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Blowing in the Wind: Renewable energy and Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Inner Mongolia

Blowing in the Wind: Renewable energy and Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Inner Mongolia

 

This is a project to assess the impact of the wind energy industry on minority communities in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous RF Blowing in the WindRegion of China. China is the world’s leading producer of, and investor in, wind energy. The centre of China’s wind industry is the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where conditions are aptly suited for wind power, comprising vast steppe lands and a sparse population. Inner Mongolia, however, is an ethnic minority region that has experienced tensions as a result of the resource industries. This began with the extraction of non-renewable resources such as coal, natural gas, and rare-earth elements, which has transformed the Inner Mongolian landscape and created conflicts with minority communities. This has continued with the shift to renewable energy where large-scale wind farms are being developed in rural areas primarily occupied by ethnic minorities, the majority of whom are mobile pastoralists whose livelihoods depend on the same areas as the wind industry.

The project included 6 months of ethnographic fieldwork at three wind farms in the Hulunbuir region of Inner Mongolia. This was complemented with interviews with the managers of the wind farms, their employees, members of the regional government, and international investors. Fieldwork revealed how the wind industry was affecting herding communities, including herding strategies, patterns of mobility, and perceptions of the environment. The project touched upon wider themes in environmental anthropology and Inner Asian studies, including green governmentality, the industrialisation of the steppes, and shifting relations between ethnic minorities and the Chinese state through the narrative of “ecological civilisation”.

Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (2013–2015) Rubicon Post-doctoral grant, Dr Richard Fraser