A dangerous herder mentality

A long-standing conflict between Mongolians and Han Chinese is reawakened

A dangerous herder mentality

Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

The conflict between Inner Mongolia’s indigenous herders and its Han Chinese mining community spans five decades, but recent events confirm it may continue indefinitely. Last month, a Mongolian herder known as Mergen was trying to prevent a mining convoy from crossing the fenced prairies of Xiwu when, his people allege, a Chinese coal-truck driver ran him over on purpose. Enraged, and further angered by government-backed mining operations on their land, the herding population erupted with protests, the largest since 1991, in over three cities.

Beijing insists that the mining, and fencing off of herding territory, is essential for development and environmental protection (they made no mention of Mongolia’s status as China’s leading producer of coal). The herders, on the other hand, say their rights have been unfairly reduced, and that the mining is actually poisoning the environment. Mindful of the unrest, authorities swiftly sentenced the Chinese truck driver to death last week, but tensions continue to simmer.


A dangerous herder mentality

  1. Non-Chinese ethnic populations face the same pressures all over China, as Han Chinese flock to provinces like Zinxiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia for jobs and cheaper apartments. In the contest for land between the herders and the mining interests, the herders will lose– particularly if China can import wool from places like Australia. Besides, most people find that cotton is more comfortable than wool anyway. Any country that wants to be a modern industrial society, like China does, has to have a fossil fuel like coal to run its plants. So much for clean energy. 

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