The other day, I expanded upon an Asia Pacific Memo I co-authored with Jargalsaikhan Mendee (a student in our MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies) and Dalaibuyan Byambajav (PhD program, Sociology, Hokkaido University, Japan). In this memo we argued that conflicts in Inner Mongolia (and in Mongolia itself) seem to be primarily erupting about livelihood disagreements rather than along ethnic lines.
A post by Mu Chushan in the “China Power” blog of The Diplomat. The post is relatively brief and argues that the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) is a particularly important test case for the CPC’s strategy and argument for ethnic harmony based on economic growth. Of the potential “trouble spots”, the IMAR has shown the strongest economic growth.
This post didn’t speak to another issue that I also have been thinking about beyond my expansion on the memo on this blog last week: geography.
While the IMAR is often portrayed as quite remote in Chinese conversations, some parts of it are actually quite close to the big cities of the Chinese coast. Xilin Hot – the centre of recent protests – is less than 500km away from Beijing. Even the furthest reaches of the IMAR are only about 1,600 km to the West (close to where Gansu provinces, the IMAR, and Xinjiang don’t quite meet) and about 1,500 km to the Northeast where Heilongjiang, the IMAR and the Russian Far East meet. Of the major IMAR cities, Baotou is further West, but less than 600 km from Beijing.
Contrast this with Lhasa which is approx. 2,500 km from Beijing as is Urumqi.
I cite all these differences here to illustrate that the IMAR is not remote from a Beijing perspective. This relative proximity is an element in the relative prosperity of the IMAR compared to other seemingly remote regions of China. Among Chinese provinces the IMAR thus has the 6th-highest per capita GDP, ahead of powerhouse Guandong, for example.
The IMAR’s geographic location along with the factors I wrote about the other day, all contribute to the importance of the IMAR that was highlighted in The Diplomat. Perhaps this explains the swift reaction by Chinese authorities in the sentencing of the perpetrator of the death of Mergen, as well as the prompt discussion and revision of some elements in mining policy in the IMAR.