An Independent State Must Protest

by M. Altanbat

Of the Inner Mongolian People's Party

Recently, the transgression of Mongolian territory by the Chinese is on the increase according to two Mongolian newspapers, 'Ardyn Erkh' , which is a government newspaper, as well as 'Unuudur'. E. Munkhdari of the latter reported a series of recent border incidents:
  1. on August 24, 1997, more than 60 Chinese entered the territorial waters of Mongolia on Lake Buir, sailing on 22 boats, ostensibly netting fish on a large scale. Border guards detained the trespassers,
  2. on August 28, 1997, two Chinese crossed into Mongolia (at border post 484), shot five times and ran away, riding motorcycles,
  3. nine armed Chinese crossed the Sulinkheer zone of Dorno-Gobi province instigating an armed conflict resulting in bloodshed,
  4. on September 2, 1997, Chinese trespassers at Lake Buir wounded one Mongolian border guard, kidnapped him and fled back across the border, holding the wounded guard hostage.

How are we to understand this recent and sudden upsurge in Chinese violation of Mongolian territory? I will argue that they represent a new level of Chinese aggression towards Mongolia, and should not be ignored by either the international community or the government of Mongolia.

Mongolia is pursuing a democratic and open free market system, and cooperating economically with the US, Japan, Germany and many other countries in the west. This is problematic to the Chinese government and they have and will continue to make strong efforts to limit these contacts. This aggressive policy follows naturally because

  1. China still lays claim to Mongolia, and
  2. Mongolia plays a unique and important role in the geopolitics of Central Asia, which China seeks to dominate. In addition, the existence of a free and independent Mongolia has significant ramifications on the border regions of China, namely Southern (Inner) Mongolia, East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and Tibet.
Mongolia serves as an inspiration and example to the non-Han peoples in these regions - if Mongolia can throw off the yoke of Communism and be a free and democratic country, why not they too? The Han masses may share some of these thoughts also, further compounding the concerns of the Chinese totalitarian authorities. The struggle for independence among these peoples is strengthened by the existence of a free Mongolia, and eventually these movements will find expression on a vastly larger scale than is presently seen. Therefore, the Chinese authorities have moved towards an overt policy of interference in Mongolian national affairs, in order to eliminate the increasing influence of the US, Japan and other western countries. Bribery, blackmail and other nefarious methods are purposely being used by the Chinese to influence Mongolians, and the recent border incidents are really an extension of this policy of interference, a notch up on the psychological scale of harassment, intended to frighten and intimidate. These policies will continue, and will intensify, in order for the Chinese government to pursue their long term goal of complete domination over Mongolia.

What has been the position of the Mongolian government regarding these border incidents. More than 3 months have passed since the first incident, and so far, it has not been reported that an official protest has been lodged with the Chinese government. The violation of Mongolian territory, the wounding and kidnapping of a Mongolian citizen, the plundering of Mongolian natural resources and the violent incidents have been met with silence on the part of the Mongolian government. Is this due to fear and a sense of powerlessness?

To pursue this issue, I asked Mr. Myagmarsuren, Office of the Foreign Ministry, why Mongolia has not yet protested to the Chinese government. He answered that 'We are conversing with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels.' Another view on the government perception of these incidents is seen in an interview of Colonel D. Bazarsad, Commander of the Department of Border Patrol, 'Ardyn Erkh' September 11, 1997. Regarding the kidnapping incident, he said '...the Chinese side has sent our injured border guard to Hailar, operated on him and saved his life. After his wounds are healed, the Chinese have promised to return him to Mongolia...' The interview with Colonel Bazarsad gave a very benign impression of the seriousness of the violation of Mongolian territories by the Chinese and generally downplayed the entire incident. Another government official, Chairman of the Parliament, Mr. Gonchigdorj, answering reporters' questions, said ' regard to the border incidents, it has not reached to a level where the government must protest.'

I am personally troubled by the government's attitude to these border incidents. Have the Mongols forgotten that Mongolia is a sovereign and independent country? It's true that Mongolia is a poor and underdeveloped country, but it's still our country, with a freely elected government and laws. On behalf of the electorate, the government should and must protest these incidents to the Chinese government. This is merely a normal part of maintaining international relations, and if the government of Mongolia fails to do this, one must question whether or not the government is capable of handling international relations in an effective way. This is particularly critical, since the Chinese are in a sense testing Mongolia, to see how much provocation the Mongols will bear. Will this new level of intimidation lead to opposition, or silent acceptance? I support a strong and vigorous protest of the border incidents.