Ethnic minorities in Inner Mongolia, the autonomous region that borders with Russia and Mongolia, protested against the government in early May and received much domestic and international attention. An article in the New York Times Ethnic Protests in China Have Lengthy Roots analyzed that Inner Mongolia lacked proper funds, environmental protection, and promotion of Mongolian culture. Southern Weekend also published an article discussing the alarming contrast between Inner Mongolia’s speed of growth (highest in China) and its citizens’ low average income. This contrast is due to Inner Mongolia’s heavy reliance on the energy industry to produce high GDP without developing the service sector. These development problems were brought back on the table after the protests occurred.
The Chinese government, taking these evident problems into account, responded to the protest in a strategic manner. Not only did the judicial branch of the provincial government execute the Han truck driver who incited the protest promptly, on June 29th, the State Council also published a statement suggesting it will further support Inner Mongolia’s social and economic development. The Southern Weekend article discussed this decision thoroughly in a article titled Inner Mongolia’s Spring. While the title alludes to the Arab Spring, the article went over the new policies in depth without mentioning the recent protest. In efforts to allocate more energy profits to the local people, the central government has granted power to the provincial government to increase tax revenue from its exported energy. Provincial officials had been anticipating energy policy reforms for a long time and responded positively once reforms finally happened.
Southern Weekend’s article also pointed out the lack of attentionInner Mongolia has received from the government, compared to the other 4 provincial-level autonomous regions. Before 2000, Inner Mongolia was not included in theChina’s 1999 Western Development plan. “We discussed the different arguments to persuade the central government to add us on to the strategic plan, such as our geographical location,” official Shi Zhongqin serving Inner Mongolia’s capital, Ordos, told Southern Weekend. “The chairman at the time went toBeijing several times to negotiate.” Your blogger suggests that the political reason for the lack of attention for Inner Mongolia could be that Inner Mongolia is a less concerning autonomous region for the central government than Xinjiang orTibet.Inner Mongolia has relatively less ethnic tension because there is an alternative nation state for ethnic Mongols close by, there is a small percentage of ethnic Mongols in Inner Mongolia, and that ethnic Mongols intermarry with Han Chinese relatively more often.
This energy policy reform taking place in Inner Mongolia had been adopted first in Xinjiang’s autonomous region, recently after the bloody protests on July 5th. From these central-local government interactions, one can observe China’s strategic interests invested in these supposedly “autonomous” regions. The central government needs the energy while the local government needs more leverage against the ethnic minorities.