Mongolian Nationalism as a Potential Stumbling Block
Despite the warm cooperation between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar, any surge in Mongolian nationalism would adversely affect the relationship. At present, Mongolian nationalist movements may be found in Mongolia, the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, and Russia's regions of Buryatskaya and Kalmykia. Based on a common traditional culture, Mongolian nationalism quickly resumed salience during 1989 when Mongolia was making a political turnaround. In 1990, after the Mongolian Democratic Party publicly put forward its argument on "Uniting the Three Mongolias" (Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Mongolian Buryatskaya), they also advocated "providing a unified spoken and written language and a nationality which could naturally be linked together." They also supported a union between Inner Mongolia, Mongolian Buryatskaya, Mongolian Xinjiang, and other regions which would in turn unite Mongolians under one "Great Mongolia." In September 1993 the movement went even further by convening a "Global Mongolian Clansmen Plenary Session" in Ulaanbaatar, which in the future became the force behind the so-called doctrine of "Pan-Mongolism" (this activity was first supported by Japan in 1919 against the Bolsheviks and later it was broadened and used by the Mongolian nationalist movement).
At that time, achieving Mongolian nationalist unity was a great undertaking, and as a result, different but interrelated Mongolian nationalist organizations were established in Inner Mongolia (the "Inner Mongolian Nationalist Liberation Alignment") and Buryatskaya (the "Buryatskaya Alliance") and proceeded to divide the Pan-Mongolism movement. Later in March 1997, Mongolians from China, Mongolia, Germany, the U.S., and other countries all convened at Princeton University for the "Global Mongolian Clansmen Plenary Session," to discuss the Inner Mongolian nationalist liberation movement. The resolution was to establish the "Inner Mongolian People's Party" (in Chinese neiren dang for "Inner People's Party") devoted to supporting an Inner Mongolian independence movement. After the meeting, Mongolians all over the world used the 50 year anniversary of the establishment of the "Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region" to stage all types of protest activity.
Even though under Mongolia's direction the nationalist movement has progressed rapidly, in fact the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has only gained some 4 million adherents (according to the fifth census completed in 2000), which only constitutes 17 percent of the total population. In addition, daily Sinification has hindered the success of nationalist activity. Thus, the influence of Mongolian nationalism will progressively decrease.
From the Chinese perspective, there is already a worry that the democratic nature of Mongolia will foment the political demands of clans within the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. This would cause an identity problem amongst large numbers of Mongolians, inciting them to unite inside China's borders. Such an event could give rise to a chain reaction which would critically jeopardize Chinese national security, leading to Xinjiang independence, Tibetan independence, and even Taiwan independence. Therefore for its part, the Chinese government has not been soft-hearted toward Mongolian independence, and Beijing has taken strong steps to repress protests and demonstration.
Another reason the Chinese are against the spread of Pan-Mongolism is because of history: China has never abandoned its wild goal of recapturing Mongolia, and correspondingly, China will absolutely not permit Mongolian nationalist thought to foment within its borders. This factor is also compelling the Chinese government to enlarge economic aid to Mongolia to strengthen bilateral relations, and at the same time to strengthen Mongolia's degree of economic dependence on China, all in order to obtain Beijing's long-term political objectives.
Considering Mongolia's economic needs, Ulaanbaatar is cautious about contradicting its political relationship with China. After 9/11, under the pressure of combating international terrorism and opposing Mongolian independence, Xinjiang independence, Tibetan independence, and others, the doctrine of national minority movements has been given less leeway and gradually been suppressed. Hence, so-called "Pan-Mongolism" will have no choice but to remain behind the scenes. Sino-Mongolian relations has de-emphasized Mongolian nationalism and focused more on regional security cooperation.
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