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On the banks of the Amur River, which divides Russia from China, are two monuments. The statue in the Chinese town of Heihe is a six-metre-high bronze of a woman with Caucasian features holding aloft a baby. On the statue’s base is an inscription. “It says ‘mother’, because the Amur River is the mother of both the Chinese and Russian cities on its banks,” says travel agent Lena Wang, wrapping her black mink jacket around her as she watches Chinese couples look through the binoculars mounted on the wall to gaze at Russia across the frozen ice.

The…

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