Inner Mongolia borders, from east to west, the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and Gansu, while to the north it borders Mongolia and Russia. It is the third-largest subdivision of China spanning almost 300 million acres or 12% of China's land area. It has a population of about 24 million as of 2004. The capital is Hohhot.
The majority of the population in the region are Han Chinese, with a substantial Mongol minority. The official languages are Standard Mandarin and Mongolian, the latter written in the classical alphabet.
During the Zhou Dynasty, central and western Inner Mongolia (the Hetao region and surrounding areas) were inhabited by nomadic peoples such as the Loufan, Linhu, and Dí, while eastern Inner Mongolia was inhabited by the Donghu. During the Warring States Period, King Wuling (340–295 BC) of the state of Zhao based in what is now Hebei and Shanxi provinces pursued an expansionist policy towards the region. After destroying the Dí state of Zhongshan in what is now Hebei province, he defeated the Linhu and Loufan and created the commandery of Yunzhong near modern Hohhot. King Wuling of Zhao also built a long wall stretching through the Hetao region. After Qin Shihuang created the first unified Chinese empire in 221 BC, he sent the general Meng Tian to drive the Xiongnu from the region, and incorporated the old Zhao wall into the Qin Dynasty Great Wall of China. He also maintained two commanderies in the region: Jiuyuan and Yunzhong, and moved 30,000 households there to solidify the region. After the Qin Dynasty collapsed in 206 BC, these efforts were abandoned.
During the Western Han Dynasty, Emperor Wu sent the general Wei Qing to reconquer the Hetao region from the Xiongnu in 127 BC. After the conquest, Emperor Wu continued the policy of building settlements in Hetao to defend against the Xiong-Nu. In that same year he established the commanderies of Shuofang and Wuyuan in Hetao. At the same time, what is now eastern Inner Mongolia was controlled by the Xianbei, who would later on eclipse the Xiongnu in power and influence.
During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD), Xiongnu who surrendered to the Han Dynasty began to be settled in Hetao, and intermingled with the Han immigrants in the area. Later on during the Western Jin Dynasty, it was a Xiongnu noble from Hetao, Liu Yuan, who established the Han Zhao kingdom in the region, thereby beginning the Sixteen Kingdoms period that saw the disintegration of northern China under a variety of Han and non-Han (including Xiongnu and Xianbei) regimes.
The Sui Dynasty (581–618) and Tang Dynasty (618–907) re-established a unified Chinese empire, and like their predecessors they conquered and settled people into Hetao, though once again these efforts were aborted when the Tang empire began to collapse. Hetao (along with the rest of what now consists Inner Mongolia) was then taken over by the Khitan Empire (Liao Dynasty), founded by the Khitans, a nomadic people originally from what is now the southern part of Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. They were followed by the Western Xia of the Tanguts, who took control of what is now the western part of Inner Mongolia (including western Hetao). The Khitans were later replaced by the Jurchens, precursors to the modern Manchus, who established the Jinn Dynasty over Manchuria and northern China.
Genghis Khan unified the Mongol tribes in 1206, conquered the Tanguts in 1227, the Jurchens in 1234, and his descendants completed the reunification of China in 1279, establishing the Yuan Dynasty. After the Yuan Dynasty was evicted by the Han-led Ming Dynasty in 1368, the Ming rebuilt the Great Wall of China at its present location, which roughly follows the southern border of the modern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (though it deviates significantly at the Hebei-Inner Mongolia border).
The Manchus gained control of the Inner Mongolian tribes in the early 17th century, then invaded Ming Dynasty in 1644, bringing it under the control of their Qing Dynasty. Under the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644–1912), Mongolia was administered in a different way for each region:
Ordinary Mongols were not allowed to travel outside their own leagues. While there had been Han Chinese farmers in what is now Inner Mongolia since the time of Altan Khan, mass settlement began in the late nineteenth century. The Manchus were becoming increasingly sinicized, and faced with the Russian threat, they began to encourage Han Chinese farmers to settle in both Mongolia and Manchuria. This policy has been followed by subsequent governments. The railroads that were being built in these regions were especially useful to the Han Chinese settlers. Land was either sold by Mongol Princes, or leased to Han Chinese farmers, or simply taken away from the nomads and given to Han Chinese farmers.
During the Republic of China era, Outer Mongolia regained independence. At the same time, Inner Mongolia was reorganized into provinces:
Some Republic of China maps still show this structure.
Manchuria came under the control of the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo in 1931, taking the Mongol areas in the Manchurian provinces (i.e. Hulunbuir and Jirim leagues) along. Rehe was also incorporated into Manchukuo in 1933, taking Juu Uda and Josutu leagues along with it. These areas were administered by Manchukuo until the end of World War II in 1945.
In 1937, open war broke out between the Republic of China and Japan. On December 8 1937, Mongolian Prince De Wang declared the independence of the remaining parts of Inner Mongolia (i.e. the Suiyuan and Chahar provinces) as Mengkiang or Mengkukuo, and signed close agreements with Manchukuo and Japan, thereby turning Inner Mongolia into a puppet state of the Japanese Empire. The capital was established at Zhangbei (now in Hebei province), with the puppet government's control extending as far west as the Hohhot region. In August 1945, Mengkiang was taken by Soviet and Outer Mongolian troops during Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.
Following the end of World War II, the Chinese Communists gained control of Manchuria with some Soviet support, and established the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in 1947, following the Soviet model of nationalities policy. Initially the autonomous region included just the Hulunbuir region. Over the next decade, as the communists established the People's Republic of China and consolidated control over mainland China, Inner Mongolia was expanded westwards to include five of the six original leagues (except Josutu League, which remains in Liaoning province), the northern part of the Chahar region, by then a league as well (southern Chahar remains in Hebei province), the Hetao region, and the Alashan and Ejine banners. Eventually, near all areas with sizeable Mongol populations were incorporated into the region, giving present-day Inner Mongolia its elongated shape. The leader of Inner Mongolia during that time, as both regional CPC secretary and head of regional government, was Ulanhu.
During the Cultural Revolution, the administration of Ulanhu was purged, and a wave of repressions against the Mongol population of the autonomous region was initiated. In 1969 much of Inner Mongolia was distributed among surrounding provinces, with Hulunbuir divided between Heilongjiang and Jilin, Jirim going to Jilin, Juu Uda to Liaoning, and the Alashan and Ejine region divided among Gansu and Ningxia. This was reversed in 1979.
There are groups calling for the independence of Inner Mongolia from what they view as Chinese imperialism; these groups, however, have less influence and support within and outside Inner Mongolia than similar movements in Tibet and East Turkestan.
Inner Mongolia is divided into 12 prefecture-level divisions. Until the late 1990s, most of Inner Mongolia's prefectural regions were known as Leagues a usage retained from Mongol divisions of the Qing Dynasty. Similarly, county-level divisions are often known as Banners (). Since the 1990s, numerous Leagues have converted into prefecture-level cities, although Banners remain. The restructuring led to the conversion of primate cities in most leagues to convert to districts administratively (Hailar, Jining, and Dongsheng). Some newly founded prefecture-level cities have chosen to retain the original name of League (Hulunbuir, Bayan Nur, and Ulanqab), some have adopted the Chinese name of their primate city (Chifeng, Tongliao), and one League, Ikh Juu, simply renamed itself Ordos. Despite these recent administrative changes, there is no indication that the Alxa, Hinggan, and Xilin Gol Leagues will convert to prefecture-level cities in the near future.
The nine prefecture-level cities are:
The three leagues are:
The twelve prefecture-level divisions of Inner Mongolia are subdivided into 101 county-level divisions, including twenty-one districts, eleven county-level cities, seventeen counties, forty-nine banners, and three autonomous banners. Those are in turn divided into 1425 township-level divisions, including 532 towns, 407 townships, 277 sumu, eighteen ethnic townships, one ethnic sumu, and 190 subdistricts.
See the List of administrative divisions of Inner Mongolia for a complete list of county-level divisions.
Inner Mongolia has abundance of resources especially coal, cashmere, natural gas, rare earth elements, and has more deposits of naturally-occurring niobium, zirconium and beryllium than any other province-level region in China. However in the past, the exploitation and utilisation of resources were rather inefficient, which resulted in poor returns from rich resources. Inner Mongolia is also an important coal production base in north China. It plans to double annual coal output by 2010 (from the 2005 volume of 260 million tons) to 500 million tons of coal a year
Industry in Inner Mongolia has grown up mainly around coal, power generation, forestry-related industries, and so forth. Inner Mongolia now laid emphasis on six competitive industries, namely energy, chemicals, metallurgy, equipment manufacturing, processing of farm (including dairy) produce as well as hi-tech products. Well-known Inner Mongolian enterprises include companies such as ERDOS, Yili, and Mengniu.
The nominal GDP of Inner Mongolia in 2007 was 601.9 billion yuan (US$79.2 billion), a growth of 19% from 2006, with an average annual increase of 20% from the period 2003-2007. Its per capita GDP exceeded 25,000 yuan (US$3,300). In 2007, Inner Mongolia's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 78.41 billion yuan, 307.98 billion yuan, and 215.49 billion yuan respectively. The urban per capita disposable income and rural per capita net income were 12,378 yuan and 3,953 yuan, up 19.5% and 18.3% respectively.
As with much of China, economic growth has led to a boom in construction, including new commercial development and large apartment complexes.
As the winds in the grasslands are very strong, some private companies have set up wind parks in parts of Inner Mongolia such as Bailingmiao, Hutengliang and zhouzi.
Inner Mongolian politics, however, has had a history of concentrating more on showpiece projects, such as widening roads, building architecturally exotic buildings, etc., as opposed to dealing with the needs of the overwhelming majority. The superficial development is often done to impress the central government. For example, in preparation for the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Autonomous Region, the government spent vast amounts of money building a new 60,000-capacity stadium in suburban Hohhot that is unlikely to have capacity crowds after the celebrations are over. Moreover, the government's obsession with increasing the GDP has made growth severely imbalanced. Regional officials, especially exemplified by current IMAR Party Chief Chu Bo have been subject to a series of corruption allegations. Chu has challenged the central government on many economic issues, and ignored the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's (CCDI) warnings in April 2007. As a direct result, Chu's governing style is known to be the new autonomy political wave where leaders in Autonomous Regions, Shanghai, and Guangdong in particular deviate policy in opposition to central government directives.
Mongols are the second largest ethnic group, comprising about 17% of the population. They include many diverse Mongolian-speaking groups; groups such as the Buryats and the Oirats are also officially considered to be Mongols in China. Many of the traditionally nomadic Mongols have settled in permanent homes as their pastoral economy was collectivized during the Maoist Era.
|Ethnic groups in Inner Mongolia, 2000 census|
Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.
The Han Chinese of Inner Mongolia speak a variety of dialects, depending on the region. The eastern parts tend to speak Northeastern Mandarin, which belong to the Mandarin group of dialects; those in the central parts, such as the Huang He valley, speak varieties of Jin, another subdivision of Chinese, due to its proximity to other Jin-speaking areas in China such as the Shanxi province. Cities such as Hohhot and Baotou both have their unique brand of Jin Chinese which are sometimes incomprehensible with dialects spoken in northeastern regions such as Hailar.
Mongols in Inner Mongolia speak a variety of dialects of the Mongolian language, including Chahar, Bairin, Ordos, Ejin-Alxa, Barghu-Buryat, etc.; the standard pronunciation of Mongolian in China is based on the Chahar dialect of the Plain Blue Banner, located in central Inner Mongolia. This is different from independent Mongolia, where the standard pronunciation is based on the Khalkha dialect. The Daur, Evenks, and Oroqin speak their own respective languages.
By law, all street signs, commercial outlets, and government documents must be bilingual, displaying both Mongolian and Chinese. There are three Mongolian TV channels in the Inner Mongolia Satellite TV network. A recent trend has also taken place with public transportation, where all announcements are also to be bilingual. Many ethnic Mongols, especially those from the newest generation, speak fluent Chinese, as Mongolian is beginning to recede in everyday use in urban areas. Ethnic Mongols in rural areas, however, have kept their traditions. In terms of written language, Inner Mongolia has retained the classic Mongol written script as opposed to Outer Mongolia's adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet.
The vast grasslands have always been symbolic of Inner Mongolia. Mongolian art often depicts the grassland in an uplifting fashion, emphasizing on the nomadic traditions of the Mongol people. The Mongols of Inner Mongolia practice many traditional forms of art. Inner Mongolian specialty cuisine, largely derived from the tradition of ethnic Mongols, consists of dairy-related products and hand-held lamb (手扒肉). In recent years franchises based on Hot pot had sprung up from Inner Mongolia, the most famous of which is Xiaofeiyang (小肥羊). Inner Mongolia is also known commercially for the brand names Mengniu and Yili, both of which began with the production of dairy products and ice cream.
Siqin Gaowa, a famous actress of China, is an ethnic Mongol native to Inner Mongolia.
A popular career in Inner Mongolia is circus acrobatics. The famous Inner Mongolia Acrobatic Troupe travels and performs with the renowned Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
In the capital city Hohhot:
Elsewhere in Inner Mongolia:
All of the above are under the authority of the autonomous region government. Institutions without full-time bachelor programs are not listed.