Saturday, February 18, 2006

Inner Mongolia

Mongolia traditionally included Outer Mongolia - now an independent republic - with an area of 604,000 square miles and Inner Mongolia with an area of 455,480 square miles. This landlocked territory was the epicenter of the largest ever contiguous empire in history under Genghis Khan in the 13th century. It was a part of the Mongol-Turkic Central Asian steppes. The Mongol tribes produced leaders whose forces expanded into Burma, China, India, Iran, Russia and Tibet.

The land was the focus of Sino-Russian rivalry since the 17th century. Qing dynasty China annexed Inner Mongolia in 1636 CE and Outer Mongolia in 1691 CE. Outer Mongolia broke away in 1911 although the Chinese briefly recaptured it in 1919 during the Russian civil war. Soviet intervention in 1921 led to the expulsion of the Chinese and the establishment of an independent republic in Outer Mongolia.

The Chinese continued to administer Inner Mongolia until 1937 when De Wang - a Mongol prince - declared independence under Japanese sponsorship. The defeat of Japan in World War 2 in 1945 witnessed the emergence of multiple political units in Inner Mongolia. Stalin pre-occupied with expanding his hold in Europe just after World War 2 had failed to ensure the merger of Inner Mongolia with Outer Mongolia. The Chinese Red Army consolidated control over Inner Mongolia between 1947 and 1949.

Although Han Chinese had started settling in Inner Mongolia in the late 1800s, there was a huge influx of ethnic Chinese after the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The Han Chinese today constitute 80% of Inner Mongolia's population of 23 million. The remainder is indigenous Mongols. The proportion of Han Chinese is much higher here than in Tibet or East Turkestan/Xinjiang. Inner Mongolia should perhaps be now called Outer China. Beijing transferred two-thirds of the territory of Inner Mongolia to five adjoining traditionally Han Chinese provinces in 1969. It reversed this policy decision in 1979.

Tibet and Inner Mongolia have a shared religious identity that acknowledges the leadership of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The Red Army had destroyed monasteries and killed several thousand Mongols during the Cultural Revolution. There has since been a resurgence of Tibetan Buddhism in Inner Mongolia. Monasteries have been rebuilt and religious practice revived. The study of Tibetan has been reintroduced in lamaseries. These developments have heightened ethnic consciousness.

Expatriate Mongol groups based in the United States and elsewhere advocate independence for Inner Mongolia. The prospects of secession are nil given the demographic equation. Nevertheless, the territory merits close attention on the part of Indian decision makers. South Bloc has a huge asset in the Dalai Lama, who is the acknowledged spiritual leader of both the Tibetans and the Mongols.


Anonymous said...

The Chinese had sponsored revolts in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. They built up Pakistans nuclear and missile capacity. They occupy significant chunks of Indian territory and claim much more. It is surprising that India did not exploit the divisions within China itself like Tibet, the uighurs and the mongols. But then what do you expect when a former foreign minister traveled to Kabul to hand over terrorists to the taleban in person! there is no teeth to indian resolve.

libertarian said...

Jaffna, fascinating analysis. Chinese society has historically been insular and xenophobic even when it was inventive. They're strong-arm tactics are no surprise. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, the probability of Inner Mongolia secession is zero.

Indaus said...

It is interesting that the chinese are helping rebuild Buddhist monastaries destroyed by them.

Its seems they are well aware of the pacifying effect tibetan Buddhism has always had on the temperment of the mongol hordes who so tormented Han chinese throughout history prior to its introduction among them.

So this is perhaps just another tactic of the communists to subdue a potentially problematic ethnic minority "autonomus province".

On another note, it is often believed that one of the items on marco polo's agenda during his journey to the far east was orders by the then pope to establish contact with the mongols and convert them to christianity so as to
gain a hugely powerful allie to help them wage war against islam.


Blog Archive