Frontiers and Minorities

Frontiers and Minorities

This group is focused on the relationship between imperialism and the environment and the effects of this relationship on frontiers and minorities. The overarching theme is examined through the imperialistic actions of the Qing Dynasty in areas such as Manchuria, Mongolia, and Xinjiang, which informed the tendencies of the People’s Republic of China and their annexation of Tibet in the mid-20th century.

The individual topics chosen for the most part play into each other and allow for almost a story-like narrative. They are as follows:

  • Qing Dynasty Expansion into Manchuria and Mongolia
  • The Environmental Impact of Westward Han Migration
  • Tibet and the Struggle for Sovereignty and Environment

Qing Dynasty Expansion into Manchuria and Mongolia

During the rule of the Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1912, the dynasty would begun a period of expansion and imperialism into many of the other territories surrounding the empire. The first of these territories would be the homeland of the ruling Manchu’s in Manchuria. The Qing Dynasty expansion into Manchuria would see a large rise of Han Chinese immigration as well as the decimation of the animal and plant life within the territory. Qing Dynasties expansion into Mongolia would lead to major change occurring within the politics of Mongolia as well as the nomadic culture of the Mongolians.

Mongol archer (left) and Manchu archer (right)

The Environmental Impact of Westward Han Migration

This topic was mainly about the how the environmental ecosystem was destroyed due to the Han settlement of the western frontier. The main point in this topic are issues surrounding agriculture, deforestation, and wildlife. Through the critical analysis of these events, it shows a direct causes an effects to each of the causes which can still be seen in the modern day. This section really shows how one event, like agriculture, can affect another, like the forests, and ultimately affect another group, like the wildlife. Overall, this page of the website really exemplifies that environmental destruction builds up to the next catastrophic event.

Manmade geographical features in China

Tibet and the Struggle for Sovereignty and Environment

For decades, Tibet has struggled to retain its self-determination against the protectorate and eventually occupational statuses of other governments, such as the British Empire and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). After the region lost its isolationism, there was a large global interest in Tibet for its natural resources and geographical composition, which landed the state in a land-grabbing game that lasted well into the 1900s. For powers such as Britain, Tibet was harnessed as a pathway to the greater Chinese nation for trade and other connections rather than being viewed as its own autonomous place.

10 March 1959: Tibetan Uprising near Potala Palace, Lhasa that was eventually met with Chinese suppression and violence

When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came into single-party power in 1949, Tibet would be “liberated” and incorporated into a “new China” that continued to undermine the Tibetan people and their pastoral, natural ways of life. Chinese efforts to modernize during the mid-20th century would go on to contribute to environmental exploitation and degradation of resources such as land, water, and minerals.

Landslide traps 83 people in Tibet gold mine area, reflecting how disaster-prone the practice of mining is and the kind of land degradation it generates (Maizhokunggar county of Lhasa)

For many Han Chinese who have migrated to Tibet and work in its grasslands and mountains, Tibet is considered a “liberated” region that could benefit from their skills.  In contrast, through Western and Tibetan eyes, the exile of their Dalai Lama and the encroachment upon their land warrants global attention and aid. The people feel that their state must be freed from the PRC, but despite efforts from groups such as Free Tibet, the region still undergoes massive exploitation and government suppression. There is certainly a greater conversation to be had about whether or not Tibet truly belongs to China and how the Chinese have disregarded their own agreements to not oppress the Tibetan people. As it stands now, only time and continued efforts of resistance will tell.