Russia's Asia pivot spurs boom in Chinese classes

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MOSCOW - Every Sunday, Chinese tutor Kirill Burobin begins work in the early morning and is kept busy until midnight.

As Russia seeks to tighten ties with China amid Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, the number of his students has tripled over the past year.

“Sunday is the busiest,” Mr Burobin, 20, who makes a good living with his online lessons, told AFP.

“I have 16 hours of classes virtually without a break.”

The boom in demand for Chinese lessons in Russia illustrates the country’s pivot towards Asia as tensions build between Moscow and the West.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Russia which begins on Monday aims to deepen what the two countries have called a “no-limits” relationship, which is increasingly important for Russia as its international isolation deepens.

Pummelled by multiple rounds of Western sanctions, Russia’s economic and technological development is becoming more dependent on China.

Natalia Danina, a manager at HeadHunter, the country’s top online recruitment company, said that last year there were nearly 11,000 vacancies requiring knowledge of the Chinese language, a 44 per cent increase compared to 2021.

Over the same period, the number of jobs for Chinese speakers in Russia has doubled in sales, transport and logistics, said Ms Danina, pointing to an “accelerated transition” to Chinese-made equipment and spare parts.

Demand for Chinese speakers in energy jobs has tripled, she added.

‘Just the start’

Mr Burobin, who also studies Eastern civilisations at a top Moscow university, said that he was happy to help his students learn more about “a whole new world”.

“Russians are taking up Chinese because Beijing has become our main partner for decades to come,” he said. “And this is just the beginning.”

In August, Avito, Russia’s leading online classified ads platform, reported a 138 per cent increase in requests for Chinese lessons in Moscow in one year.

The same figure stood at 350 per cent for the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

The popularity of Chinese classes might be starting to catch up with demand for English lessons in the country.

Alina Khamlova, 26, who teaches both languages, said she had only three English language students this ...

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