [translators] as they would have in God. In many
ways, they entrust their fate to those dubious representatives.
Frankly speaking, they have no other option. Their lack of
understanding the native language of this new land denies them any
opportunity to make direct transactions with Russian employers.

The absence of language skills and knowledge of local life puts
up an insurmountable barrier between the workers and their new
world. In one way or another, they become actual serfs of the labor
agents or translators, without whom they cannot make a step. The
essence of their relationship remains an enigma for many, but many
signs indicate that the Manzi’s position is a difficult one and
they are practically enslaved by their compatriots who have had
more luck in Russia.
The situation has opened the door for the brutal exploitation of
the poor Manzi by their smarter fellow countrymen. I have heard
that except the labor agents and translators, the vast majority of
Manzi return to their homeland after a summer of toiling,
eventually becoming even poorer than they were before coming to
Russia.
The contractors manipulate the Manzi’s poor knowledge of Russian,
while using their rapport with employers as an iron rod for
handling their vassal teams. While the hardworking Manzi are
subsisting hand to mouth, some of the agents and translators have
turned into millionaires. One of them is Ti Fungtai, well-known to
the entire Maritime Region [a businessman who offered to organize a
Far-Eastern intelligence network for the Russian Army for three
million rubles; the Army command turned down the proposal, saying
the price was exorbitant. – Ed.].

Occasionally it happens, however, that even the philosophers
with braids, the Manzi, lose their plentiful patience. Outbursts
occur when the more enterprising contractors begin exploiting the
Manzi too unscrupulously, or when the Chinese contractors
themselves become subject to exploitation by the still more
enterprising European businessmen and there is no money to feed the
hordes of workers. Punishment is quick in that case. Unless the
contractor or translator manages to escape from the outraged Manzi,
he will face a bizarre punishment that occasionally ends
tragically.

Once the Manzi workers exhaust the resource of verbal arguments,
they will hang their guilty compatriot “little by little.” They tie
a knot over his neck and hang him at a height barely allowing his
toes to touch the ground. The poor man’s body becomes elongated
unnaturally as he tries to stand on his toes, and this continues
until he meets all the demands of the outraged mass of workers. If
he does not comply, he is bound for a slow and painful death.
The punishment is called “hanging a little” in Chinese, or “doing
little killy-killy.”

The Manzi will be worse off, however, if he reports to a small
labor agent or translator and not to a large-scale entrepreneur.
Part of the reason is that the smaller labor agents have to pool
together their efforts to find work for their teams, in which case
the laborers have to work for the labor agent, his companions, and
the translator. Incidentally, the agent’s asset is not the size of
the business handled but, rather, the presence of acquaintances
among the Russian inhabitants and “knowledge” of the tongue. And if
unemployment begins, the Manzi have only two options – to return
home or to press the contractors, companions, and translators for
better terms with the aid of the above-mentioned lynching.

The prospects for becoming a labor agent or translator may be a
temptation for the Manzi, yet he understands that the roses lining
his masters’ paths have thorns. A Chinese labor entrepreneur must
have a great maneuvering capability, shrewdness, craftiness, and
slyness; otherwise he may eventually fall back to the position of a
worker. Chinese agents and translators often have to maneuver
between two fires, between Scylla and Charybdis; any collision
could break their unsteady skiffs to pieces. Sometimes the risk
could be as great as the loss of their lives, the greatest asset
given to a human.

On the one hand, a translator must work through the
disadvantages of being situated on the outskirts of a big country,
but on the other, he always must remember the possibility of “being
hanged a little.”

The real problem, however, is the general risk associated with
his work. This list includes his poor command of the Russian
language, which creates opportunities for all sorts of mishaps.
This, in turn, jeopardizes his situation.

The translator has a very limited vocabulary, a mix of confused
Russian-Chinese-Manchurian words, which he pins his welfare on. Of
course, even this limited knowledge provides him a huge advantage
and propels his status amongst the Manzi. When it comes to dealing
with the Europeans, however, those advantages disappear. His
standing in the eyes of a European is as lowly as the worker’s
standing is to him. No doubt, the lessons the translators have
drawn from life, together with their natural cautiousness, have
compelled them to make most transactions in writing – “writa-writa”
as the Manzi call it. They feel more secure when they receive
written documents, since they have much greater trust in
“writa-writa” than in themselves. In the meantime, I saw cases when
the authors of those documents replaced the terms of, say, the
delivery of firewood with witty phrases like “O ye, the woeful
human word, of which the wrath defies the Lord.” The issuer of this
particular contract, which was made out in copperplate handwriting,
took the trouble of clearing himself of possible charges of
plagiarism. He indicated in the “writa-writa” that the quotation
had been borrowed from the 18th century Russian poet, Gavriil
Derzhavin. In another instance, a no less witty counteragent used
the text of a post office receipt for dispatching the telegram as
the “official document.” To produce a more impressive effect on the
Manzi, the issuer attached a cancelled postal stamp with the
double-headed eagle to the paper. Incidentally, the Manzi place
unwavering faith in those stamps.

The Chinese agent or translator does not spare the workers under
their control in a bid to make up for the losses – and avoid lynch
at the same time – that they incur from poetic exercises of his
European counterpart. If an occasion comes his way, however, an
agent or translator will gladly make up for the losses at the
expenses of some other European and will exploit him extensively,
even though the latter was unconnected to the humorist inclinations
of his fellow Europeans.

The instruments of exploitation are the same as anywhere in the
world – deceit, shrewdness, and slyness, but contrary to the
traditional stereotype it would be wrong to call them the traits of
the Chinese national character. Like many others who have lived in
the Ussuri territory and had immediate contacts with the Manzi, I
can attest to their amazing trustworthiness. The same Chinese that
will cheat you in everything concerning weight and measure, will
never let you down and will keep his word without any kind of
written pledge when it comes to returning his debt. The latter is
proved by an extraordinary fact that astounded me. Out of all the
lawsuits filed with the Ussuri territory courts, nine lawsuits in
ten are initiated by the Manzi seeking justice in their relations
with the local populace, whereas only one in ten of the cases
involve a lawsuit that a local launches against a Manzi.

The conclusion is clear – the Manzi, and not the residents of
the territory, are victims in nine cases out of every ten, and the
commonly held belief that the Manzi are wily and unscrupulous
exploiters is thus a far cry from truth.