Here is an interesting article about Mongolia versus Chinese colonized Inner Mongolia!
A Tale of Two Mongolias
Posted on Monday, May 30, 2011 by 2point6billion.com
Chinese Occupied Inner Mongolia and the Mongolian State are separate entities, but confusion remains as to the differences.
Op-Ed Commentary: Chris Devonshire-Ellis
ULAANBAATAR, May 30 – Recent reports in the press over ethnic tensions “in Mongolia” demonstrate there is still much to be understood about the region. Apparently, an ethnic Mongolian herder was killed by a Han Chinese lorry driver in an accident that has sparked unrest in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia. Meanwhile, Mongolia itself remains an independent country. Such reports however, tend to demonstrate poor standards of journalism, a lack of appreciation of the dynamics between the two areas, and a disregard for historical fact. That the incident was widely reported in headlines as having taken place in “Mongolia” blurs distinctions and is indicative of lazy journalism. In this article I aim to describe the differences between the two as well as shed some light on the background to the incident in question.
Many Chinese nationals still in fact regard all of Mongolia – including the sovereign nation to the north of Beijing – as being historically Chinese. Yet the reverse is true. While Mongolia was subsumed by the Han, it was the Mongols who were long the masters of the Steppes, creating under successive Khans an empire that stretched across Eastern Europe, Russia, most of Central Asia, China, Tibet and parts of India. Indeed, the very Dalai Lama himself is a symbol of Mongolian supremacy – the title was created by Altai Khan and bestowed upon the dominant Tibetan King of the day. The name itself is Mongolian, meaning “Ocean of Wisdom,” and is not Chinese. As Tibet sold religious favors to the Mongolians to legitimize the latter’s command of the region, so Tibet fostered a type of trade in religious blessings in return for military protection. This system would later be inherited by the Chinese dynasties as the Mongolian empire eventually crumbled, leaving Tibet to bestow favors upon the new regional power. This only came to a halt when Chairman Mao decided he had no need for religion and derided it as “poison.” Those acts of “suzerainty” so often quoted by the Chinese as meaning sovereignty, were in fact introduced by the Mongols, not the Chinese. A case for Tibet being part of Mongolia is arguably stronger than the case for the Chinese settlement of the land, military force and might not withstanding.
Indeed, the Chinese shame of having been invaded by the Mongols is such that history itself becomes warped – schoolchildren are taught that Genghis Khan was a Chinese Emperor. He wasn’t, he was a “barbarian” invader who conquered all. Beijing is still modeled – in terms of the siting of the main Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the main avenues – on the ancient Mongolian city plans. No wonder the Chinese have such a strange attitude towards their neighbor, with distinctions between the sovereign state and the Chinese autonomous region still being blurred today.
With the demise of the Genghis Khan-led Mongolian Empire, which effectively lasted for about 400 years under different Khans, Manchu Qing eventually gained the upper hand and subsumed Mongolia towards the end of the 17th Century under their Qing Dynasty. It was the collapse of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in 1911 that gave the Mongolians the contemporary initiative to declare independence, but this came just as the rise of the Bolshevik Revolution was occurring in Russia. Faced with a choice between going cap in hand back to the Chinese or sticking with the Russians, the Mongolians became under strong Soviet influence until their withdrawal in 1991. Democratic elections were almost immediately held.
Inner Mongolia like Mongolia, it also fell to the Manchu Qing Dynasty in the late 1600s, however each various region of Mongolia was subjected to different rules. Inner Mongolians, unlike those elsewhere, were forbidden to travel to other parts of what had been the Mongolian Empire and a gradual assimilation by the Han Chinese began in a manner that did not occur elsewhere. Mass emigration of Han Chinese began in the late Qing period with the balance of ethnicity shifting to Han dominance, a position that remains today. With that has come settlement and the gradual destruction of the nomadic lifestyle.
There are other curious differences between Inner Mongolians and Mongolians. As many Inner Mongolians over the past 300 years have intermarried with Chinese, Mongolian nationals often regard them as inferior. Plus the advance of settled farming runs counter to traditional Mongolian values and understanding of land management techniques.
The incident in Inner Mongolia – which appears to have been as a result of an ethnic Mongolian herdsman trying to prevent Chinese coal trucks driving across grasslands – is symptomatic of the entirely different social structures each have come from. While many Mongolians remain nomadic, the Chinese are essentially settlers, and put land to long term use. The conflict of cultures and wisdom comes from the way the Chinese manage the land as opposed to the Mongolians viewpoint. “Scientific” methods of communal farming are deemed superior to the “backward” methods of the nomads. It’s a struggle as old as human habitation of the grasslands themselves, but one in which, in Inner Mongolia at least, the local ways are being pushed aside in favor of Han Chinese settlements and “advancement.” Such divisions cause friction in Inner Mongolia, but in Mongolia itself – where the traditional methods are still used without interference or ridicule – the wisdom of the nomadic life over a sedentary existence soon becomes apparent.
The results of the mass Han experiment in Inner Mongolia has had mixed results. In Inner Mongolia, the ethnic Mongolian’s earn significantly less than the Han Chinese, which may indicate that on an ethnic basis, the Mongolian nationals are already better off than their Inner Mongolian counterparts. Such a wide disparity between per capita incomes also indicates the money is not going back to the province. Inner Mongolia has become a feeding basket for the rest of China, regardless of the consequences to the ethnic residents, and to an increasing extent, the imposition of “scientific” methods of increasing production. It is, in essence, a region being stripped of its assets and the re-sale value of them.
That those Chinese methods at the expense of traditional nomadic lifestyles are heralded as superior by the Han settlers seems beyond doubt. Yet Inner Mongolia is suffering some of the worst desertification of grasslands in the world. The eradication of wolves for example, to protect valuable sheep flocks is a case in point. Traditionally, Mongolians and wolves have had a love-hate relationship. Yes, wolves take livestock, but wiping them out, as has been the Han Chinese policy, does far more damage than good. The “scientific” evaluation of the Han settlers of wolves as a scourge has resulted in many areas of Inner Mongolia becoming over-populated with rabbits, resulting in a total destruction of the grassland. Once replaced, it can never be reclaimed, and the Gobi Desert is growing in Chinese Inner Mongolia at a rate of 2.4 percent a year.
The accident that has sparked unrest in Inner Mongolia appears to have come from a similar lack of appreciation of land management by the Han. Apparently wanting to avoid a bumpy road, a convoy of coal trucks took a detour across nomadic pastures. It’s the middle of lambing season right now, and sheep will abort if disturbed, while the damage to the pastures themselves should not be underestimated. The Mongolian who died apparently did so trying to protect the grasslands and was run over by a truck – some say deliberately. According to the local township web site where the incident occurred, two Han Chinese drivers have indeed been arrested for murder. If true, such wanton disregard for the lives of ethnic minorities by the settling Han is as backward as that displayed by the European settlers towards the Native American Indians 400 years ago. That’s hardly civilized behavior for a nation that can put a man into space, and smacks of rampant colonialism.
Back in Mongolia itself, there is little signage in Chinese and a profound dislike for many Chinese. Wary of what happened to Tibet, and warier still of the damage being caused to millions of hectares of land to the south in Inner Mongolia, the Mongolian nationals retain their nomadic ways, and are passionate believers in democracy, Buddhism and the ways of the land. The link between traditional beliefs and a culture of awareness so in-tune with the land that it has become spiritual, ultimately manifests itself in the Dalai Lama being revered here. He still visits from time to time, and when that happens, the Chinese close the border in protest. A culture based on settlement, it seems, has no place for the sentimentality of the governing forces of nature. That is the major weakness in the Chinese attitude towards sustainable development. It leads instead to exploitation, while the Dalai Lama is regarded as a “Splittist.” What that really means is he understands the desirability for a nomadic lifestyle in Tibet over mass settlement. Lhasa, meanwhile, has become clogged up with fumes, and the air quality is suffering in that most holy of cities.
The Mongolians and the Tibetans, both used to harsh terrains, understand this. Not wanting to stress the land out, the nomadic existence still enjoyed by 30 percent of the entire national population of Mongolia is in reality far more sustainable than the “technologies” of the Chinese. While that Chinese "superior" culture has ended up poisoning children with melamine tainted milk from Han Chinese-run Inner Mongolian-based dairies, no such event took place in Mongolia itself, another major dairy producer.
Faced also with the new, massive wealth that Mongolia’s numerous mining projects will bring, the GDP growth rate and per capita income will see Mongolia outstrip its southern neighbor in just a few years. Mongolia’s per capita income by 2015 is expected to reach US$10,000, higher than that of Inner Mongolia and even surpassing the Shanghainese. For a nation of “backward and unsophisticated horsemen” (as was described to me by one Han Chinese recently) its seems that maybe after all, the nomadic lifestyle and attention to detail as regards natural sustainability may be the way forward.
It’s been noticed by some Han Chinese as well. Lu Jiamin, writing under the alias Jiang Rong, wrote about this issue in his novel “Wolf Totem.” It’s a book all Inner Mongolian-based cadres would be well advised to read, and makes one weep for the inevitability of the Han destruction of land through settlement farming in areas that simply cannot sustain such treatment. When scientific progress means milk laced with poisons, it’s time to start looking at the traditional alternatives. The two Mongolias could not be more different.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Principal of Dezan Shira & Associates and Vice Chair of the Regional UNDP body covering Northern China and Mongolia. He is based in Beijing and is currently spending time in Mongolia evaluating the market potential and challenges for foreign investment.
Jiang Rong’s “Wolf Totem”
A publishing sensation in China, this novel wraps an ecological warning and political indictment around the story of Chen Zhen, a Beijing student sent during the 1960s Cultural Revolution to live as a shepherd among the herdsmen of the Olonbulang, a grassland on the Inner Mongolia steppes.