Thursday, June 13, 2024

How China Colonized Southern Mongolia

New York – Southern Mongolia, also known as “Inner Mongolia,” due to the direct translation of a highly Sino-centric terminology, “nei meng gu,” was an independent nation until 1949, when the People’s Republic of China officially annexed it to its own territory.

The process of how Southern Mongolia was turned into a Chinese colony under the communist regime is a textbook example of how modern imperialism and neocolonialism can work hand in hand to destroy a nation, crumble its economy, and wipe out its culture.

While Communist China’s imperialism came to Southern Mongolia in the name of “liberation,” her neocolonialism presented itself in Southern Mongolia under the rhetoric of “development.” Since China’s imperialistic nature, including military expansion, territorial annexation, and political control, has been relatively well-documented from the experience of Tibet, East Turkistan, and Southern Mongolia, it would be beneficial to expose China’s neocolonialism to provide an early warning to those nations that China already targets. The key methods of neocolonialism that China has organically applied in Southern Mongolia can roughly be summarized in these four large categories: economic “development,” population transfer, gradual Sinicization, and resource plundering.

Economic “Development”

The biggest and most fatal mistake a nation with no previous experience of close contact with China can make is to take what China says at face value. China would never say to destroy your national economy and make you a beggar in your own land. Instead, she would say to “help” you to “develop” your economy to “mutually benefit” and to “prosper together.” She can even come up with an awkwardly intimate rhetoric such as establishing a “twin city” or “sister city” relationship with your town and becoming your “bigger brother” to help you “younger brother.” In the past 70 years, China cultivated the Southern Mongolian grassland and called it “help boosting the rural economy” and “assist the Mongolians to adopt an advanced way of life,” which indeed was the Chinese farming way of life. When the thin topsoil of the Mongolian plateau was destroyed by the Chinese plow, China blamed the Mongolian “backward, nomadic way of life” for environmental degradation. Thanks to these series of “help,” “assistance,” and “development,” the Southern Mongolian national economy has completely collapsed, and the pastoralist economy has become nonexistent.

Population Transfer

Influxes of population transfer from China proper to Southern Mongolia played a crucial role in destroying the nation of Southern Mongolia. The early waves of population transfer took place in a more natural way of refugees fleeing from natural disasters and poverty. Most of the refugees were poor peasants from the neighboring Chinese provinces. The Mongolians gave them food, shelter, livestock, and land to feed their families. Within a few decades, they quickly multiplied and pushed the Mongolians out of their land. In fact, during the massive genocide in the 1960s and 1970s, these peasants became the pioneers of torturing and slaughtering the Mongolians en masse. The later waves of population transfer took place in a more planned manner with substantial government backing, such as “production and construction corps” and “banished intellectuals.” The latest form of population transfer has taken place in the name of “Western Development,” “urbanization,” “inviting investors,” and “recovering ecosystem.” As a result of this nonstop Chinese migration, the population ratio of 5 Mongolians to 1 Chinese before the annexation has been reversed to 1 Mongolian to 5 Chinese today.

Gradual Sinicization

As the Chinese population grows exponentially in the new colony, the Government of China has increasingly been confident in speeding up the Sinicization process of the indigenous people. One of the key steps the Government of China has taken to Sinicize the Mongolians in Southern Mongolia was to destroy the language and carry out a wholesale cultural genocide. During the massive genocide campaign in the 1960s and 1970s, all Mongolian schools were banned, and after the genocide, some Mongolian schools were restored, but on a minimal scale. Again starting in early 2000, the majority of the rural Mongolian schools were either removed or converted to Chinese ones under the “ecological migration” and “urbanization” policies. According to some statistics, the number of students taught in Mongolian has been reduced by 80% since the 1980s. So, today what we are left out with is the remaining 20% of what we had in the 1980s. Now as we speak, the Central Government of China is planning to implement a new round, likely the last round, of cultural genocide, which is to completely replace Mongolian with Chinese as the language of instruction in all Mongolian schools across Southern Mongolia in the name of “second type of bilingual education” starting September 1, this year.

Resource Plundering

In 2009, the Government of China announced that Southern Mongolia had become “China’s Energy Base.” This gave the green light to all Chinese extractive industries to come to Southern Mongolia to open up mines with no regard for the survival of indigenous Mongolian communities. Thousands of mining companies poured into Southern Mongolian territory, from state-run mining giants to private and ninja miners. Local Mongolian herders have been forced to leave their land to give way to these miners. Lacking the necessary skills to survive in Chinese sedentary and urban societies, many displaced herders became jobless, homeless, and landless on their own land. Another devastating effect of this resource plundering is the total destruction of the environment. The once beautiful Mongolian grassland has completely been destroyed. Vast grazing lands have been turned into mining pits. Rivers and lakes have dried up, and underground water has been depleted. Toxic wastes are threatening not only the well-being of wildlife and livestock but also the public health of the local Mongolian communities.

As China becomes an economic superpower thanks to the natural resources plundered from Southern Mongolia and other occupied nations and cheap labor exploited by the vast domestic population of 1.5 billion, her global ambition is growing rapidly. The notorious Belt and Road Initiative is one manifestation of China’s worldwide hegemony and appetite for neo-colonialism. Any nation, as sovereign and independent as it may be, should take extra precaution when receiving China’s gift of “help” and “friendship” if it does not wish to become its de facto colony.

Author profile
Enghebatu Togochog

Enghebatu Togochog is the director of Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC).

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