China is promising to quell ethnic tensions by improving living standards again. This time not in Tibet or Xinjiang, but relatively quiet Inner-Mongolia.
In an article published in Seeking Truth, a Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper, Bagater, the ethnic Mongolian chairman of the Inner Mongolian government, announced local governments in the region would contribute 50 percent of spending to improving local livelihoods. Bagater also pledged average monthly incomes for agricultural workers would increase from about 850USD to nearly double that by the end of 2015.
Inner-Mongolia is rich in minerals and coal. The region's extractive industries are in large part responsible for fueling China's rapidly growing economy.
Last month, an ethnic Mongolian animal herder was crushed under a coal truck, triggering protests over mining practices in the region, after several decades of relative quiet.
Bagater's response to the unrest is reminiscent of Beijing's response to unrest among its Muslim ethnic Uyghur population.
In 1999, then-Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji enacted the Western Development policy to spearhead economic growth on its Western frontier, largely in response to tensions between the Han majority and the ethnic Uyghurs, a Turkic people indigenous to the region. Despite marked economic advancements, analysts say that economic disparities between the Han majority and ethnic Uyghurs persist.
Ethnic tensions broke out between ethnic Uyghurs and Han in the summers of 2008 and 2009. In both years, the Chinese government responded with promises to improve local living standards. Still, in late 2010, Chinese state-owned media reported that the government would install some 60,000 cameras in Urumqi, the capital of China's Uyghur autonomous region, in order to quell any potential unrest.
Well aware that the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt started after a wheat shortage induced a food crisis that led to mass unrest, analysts say that the Chinese government is eager to improve living standards in response to protests. Wheat is also a main staple of the Chinese diet, and after a historic low in precipitation among China's wheat-producing Northwestern provinces, food prices are slated to skyrocket.