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What is the Difference Between Inner and Outer Mongolia?

Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of China, blending Chinese and Mongolian cultures, while Outer Mongolia refers to the independent nation of Mongolia. The two regions share historical ties but differ in political status, development, and ethnic composition. How do these differences shape the lives of those within their borders? Join us as we explore the unique identities of these neighboring lands.
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

The terms Inner and Outer Mongolia are sometimes confused, despite the fact that they describe completely different Asian regions. Inner Mongolia refers to the Mongol autonomous region situated inside the People's Republic of China. Known as Öbür Mongghul-un Öbertegen Jasaqu Orun by locals, Inner Mongolia occupies 12 percent of China's total surface. Outer Mongolia, on the other hand, is a term used mostly by foreigners to refer to the sovereign state of Mongolia, which has no relation to China. This country sometimes includes part of the Russian republic of Tannu Uriankhai, but this is under dispute and there is no formal word on whether the area should be mentioned as being part of Mongolia. In Chinese language, the name for Outer Mongolia is Mengguguo, which means "State of Mongolia."

Outer Mongolia has a population of 2,832,224; 94.9 percent of which is Khalkh Mongolian. The rest combines small groups of Turks, Russians, and Chinese. As an interesting fact, Mongolians also make up the majority of residents in Inner Mongolia, where they outnumber Chinese nationals in certain regions. While a third of the population lives in the capital city, Ulaan Baatar, the country is primarily rural and underdeveloped. Life expectancy is still low at 64.9 years. The nomadic lifestyle is prevalent and has contributed to the slow growth of the nation.

Mongolia is bordered by Russia to the north and China to south.
Mongolia is bordered by Russia to the north and China to south.

Inner Mongolia is slightly more developed, with a population of 23,840,000. The economy is based in agriculture, mining and coal production, power generation, and metallurgy. The population is mostly sedentary; even Mongol groups, which would be nomadic in Outer Mongolia, have chosen to settle and engage in local industry and agriculture. This has had a big impact on the educational level of the population, as more children attend regular schools than in Outer Mongolia.

Ulaan Baatar, the country's capital city, is the coldest capital city in the world, with annual average temperatures of 29.7°F (-1.3°C). Despite being the capital, Ulaan Baatar is an underdeveloped city, with some of the major roads still unpaved and an unreliable public transportation system. Outer Mongolia is well-known for its numerous Buddhist monasteries, including the Gandantegchinlen Khiid Monastery, famous for its colossal statues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between Inner and Outer Mongolia?

Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of China, while Outer Mongolia refers to the independent country of Mongolia. Inner Mongolia has a significant Han Chinese population and is politically and administratively controlled by China. In contrast, Outer Mongolia, with its capital at Ulaanbaatar, is a sovereign state with a predominantly ethnic Mongolian population. The two regions also differ in economic development, with Inner Mongolia benefiting from China's economic policies and investments.

How do the cultures of Inner and Outer Mongolia compare?

Despite sharing historical and ethnic ties, Inner and Outer Mongolia have developed distinct cultural identities. Inner Mongolia has experienced more cultural assimilation with Chinese influences due to its status within China. Outer Mongolia has preserved more of its traditional nomadic lifestyle and cultural practices, such as the Naadam festival and the use of the traditional Mongolian script. However, both regions value their Mongolian heritage and customs.

What is the geographical contrast between Inner and Outer Mongolia?

Geographically, Inner Mongolia is characterized by its vast grasslands, deserts like the Gobi, and forested areas, serving as a natural barrier between China and Mongolia. Outer Mongolia is landlocked, with a rugged landscape that includes the Altai Mountains, steppes, and more of the Gobi Desert. Both regions experience harsh climates with cold winters and short summers, but Outer Mongolia tends to have more extreme temperatures due to its higher altitude.

What is the political relationship between Inner and Outer Mongolia?

The political relationship between Inner and Outer Mongolia is complex, shaped by history and current international relations. Inner Mongolia, as part of China, has a different political system and governance structure compared to the democratic government of independent Mongolia. While there are cultural and economic ties between the two, their political interactions are influenced by the larger diplomatic relationship between China and Mongolia, which includes cooperation and negotiation on border and trade issues.

How do the economies of Inner and Outer Mongolia differ?

Inner Mongolia has a diverse economy that benefits from China's economic policies, with significant industrial sectors including coal mining, rare earths production, and agriculture. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, Inner Mongolia's GDP in 2020 was approximately 1.86 trillion yuan. Outer Mongolia's economy is more dependent on mining (particularly coal, copper, and gold) and livestock herding, with a GDP of about $13.14 billion USD in 2020, as reported by the World Bank. The economic development of Inner Mongolia is generally more advanced due to the support and integration with the Chinese economy.

Sources: - National Bureau of Statistics of China: - World Bank:

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Discussion Comments


This doesn't sound accurate. Completely different Asian regions would be Vietnam and outer Mongolia, but inner Mongolia and outer Mongolia are in the same region. They have similar weather, and similar plants. @boston, persecuted? The Mongols are infamous for slaughtering the Chinese and Russians. The Han built the Great Wall to keep the Mongols out.


Inner Mongolia is way more developed than Outer. There is one city whose GDP per capita is higher than that of Hong Kong.


Mongolians and other Central Asians became some of the most persecuted ethnic groups under Russian and Chinese rule. Even in Mongolia proper (Outer Mongolia), the level of indirect persecution has been quite high, and has been largely ignored by history and news media.


Nomadic groups such as the Mongols rarely view their country in terms of borders, but rather in terms of an ethnic and religious understanding of "land." Like Native Americans, much of the world does not share the European (feudal) view of land being owned and borders being set in stone. From early times, nomadic Mongols roamed freely across central Asia, conquering and pillaging wherever they saw fit, and only in recent history, with the advent of Western-style domination and Communism, Mongolia and other Central Asian republics began to be seen as nations rather than hordes.

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    • Mongolia is bordered by Russia to the north and China to south.
      By: Ekler
      Mongolia is bordered by Russia to the north and China to south.