Inner Mongolia, China’s Fast Developing Autonomous Region

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Inner Mongolia is the first autonomous region founded in China and a role model for other ethnic autonomous areas. The region situated in the north of the country, and sharing borders with Mongolia and Russia sets an agenda for harmony in diversity. How was Inner Mongolia able to drive development in spite of differences? BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.

Inner Mongolia displays ethnic culture and a harmonious society. It is inhabited by 55 ethnic groups. The Mongol, Han, Manchu, Hui, Korean and Russian among others have learned the art of dwelling in harmony to drive a common goal…development. According to government statistics, the Mongols account for 18 percent of the 25.11 million populace. What keeps the peace and places development as main focus?

An official of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of Inner Mongolia, Yang Fang noted that Inner Mongolia has long been regarded as a model province for ethnic autonomous regions in China, and the Commission was improving living standards for all ethnic groups in order to create a stable society.

“The CPC government has issued favourable policies for herdsmen along the borderline including usage of Mongolian language….Every year, the month of May is used to promote ethnic policies. There is also a five year plan and supervision on every level to develop and promote ethnic groups and also safeguard legitimate rights of ethnic groups giving full respect for language, lifestyle and cultural beliefs,” she said.

A region dating far back into the 50s, how has it kept going? “Inner Mongolia was established in 1957. The region has made impressive achievements in social and economic development,” another official Lui Yonghong said at a meeting. He noted that the average income for urban dwellers last year was at 32,900 Yuan, while rural residents received 11609 Yuan. Both aspects of the society appear to be in balance, each in its place and comfortable.

“The Belt and Road Initiative has created valuable opportunities for the development of Inner Mongolia,” Yonghong said, adding the region’s importance to the China-Russia economic corridor. Inner Mongolia had meticulously launched a series of projects including the electrification of railroads and 78.7 million tonnes of cargo passed through the port with an increase of 26.6 million percent of passengers. Trade volume of the region last year 2016 was at 11.7 billion us dollars, he said.

And while cross border tourism is being encouraged, closer ties for people to people communication has been prioritised, a potion for harmony not just within, but without. This has led to the emergence of sister cities for the diverse region. For the sake of the BR initiative, Yonghang states that the region aims to standardise projects such as railway, roads, airways and electricity projects while partnering with other countries. “We will endeavour to expand our market to African countries,” he noted.

And with information gathered by LEADERSHIP Sunday, Inner Mongolia produces, cashmere, beef, grains, and tomatoes. Its import and export volume in 2016 was about 77.28 billion Yuan. Health wise maternal and infant mortality rates are lower than the national average. The region also provides assistance health related to neighbouring Mongolia. “Seven years in a row we go to Mongolia to provide health consultations,” Yonghong said.

Education wise, Inner Mongolia by the end of 2016 had 53 institutions of higher learning, 289 senior high schools and 1,730 elementary schools in Inner Mongolia. The regional GDP of the autonomous region is estimated at 1.86 trillion RMB last year 2016, with increase of 7.2 per cent. The per capita GDP was up to 74,000 Yuan, at an increase of 6.9 Yuan.

His colleague from the department of Commerce, Inner Mongolia, Ding Xiaolong said, export accounted for about 4.741 billion US dollars. Prominent trade par Mongolia, Russia, Japan, US, Thailand among others. Exports in this trade include steel, alloy, antibiotics and knitwear. Imported goods include copper ore, dairy products, zinc ore, paper board among others. While the volume of foreign trade increased, its trade volume with Africa, import was at 110 million US dollars. Exports include cashmere, yarn, cars, vehicles, spare parts. He further noted that the regions notable partners include Nigeria, Mauritania, Egypt and South Africa. “For further development we will enhance our ties with African countries. We also encourage Inner Mongolia companies to invest in Africa and expand cooperation between Inner Mongolia and African countries,” he said. While export to Nigeria includes heavy mining trucks from Baotu, the 2016 export and import volume between Inner Mongolia and Nigeria is 26.82 million US dollars. Main trade items are organic chemicals, lead and gold.

As some parts of Inner Mongolia continue to suffer poverty, the region’s Poverty Strike Monitoring Centre’s representative at the meeting, Zhang Huazhen said it is a priority in the government’s policy  to eradicate poverty and is implementing basic strategies to do so. “The population of impoverished has been reduced from 1.6 million in 2012. Income for farmers in poor areas has been increased. Living standards of people in poor areas has been improved,” he said.

While revealing that 97 percent of poor people in Inner Mongolia are situated in 27 counties, he gave the main reason for widespread poverty as disease, followed by lack of funds, labour and natural disasters. “The milestones are to eradicate extreme poverty by the end of this year,” he said. For alleviation he said the government had appointed delegations to the poor villages, and provided larger investment to reduce poverty. “Since 2014 every family in poor villages are being surveyed and profiles set up for them.”

The poor have been assisted with getting jobs and have industries developed for them. Equally important was moving them to a better environment and supporting them with their careers, finding sponsors for those who want education. For the sick, the official stated that the government helped with the payment of medical bills.

“Industrial development plays a key role in poverty alleviation…Education tackles poverty from the roots,” he said. And so preschool, high school, vocational school, university are being supported. To tackle disease a major cause of poverty, free medical check-up is offered to those affected.

Regarding challenges, costs to alleviate poverty is high because the affected populace live in remote areas where there is no form of communication and as such poses a problem. Also, stronger enforcement has to be applied to certain people in certain areas.

Huazhen said that the government needs to innovate ways to alleviate poverty and create awareness among the poor people to let them know the need to eradicate poverty. An estimated total of 40 billion Yuan has been put into poverty alleviation yearly.tners of Inner Mongolia are namely;