Is Mongolia a Part of China? Interesting Facts & Quick History
Mongolia is an Asian sovereign state with its own language, currency, prime minister, parliament, president, and military. Mongolian citizens are issued their own passports for overseas travel. The three million or so people who live in this enormous, landlocked country are pleased to call themselves "Mongolian."
Because Inner Mongolia (not to be confused with "Mongolia") is an autonomous territory claimed by the People's Republic of China, many people mistakenly believe that Mongolia is a part of China. Tibet is another well-known Chinese autonomous territory.
Inner and Outer Mongolia
There is no such thing as "Outer Mongolia" in terms of geography; the correct term for the autonomous state is just "Mongolia." Informally, the terms "Outer Mongolia" and "North Mongolia" are used to distinguish Inner Mongolia from the sovereign state. In Asia, the way you refer to Mongolia has certain political implications.
Inner Mongolia shares a border with Russia and Mongolia, a sovereign and autonomous country. It is a section of the People's Republic of China that is deemed autonomous. Inner Mongolia was granted autonomy in 1950, long before Tibet.
A Brief History
Mongolia claimed independence in 1911 after the Qing empire fell apart in China, but the Republic of China had different ideas for the province. Until Russia invaded Mongolia in 1920, Chinese forces occupied a portion of Mongolia. Chinese forces were driven out by a joint Mongol-Russian campaign.
Russia has agreed to back Mongolia's establishment of an independent communist government. Mongolia declared its independence for the second time, 10 years after the first attempt, on July 11, 1921, with the assistance of the Soviet Union.
Mongolia was only removed from China's maps in 2002, because it was no longer considered part of their mainland region.
Although relations with Russia remained strong, the Soviet Union imposed a communist dictatorship in Mongolia through force, employing criminal techniques such as execution and intimidation.
Mongolia's collaboration with the Soviet Union to counter China's supremacy, however, culminated in bloodshed afterwards. Thousands of Mongols, including Buddhist monks and lamas, were executed in the cause of communism during Stalin's "Great Purge" in the 1930s.
Later, the Soviet Union aided Mongolia's defense against the Japanese invasion. One of the prerequisites for the Soviet Union's participation in the Pacific War with the Allies in 1945 was that Mongolia maintain its independence after the war.
Despite its brutal history and war for independence, Mongolia manages to retain solid diplomatic relations with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and India, despite their frequently competing objectives!
Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1992, the Mongolian People's Republic was renamed simply "Mongolia." The Mongolian People's Party (MPP) seized leadership of the country after winning the 2016 elections.
In Mongolia, Russian is still the most widely spoken foreign language, but English is gaining popularity.
Fame Did Not Last Forever
While Mongolian khans fought amongst themselves, a nomadic tribe known as the Manchurians or Manchus grew in strength to the east of Mongolia and northeast of China. They managed to destabilize the Great Ming Dynasty, which ascended to power following the downfall of Kubilai Khan's Yuan Dynasty in China. However, due to a scarcity of skilled military or administrative leaders to rule such enormous territories as China, the Manchus or Qing Dynasty chose to work with the Chinese and assign former Chinese leaders to critical positions.
Manchus also wanted to ensure that their leadership would not be challenged or stopped by external forces such as the Mongols, who were known for their aggressive attacks, when thinking out how to deal with any internal revolts. As a result, Manchus began adopting diplomatic strategies with Mongol khans early on, such as fostering inter-marriages. Speaking of Manchu princesses, there is a historical monument named Princess Temple not far from Terelj National Park, which is about 50 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar city. It was once the home of a Manchu princess married to a Mongolian nobleman.
Later in the 1600s, Manchus utilized deceptive political tactics to get Mongol lords to join their cause by giving various titles and offering various prizes. They did not always use elegant and polite approaches; evidence show that they used a large amount of coercion and torture to get Mongols to obey their orders. A portion of Mongolia's National History Museum is dedicated to exhibiting the various ways Manchus tortured Mongols to subjugate them.
With the death of the last Golden Horde khan Ligden in 1636 and the emergence of the Qing Dynasty in 1644, the southern part of Mongolia (also known as Inner Mongolia) became vulnerable to foreign conquest. Although the Qing Dynasty, one of the world's most powerful, if not the most powerful, seized all divisions of Mongolia by the end of the 1700s, southern Mongolia was clearly the most vulnerable zone to fall under Qing dominance due to its proximity to the border.
As you may have noticed, the names Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia were taken from how Manchus referred to the southern half of Mongolia. The Qing Dynasty occupied not only Mongolia, but also Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Some Interesting Facts
- Mongolia is the world's most sparsely inhabited sovereign country, despite its immense territory. According to a US research, the population was estimated to be approximately three million individuals, despite the fact that achieving an accurate count in such a nomadic place is almost impossible!
- The United States Census Bureau conducted the most recent population estimate for Mongolia. The US Department of State, for example, does not agree with that figure! They choose to utilize the UN's more conservative estimate of 2.6 million individuals from 2009.
- Mongolia ranks 122nd in the world in terms of life expectancy, according to a 2015 World Health Organization rating. Males have a life expectancy of only 64.7 years.
- The Great Wall of China runs roughly along Inner Mongolia's southern frontier. Despite being one of the largest undertakings in human history, it failed to keep the Mongols out. It's also not visible from space.
- Mongolian women's fertility is dropping faster than that of any other country, according to the United Nations.
- Although Mongolia is most known for the Gobi Desert and nomadic tribes living in Yurts, it also has large towns. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's largest city, with a population of more than 1.3 million people (roughly the same as San Diego, California).
- Ulaanbaatar sees severe temperature changes due to its location and elevation. The average yearly temperature is only 31.3 degrees; however, outliers have been recorded ranging from minus 44 degrees to 102.2 degrees.
- Due to dust, Ulaanbaatar has one of the highest levels of fine-particle pollution in the world. Chronic respiratory difficulties are caused by particulate particles.
- The Gobi Desert is rapidly growing, resulting in the loss of grasslands.
- Mongolia has the world's highest rate of liver cancer. Mongolian cuisine is primarily meat and dairy, with very few vegetables, due to the environment. The most popular alcoholic beverage is vodka.
- The "Mongolian grill" section of your favorite Chinese buffet, where customers select meats and ingredients to be cooked right in front of their eyes, has nothing to do with Mongolian cuisine or cooking procedures. In the 1950s, Taiwan was the birthplace of this style. Authentic Chinese cuisine often differs significantly from "Chinese" concoctions made outside the country while it was still mostly closed to the outside world.
- Mongolia has about 250 sunny days per year on average.
- The most popular adventure travel activities in Mongolia are riding a horse over the plains and spending time with nomads in yurts.
- The Gobi Desert was home to some of the first dinosaur eggs. There were also sea turtle fossils discovered, indicating that the desert was at some time underwater!