Inner Mongolia: The Origin and Destiny of Its Autonomy
3: Comparative Ethnic Territorially-based Autonomy in Three Ethno-regions of China, with a Focus on Inner Mongolia
Saturday, March 26, 2022
10:30am – 12:00pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 314
Sun Yat-Sen University, China (People's Republic)
This paper proposes an analytical framework to address why implemented autonomy outcomes may differ across ethnically-defined autonomous regions in China, with a focus upon autonomy-building in Inner Mongolia. Comprised of a structural explanatory variable, inter-ethnic boundary-making processes, and an agential intervening variable, titular elites’ representation in the ethno-regional state, the framework is applied to a synchronic comparison of three autonomous regions with differing autonomy outcomes for 2010-2021, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Ningxia, reliant upon fieldwork and state-generated data. Titular elites’ representation in the ethno-regional state is used as a proxy for titular elites’ bargaining capacity with the central state. It is argued that an ‘integration-distinction balance,’ or rather, higher inter-ethnic integration combined with robust consciousness of inter-ethnic distinction, can contribute to titular elites’ representation in the ethno-regional state, which can lead to greater autonomy outcome for the ethno-region. The paper culminates by discussing the future of autonomy-building in the three ethno-regions. As the central state becomes increasingly assertive in recent years, as shown in the massive “ideological trainings” in Xinjiang and the curtailment of ethnic-language education in Inner Mongolia, the autonomous regions’ implemented autonomy outcome has declined over time, especially compared with the situation in the early 2010s. Nevertheless, based upon fieldwork conducted in 2021, this paper argues that high-level Mongol-Han social integration is not waning, and Inner Mongolia’s implemented autonomy outcome may continue to be higher than that of Xinjiang and Ningxia.