Gobi & Eastern Mongolia

My six months of fieldwork Eastern Mongolia and the Gobi have all been carried out jointly with my Chinese-speaking colleague, Mikkel Bunkenborg, as part of our on-going research on Chinese investments in Mongolia and Africa.

Over the last decade, Mongolia has received a big inflow of both public and private Chinese investments, from the purchase of derelict cement factories in Ulaanbaatar from socialist times to formerly secret uranium mines in Eastern Mongolia.

Rather than doing high-profile investments into big unexplored mineral deposits like certain Western companies, Chinese individuals and firms have tended to procure stakes in small- and medium sized mines and other extractive industries.

The local response from nomads, villages and officials is varied, ranging from fears of foreign exploitation, worries about environmental degradation and loss of cultural identity to dreams of future job prospects and economic development.

To explore all this we have conducted multi-sited fieldwork at different locations across south-eastern Mongolia’s vast and deserts.  In addition to two oil fields, these include several privately owned fluorspar and vink mines, a highway financed by the Chinese government and the Asian Development Bank, and a 3000 GW power plant projected atop a giant coal deposit, as well as a Chinese-owned agribusiness.


Suggestions for articles on the subject:

  • 2012. The Ethnographic Expedition 2.0. In Scientists and Scholars in the Field: Studies in the History of Fieldwork and Expeditions, C. Ries, Nielsen K. & M. Harbsmeier (eds), pp.  415-430. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. Co-authored with Mikkel Bunkenborg.


Date: July 08, 2012