Ethnic Chinese in Mongolia
|40,000 (1987 est.)
2% of the Mongolian population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
Ethnic Chinese in Mongolia can be subdivided into three groups: Mongolian citizens of ethnic Chinese background, temporary residents with Chinese citizenship, and permanent residents with Chinese citizenship. Mongolia's 1956 census counted ethnic Chinese as 1.9% of the population; the United States government estimated their proportion to be 2% in 1987, or roughly 40,000 people. The 2000 census showed 1,323 permanent residents of Chinese descent; this figure does not include naturalised citizens, temporary residents, nor illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants from China were estimated at 10,000 in the 1990s; some use Mongolia as a transit point into Russia.
Historically, the Gobi served as a barrier to large-scale Chinese settlement in what was, before 1921, called Outer Mongolia; the unsuitability of most of the territory for agriculture made settlement less attractive. Some Chinese settlements in Mongolia were founded in 1725, when farmers moved there by decree of the Qing Dynasty to grow food for soldiers fighting the Dzungars. They were established in the Orkhon and Tuul river basins, and in 1762, in the Khovd region. After the fighting ended, the Qing closed off Mongolia to immigration and occasionally evicted Chinese merchants.
Despite those restrictions, Chinese trade firms continually penetrated the country, concentrating mainly in Ikh Khüree, Uliastai, Khovd and Kyakhta. Their trade practices and the lifestyle of the Mongolian nobility lead to an ever-increasing indebtedness of the banners, nobles, and ordinary people, and Chinese businesses became a target of public discontent as early as Chingünjav's uprising in 1756. The spill-over from the Dungan rebellions of the 1870s into Mongolia also saw a number of Chinese businesses in Khovd and Uliastai destroyed. Many of the Chinese merchants lived in Mongolia only seasonally or until they had made enough money to return to China. Others took Mongolian wives, at least for the time of being in Mongolia.
In 1906, the Qing Dynasty began to implement policies aimed at a Han-Chinese colonization of Outer Mongolia along the lines of those in Inner Mongolia, but these policies never took full effect because the Dynasty collapsed and Mongolia declared independence in 1911. The total Han Chinese population at that time, mainly consisting of traders and artisans, but also of some colonists, can be estimated to have been at some ten thousand.
Upon Mongolia's declaration of independence, many Chinese became victims of atrocities, particularly in Khovd. However, after 1912, Chinese businesses were able to continue their operations, including collection of debts, largely unimpeded. It was only the establishment of communism that meant an end to Chinese trade in Mongolia. Ever-increasing obstacles to commerce were created, and the closure of the border to China for imports in 1928 meant an end for Chinese enterprise in the country.
With the People's Republic of China development aid projects of the 1950s, many Han Chinese entered Mongolia, beginning in 1955. By 1961, they had reached a number of 20,000. However, after the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s, in which Mongolia sided with the Soviets, China eventually withdrew most of its workers. At the same time, Mongolian politicians or academicians with alleged links to China (e.g. Ts. Lookhuuz or G. Sükhbaatar) became victims of political purges. In the early 1980s, Ulan Bator was reported to have a small Chinese community, which published a Chinese-language newspaper and which looked to the Chinese embassy there for moral support. However, in 1983, Mongolia systematically began expelling some of the remaining 7,000 Chinese contract workers in Mongolia to China. At the same time, ethnic Chinese who had become naturalized citizens were reported to be unaffected. Because the presence and the status of Chinese residents in Mongolia were politically sensitive subjects, Mongolian sources usually avoided mentioning the Chinese at all.
After the introduction of democracy, another wave of Chinese immigrants has entered the country. Many of the migrants work in the construction sector, while others run small or medium enterprises. Negative sentiment against Chinese migrants remains; China is seen as a potential threat to Mongolia's security and cultural identity. However, not all recent immigrants from China are ethnic Chinese; in particular, there is a number of Inner Mongolians.
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