Xi Jinping has directed the Chinese authorities in Inner Mongolia to promote Mandarin in schools to resolve ethnic tensions. This move comes months after the Chinese government suppressed protests by local people to keep Mongolian as the primary teaching language. On the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, Xi told northern deputies that ethnic unity must be achieved through “solid and meticulous efforts,” and that standard Chinese – both spoken and written – and state-compiled textbooks must be unwaveringly adopted, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Citing the importance of cultural identity, he said that young people in Inner Mongolia should gain a comprehensive understanding of the policies of Communist party and its revolutionary heritage.

Since 2017, the Chinese have been attempting to redefine to the real map of China. Even in Tibetan and Uyghur schools, the authorities have directed that teaching should take place in Mandarin Chinese, in tandem with Beijing’s crackdown on dissent and mass imprisonment of demonstrators and opponents.

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In Inner Mongolia, parents previously had the choice of sending their children to a Mandarin or Mongolian language school. While China recognises 56 ethnic groups and gives some of them a level of autonomy, Beijing has made it clear over the course of last year that so-called affirmative action policies for these groups will be scaled back in order to encourage incorporation into the majority Han Chinese community.

The president’s remarks come months after massive street protests erupted in Inner Mongolia ahead of the start of the new school year in September. The demonstrators expressed their rage over an order that stated that Mongolian will be replaced as the language of instruction in key school subjects such as language and literature, morality and law, and history. Locals are primarily concerned that their ethnic language would be phased out in favour of Mandarin as part of a nationwide effort to assimilate ethnic minorities into the majority Han culture.