How does China see Mongolia?

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Chinese Nei Menggu Zizhiqu, Mongolian Öwör Mongol Öörtöö Zasax Oron (ÖMÖZO) is one of the five autonomous regions of the People's Republic of China. It is called "Southern Mongolia" in Mongolian, the designation "Inner Mongolia" (as opposed to "Outer Mongolia", the actual Mongolia) comes from the Chinese administrative practice, according to which southern Mongolia is closer to Beijing than Outer Mongolia. The name follows the same logic with which the Foreign Office once created a Near, Middle and Far East.

The ÖMÖZO does not belong to the Chinese heartland, but was only incorporated into the empire in the more recent history of China (at the beginning of the Qing period, see below). 300 years ago it was not inhabited by Han Chinese, but only by Mongols and other non-Chinese peoples. It shares a similar fate with the other autonomous regions of China: it is only sparsely populated for long stretches, unsuitable for intensive agriculture, but rich in raw materials and of outstanding strategic importance due to its location near the border. In addition, many of the peoples settling in the autonomous regions live on both sides of the state borders, which harbors additional material for conflict. Chinese settlers have been pouring into the area regularly since the 18th century and have made the Mongols a small minority in their own "autonomous region".

Today's geography, population and economy

Today's ÖMÖZO hugs the southeast and east of Mongolia in a sickle shape. It has a length of over 2000 km, but is only approx. 200 km wide in places and covers an area of ​​approx. 1.1 million square kilometers (over a ninth of the total area of ​​China!). It borders Mongolia and Russia to the north, the Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning to the east, the Hebei, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces to the south, the Hui People's Ningxia Autonomous Region to the southwest, and the province to the west Gansu. The south and south-west borders partially coincide with the course of the Great Wall.

The ÖMÖZO is divided into several administrative areas, which are in Mongolian aimag, in Chinese quantity and are mostly called league in German. The aimags, in turn, are made up of banners (mong. xoshuu, chin. qi) together, a classification that was introduced by the Manchus and has been preserved to this day.

A large part of the area of ​​the ÖMÖZO consists of inhospitable deserts in the west (e.g. Gobi desert, Tenger desert in the Alashan Aimag) and semi-arid steppe (Ordos area). The grasslands assumed to be so typical for Mongolia are in the east, mainly in Hulunbuir-Aimag. There are extensive forest areas only in the eastern part of the ÖMÖZO.

The climate is decidedly continental, with long winters and large annual and diurnal temperature fluctuations. The average temperature in winter is -10 C, in summer 23 C. Summer peak values ​​above 35 C are not uncommon.

It is difficult to obtain precise data on the size and composition of the population. According to official Chinese information, around 21.6 million people lived in the ÖMÖZO at the end of 1991, of which 4.061 million (18.8%) belonged to national minorities. These are not broken down in more detail, but must not be equated with Mongols, since besides Mongols there are also Dagurs (a Mongolian nationality), Evenks and Orays (two Tungus peoples), Hui (Chinese Muslims - a religious minority), Manchurians and Koreans live in the ÖMÖZO . The number of Mongols in China (1953: 1.462 million; 1990: 4.802 million) also has only a limited value for determining the population composition of southern Mongolia, since not all Mongols in the ÖMÖZO, but also in Jilin, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Hebei, Henan, Yunnan, Beijing, Xinjiang Autonomous Areas (East Turkestan) and Ningxia.

In terms of population, the Mongols are ninth out of a total of over 50 nationalities in China. In front of them are the Han Chinese (1.039 billion), the Zhuang (15.555 million), the Manchurians (9.846 million, but largely Sinic), the Hui (8.612 million), the Miao (7.383 million), the Uighurs (7.207 million), the Yi (6.578 million) and the Tujia (5.725 million - all figures for 1990).

The capital of southern Mongolia is Xöxxot (in other spellings Köke Khota, Huhhot, Hohhot and variants thereof), Chinese Huhehaote, a Sinification of the Mongolian name, which means "Blue City". The population of Xöxxot (only the urban area) is officially given as 896,000 at the end of 1991 (all of Xöxxot is said to have approx. 1.1 million inhabitants), although no information is available about the relationship between Han Chinese and Mongols. Estimates regularly fluctuate between 5 and under 10 percent of the Mongolian population.

Traditionally of importance in southern Mongolia is nomadic livestock farming. For 1991 204,000 camels, 3.7 million cattle, 1.547 million horses and 29.6 million small ruminants were counted. There is also an agricultural agriculture with grain cultivation that goes back to the time of Chingis Khan. Agricultural crops have only been grown on a larger scale since the arrival of Chinese settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Desertification in ÖMÖZO, especially in the Ordos region, is largely the result of unsuitable agricultural methods. The Chinese colonization drove nomadic Mongolian shepherds into the poorer, disadvantaged regions, who lost their ecological balance due to the resulting grazing. In the areas occupied by the Chinese, the original pastureland was converted into arable land and often lost its fertility after just a few years. As soon as the soil with dwindling plant cover loses the ability to store water, the livelihoods of the remaining plants are deprived, the vicious circle closes, the area becomes a semi-desert or desert.

The area's wealth of fossil fuels and mineral resources has been systematically exploited since the 1950s. These include, in particular, coal and iron ore. Iron smelting was already in operation by the Japanese during the 1930s, and the factories they built were expanded on a large scale with the industrialization of southern Mongolia. The center of heavy industry (coal, machines, cement, aluminum smelting, nuclear fuel processing) is located in the city of Baotou, approx. 200 km west of Xöxxot, euphemistically called "steel town in the steppe" by the Chinese and has meanwhile become one of the largest iron processing centers Become China. In addition, other light industry (leather, textile industry), some of which are highly polluting, is concentrated in Baotou. There are large coal reserves in Bayin Owoo, so that a special railway line was built there from Baotou.

The per capita income is so low that it is less than a quarter of Shanghai and less than a third of Beijing: 991 yuan compared to 4624 yuan for Shanghai and 3321 yuan for Beijing (1991).

Because of the low cost of coal mining and the amount of fuel available, the coal is wasted in miserable furnaces, so that most of the energy released is lost in the chimney. Due to the primitive technology of the ovens, the combustion temperature is also so low that the coal is only incompletely burned and the air is exposed to extremely high levels of pollutants. In winter, Xöxxot is enveloped by a flat, thick bell made of smog, everything turns gray-black immediately, you have dirty hands all the time, not a sheet of paper remains white, you have to cough all the time and you have a permanent bad taste in your mouth.

Language and cultural life

The language of the Mongols is Mongolian, a language belonging to the Altai family of languages, which is characterized by agglutination and vowel harmony. There are no family relationships or external similarities between Chinese and Mongolian. Mongolian has been written with Uighur letters from top to bottom since the 12th century, the lines proceed from left to right. In what was then the Mongolian People's Republic, this font was in use until 1941 and was then replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet, expanded by two special characters. Since January 1, 1994, the classically written Mongolian is again the official script of Mongolia. In southern Mongolia this change was never made. Northern and Southern Mongols are united by the bond of a relatively uniform classical written language. The spoken language is divided into a number of dialects, with the Xalxa dialect being the basis of the standard Mongolian language used in Northern Mongolia, while the Chakhar dialect has the greatest distribution in Southern Mongolia. Phonically these dialects are so close that communication is possible in most cases. Only the vocabulary is increasingly diverging, as there are Russian foreign words for many modern words in the north and Chinese foreign words in the south. It was only since the 1970s that real efforts have been made to replace these words with Mongolian coined ones.

Nominally, the Mongols (like all residents of autonomous regions in China) have the constitutionally guaranteed right to use and maintain their language privately and publicly. The text of the Chinese banknotes (the Renminbi, not the Foreign Exchange Certificates, which are no longer in circulation) is printed on the notes in five languages ​​(Chinese, Tibetan, Uighur, Zhuang and Mongolian). The reality of the individual citizen is different. In the urban centers, Mongolian is hardly spoken at all, only large business and street signs are written in Mongolian. In the shops you will not find any Mongolian, but almost only Chinese inscriptions. Hardly any restaurant has a menu written in Mongolian. There are hardly any book shops for Mongolian printed matter in Xöxxot, but almost only shops for Chinese-language literature. Radio and television are also dominated by Chinese. The air times for programs in Chinese language far exceed the air times for programs in Mongolian language. The daily television news is taken over by CCTV and translated into Mongolian, taking into account only the domestic news; reporting abroad is regularly suppressed, a serious encroachment on citizens' freedom of information. Many Mongolian city dwellers now speak better Chinese than Mongolian and are therefore starting to learn Mongolian again. Mongolian is only still the main language in rural areas. The former chairman of the ÖMÖZO, Ulaanxüü, was accused of excessive promotion of the Mongolian language and script during the Cultural Revolution. On the other hand, the Academia Sinica and the University of Inner Mongolia have extensive research and publication activities with numerous new editions of old literature as well as linguistic research into Mongolian languages ​​and dialects. In view of the differences between the extensive university and publishing activities on the one hand and the difficulties with the Mongolian language, if one only wants to go shopping, on the other hand, the impression arises that the intensive promotion of language, writing and literature alongside The main purpose of an alibi function is to primarily satisfy the needs of a cultural national feeling, while in reality the economic and social dependence on the Han Chinese continues to grow.

Linguistic difficulties and economic disadvantage of the Mongolian population complement each other with antipathies on the Chinese and Mongolian side, which immediately creates a nationality problem out of every business transaction that is carried out between a Chinese and a Mongol and sometimes leads to open discrimination against Mongols by the Chinese. In addition, Mongolians are disadvantaged in many areas of society if they do not accept Chinese "administrative measures", for example because they cannot produce the papers required for hotel stays in the city if they are still living in the countryside as nomads. The Chinese policy of sedentarism is not implemented as a recommendable alternative to nomadic life, but with the help of sometimes harassing practices of registration and the supply of goods only against proof of permanent residence.


A recurring tribal rivalry throughout the history of the Mongols has meant that the Mongols were seldom allowed to enjoy the fruits of their combined strength. Only a few Mongol rulers (e.g. Chinggis Khan) succeed in overcoming these differences and at least temporarily uniting the Mongols. At the beginning of the 17th century there was fighting between Mongols, Manchus and Chinese for supremacy in Central Asia. In 1634, with the death of Ligdan Khan, the rulers of the Mongolian Great Khan came to an end, and two years later, with the establishment of the Manchu dynasty, the southeastern part of Mongolia became part of the new empire. Forty-nine Mongol princes from sixteen tribes take part in the proclamation. In the course of the following years, the tribes headed by these princes were divided into six leagues with forty-nine banners and referred to as "Inner Mongolia". Although these princes are still nominally independent, their power is very soon limited to administrative tasks. The foundations for the division of the Mongols, which has existed to this day, have thus been created.

Armed conflicts among the Mongol princes lead to the Prince's Day of Dolonor in 1691, on which Emperor Kangxi proclaims his supremacy over all of Mongolia, which becomes the protectorate of the Manchus. In treaties between Russia and the Manchu government, Mongolia was recognized as part of China as early as 1689 (Nerchinsk) and 1727 (Kiachta - today Altanbulag in the Mongolian Republic).

Although the Chinese were previously forbidden to erect buildings in Mongolia, the first Chinese settlements existed as early as the 18th century, mainly near the numerous monasteries and royal courts. The Chinese carry the initially strictly regulated trade, they supply the secular nobility and Lamaist clergy with coveted luxury goods. The financial outlay is financed by taxes, which in the 19th century were increasingly ceded to Chinese traders, so that the Mongolian population sometimes became "serfs" of Chinese merchants.Little by little, creditors were even illegally compensated for the surrender of land, which they then leased to small Chinese farmers. Towards the end of the 19th century there were more and more revolts of the needy population (Mongols and Chinese farmers), which were directed against the nobility, the monks and the rich Chinese traders. However, despite their anti-Chinese stance, these uprisings cannot yet be interpreted as national uprisings. Only with the construction of the railway and the subsequent colonization of Inner Mongolia by the last rulers of the Qing dynasty did a national feeling develop, although too late, rather an anti-Chinese wave, which, however, was not enough to drive this area with the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911 to return de facto autonomy, as was the case in Tibet or Outer Mongolia.

Although after 1911 Bogdo Gegen, the religious head of Outer Mongolia, had repeatedly included Inner Mongolia in his plans to break away from China, he found no support on the Russian side, because several were closed between the tsarist government and Japan since 1906 Secret treaties the areas of interest have been divided up throughout Mongolia.

The period after 1911 was marked by numerous uprisings that wanted to fight for Mongolia's independence from China. With the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932, the Mongols were guaranteed independence and self-government. The Mongolian prince Demcugdongrub, who became known as Teh Wang, tried with Japanese support to form an autonomous government of Inner Mongolia, which, however, increasingly degenerated into a part of the Japanese front until 1945.

Even before the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the "Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region" was founded on May 1, 1947. Its head of government was Ulaanxüü, who had already emerged as a political leader in 1925. A unique power gathered on his person: he was both chairman of the government and party secretary of the Communist Party as well as commander and political commissioner of the Central Mongolian cavalry of the VBA.

Teh Wang also played a role until the 1950s, because part of the anti-communist resistance gathered around him.

During the Cultural Revolution there were serious violations of the regional sovereignty of the "Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region". In 1969 and 1970, large parts of the west and east were assigned to the respective neighboring provinces, including the Hulunbuir-Aimag, so that southern Mongolia lost about 90% of its forest areas (see map). The Mongolian population was drastically reduced in this way. However, the separated areas were gradually returned to the ÖMÖZO after the end of the Cultural Revolution. These processes have never been officially commented on, only the maps suddenly showed new boundaries at the beginning of the 1970s.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mongols were systematically pushed out of all positions of influence. The party and people's committees in Xöxxot were dissolved on November 1st, 1967 and replaced by a "revolutionary committee" that was made up of Mongols instead of three-quarters as before.

Unification problem

A (re-) unification of Southern and Northern Mongolia is not in sight for the time being. The situation is significantly different from that in Germany, Korea or Vietnam, the division of which is the direct result of a war that has historically been freshly remembered and with a clear political and geographical turning point. The differences between the numerous Mongolian tribes, which have grown over many centuries, are too great, and the economic and social dependencies are too great. In contrast to Northern Mongolia, the national identity of Southern Mongolia has been largely destroyed, while the economic profitability and standard of living are currently far overtaking the situation in Northern Mongolia due to the coupling with Chinese economic growth.

Nevertheless, the central government in Beijing has hysterical fear of excessive Mongolian autonomy. The language and literature of Mongolia are promoted within the university framework, but a choir of Mongolian singers is required, for example, to also sing Chinese songs or to have the Chinese sing along. Semi-private associations of Mongolian intellectuals (students, writers and scientists) are viewed with great suspicion by the security authorities, and the waves of arrests at the end of 1991 mainly arrested people who were organized in such associations.

Selected literature: China Statistical Yearbook 1992, State Statistical Bureau of the People's Republic of China; Michael Weiers (Ed.): The Mongols - Contributions to their History and Culture, Darmstadt 1986; Walther Heissig: The Mongols - A people seeks its history, Düsseldorf 1964; Wolfgang Franke e.a. (Ed.): China Handbuch, Westdeutscher Verlag 1974