Heilongjiang has its name coming from its main river (“Heilong”, while “Jiang” is a Chinese word used for very large rivers) is one of the three provinces that make the Dongbei (or North-East). On the border with Russia, Heilongjiang has a vast territory and wide availability of natural resources.
Prior to World War II, Manchukuo controlled the Dongbei. Manchukuo was a Japanese puppet state which Aisin Gioro Puyi (the last emperor of Qing dynasty) formally ruled. By the end of World War II Manchukuo disappeared and Dongbei went back to China.
The capital of Heilongjiang is the city of Harbin.
The Geography of Heilongjiang
Heilongjiang has a rather cold climate, with short summers and winters where temperatures get even under -30° C. The territory is variable, with forests, mountains, hills and plains. The population (about 40 million people) is mostly Han, but the Manchu, Korean and Mongol minorities have an historical presence – while the Han immigration has been more recent. A very small minority, with its biggest population in China being in Heilongjiang, is the Hezhe, who also live in Russia. There are many rivers in Heilongjiang – but they are all tributary rivers of the Heilong – which also was, in the past, a natural border with Russia. The western name for the Heilong river is Amur.
The rest of China can easily move to Dongbei thanks to the railways (which also connect to some of the Eastern Russia’s cities) and airports.
The economy of Heilongjiang has for long been based on trade with Russia and on its industry. Dongbei has been the location of the early industrialization of China thanks to the wide availability of coal and wood. Farming focuses on soybeans, maize, wheat, and potatoes. Heilongjiang has also a big production of milk and cattle, petrol and machinery.
There is also a interesting potential for wind energy production.
Special Industrial, Economic and Technology Development zones are present in Daqing (where the biggest oil field is), Harbin and on the border with Russia.
Harbin is very famous for its ice sculptures, that attracts tourists from all over China. Heilongjiang is also home to very rare animal species. The culture of Heilongjiang matches very well that of its sibling provinces in Dongbei: Liaoning and Jilin. Often people coming from any of these three provinces will present themselves as “from Dongbei” first of all.
Privatization of industries hurt Heilongjiang’s economy, but the lack of innovation was the real cause. Still, today Dongbei, which was one of the industrial centers of China, is slowly recovering, also thanks to the central government’s push.