Yes, this is an off-(supplementary education)-topic post, but it focuses on a subject matter that is a frequent distraction for me, Mongolia.
Together with two Mongolian graduate students, Jargalsaikhan Mendee (a student in our MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies) and Dalaibuyan Byambajav (PhD program, Sociology, Hokkaido University, Japan) I wrote an Asia Pacific Memo on “Livelihood Clashes in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia“.
In the memo we are arguing that recent clashes in Inner Mongolia as well as an incident last year are widely being portrayed as ethnic conflict but are rooted more in differences in livelihoods, i.e. pastoral herding vs. mining.
If we didn’t restrict ourselves to the very short length of the Asia Pacific Memo, I would have liked to write a bit more about some of the following related topics:
- the lack of real information about the current clashes in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (China). All the information seems to be coming from the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center, a U.S.-based human rights group. News agencies and Beijing-based reporters are then relying on the SMHRIC reports to write updates. While I have nothing against the SMHRIC and appreciate their work on behalf of Mongolians in the PRC, I sure would be eager to hear about the conflict from other sources as well, and I don’t mean Chinese state sources either.
- given my interest in Mongolia, I have an obvious side-interest in Inner Mongolia. The photo that appears alongside the Asia Pacific Memo (note that I’m the one wearing the hat) was actually taken in Mongolia on a trip right after I visited Inner Mongolia with my colleague, Pitman Potter. I have not been back to the IMAR since then, but found this trip very interesting. Mongolia-IMAR relations are clearly fascinating. Mongolians in China are the only major ethnic minority that has a viable patron state dominated by co-ethnics. By contrast Tibetans count on the support of their exiled leadership in India, and Uyghurs are making primarily a historical claim related to East Turkestan. Ethnic Koreans in China may be the other group that can look to a potential patron state. However, out of respect for China, Mongolia does not really act as a patron state to Mongolians in the PRC. For example, there is no special provision for ethnic Mongolians from China to acquire Mongolian citizenship. Nor do they receive preferential treatment in asylum cases.
- the relationship with China and the situation of Mongolians in China is fast fodder for populist claims by Mongolian politicians. According to Mendee and Byamba, there is a lively debate in the Mongolian blogosphere regarding the stance that the Mongolian government should take vis-a-vis the clashes in the IMAR. Mendee is writing his MA thesis on anti-Chinese sentiment in Mongolia, so this is an area where he is very knowledgeable.
- mobilization around mining-herding clashes is a subject that the brief memo couldn’t really do justice. This is Byamba’s area of expertise as he’s writing his dissertation on the development of civil society and is focused on environmental NGOs in particular in one chapter of the dissertation. Some of the current discussions in Mongolia seem to be focusing on the fact that protests have been relatively rare in Mongolia itself, even compared with the much more repressed situation that Mongolians in China find themselves in. We hinted at the fact of greater urbanization and concentration of infrastructure in the IMAR compared to Mongolia in our memo, but that clearly is not a satisfactory explanation in and of itself.