China: Minority Regions of Manchuria, Mongolia and Sinkiang

About the regions of China that are in some dispute including Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang and others.



Though they originally were comprised of non-Han Chinese, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang, and Tibet have at various times formed the outer or buffer zone to China proper. Today, in order to restore China's traditional influence to actual political boundaries, the Red Chinese have taken over the outlying areas and set them up as autonomous regions. While it hasn't forced Chinese culture upon these areas, with the exception of Tibet, Peking has gerrymandered these regions' boundaries so they include at least half Han Chinese.

Inner Mongolia--North of the Great Wall is the sparsely populated, semiarid homeland of the nomadic groups who often surged southward across the steppe to invade the prosperous cities and fertile farmlands of old China proper. Today this homeland forms the autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia and Ningsia Hui.

The Mongol population, which now numbers only slightly over 2 million, is far out-numbered by the Han Chinese in the region. Since only a few Mongols can still depend solely upon the nomadic existence of animal husbandry for their livelihood, most also grow crops in settlements centering in a few irrigated river valleys and oases. Still others have been absorbed into the urban life of larger settlements, and a few still take up hunting and trapping to supplement their incomes. Most Mongolians believe in the Tibetan brand of Buddhism.

The Han Chinese of the region are concentrated in a narrow band just north of the Great Wall. They populate the numerous state farms Peking has established to supplement the animal husbandry industry and ensure ethnic Chinese dominion.

Sinkiang--is a vast autonomous region of deserts and high mountains, lightly populated--only 8 million--and largely undeveloped: an area well suited for China's nuclear and missile testings. Because it occupies a pivotal position in Central Asia, sharing an 1,800-mi. border with Russia, the Chinese have always tried historically to prevent the area from falling into hostile hands by controlling key caravan routes which still crisscross Sinkiang.

Uighuirs, a Turkic people, live in the oases of the region's desert, the Tarim Basin. Over the centuries they have built intricate systems of canals and dug wells to supply water for fields growing grains, fruit, vegetables, and cotton. Kazakh, Mongol, and Kirghiz nomads herd sheep, cattle, and horses to graze the rather dry grasslands of northern Sinkiang. Oil has been discovered here, however, so factories producing iron, steel, cement, farm machinery, fertilizers, and textiles have been opened mostly in and around the chief city and capital of Urumchi.

During the '60s, Peking sent massive numbers of Han Chinese into the Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary organization under the army, to develop Sinkiang. The corps was assigned land reclamation and water conservancy projects.

Kwangsi Chuang--The Chuangs, with 6.6 million people at the time of the last (1953) census, are China's largest minority group. Over 90% of them live in the Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region, where they comprise about 1/4 of its total population. Because the region borders Indochina, the Chuangs and Han who are here share many of the cultural and economic traits found in the peoples of Vietnam and Cambodia: Most of the Chuangs depend upon rice cultivation for sustenance; in religion, they are animists, worshiping their ancestor spirits in particular.

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