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Cooperation, Land Use, and the Environment in Uxin Ju: The Changing Landscape of a Mongolian-Chinese Borderland in China

Hong Jiang
Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Vol. 94, No. 1 (Mar., 2004), pp. 117-139
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3694071
Page Count: 23
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Cooperation, Land Use, and the Environment in Uxin Ju: The Changing Landscape of a Mongolian-Chinese Borderland in China
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Abstract

Human-environmental studies have done much to examine environmental consequences of conflictual politics but have paid scant attention to landscape implications of cooperation, especially when that cooperation is adopted by a group that is seen as politically less powerful. This article examines cooperative politics and its consequences for land use and the environment in Uxin Ju, a Mongol-dominated border area in China. Since the 1980s, in the context of China's economic reform, land use in Uxin Ju has become more intensified, and the identification of the Mongolian culture has shifted from land-use practices to symbolic features such as language and heritage. Much of the change has been influenced by the Mongols' cooperative relationship with the Chinese state and the Han Chinese people. The Mongols have participated actively in the state's project of economic modernization and have utilized their access to Chinese technology and laborers to their own advantage in bringing about land-use change that helps strengthen their economic well-being. This cooperative relationship and its impact on land use have to be understood in the historical context of Uxin Ju as a Mongolian-Chinese borderland, the broad socioeconomic transformation that is taking place in China, and the contemporary experience of Mongolian cultural change. The environmental outcome of such cooperation, however, is rather mixed. On the sandy dryland of Uxin Ju, as parts of the landscape are improved, other parts are sandified. The entire landscape has become more homogenized spatially; thus, its regenerative capacity is compromised. This calls into question any a priori correspondence between forms of politics and environmental consequences.

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