Friday, September 19, 2008

Yili Milk Products Contaminated

An e-mail is circulating here in Mongolia about a BBC story related to the recent milk contamination in China. The company implicated in the contamination allegedly is Yili milk, which is a common milk product in Mongolia. More on the story can be found at the BBC News website.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Traveling Through China

Post-Olympics China appears to be a more closed China than pre-Olympics China. I just spent two hours this morning standing in line to apply for a Chinese visa that will allow me to transfer from one plane to another on my way to the US. The days of visa-less transfers through China to or from Mongolia seem to be over for now. In order to transit through China, when applying for a visa in Mongolia, you need to bring your passport, visa application with passport sized photo, copy of your passport, and copy of your itinerary. If you plan to actually stay in China, I think you need bank statements and hotel reservations, too. US citizens pay $130 for a visa for regular slow service. Everyone else pays much, much less.

My natural inclination is to whine and complain about the process and the price. But, I am too aware of the world to take that too far. After all, what if I were Chinese trying to transit through the US? Would I even get a visa? I know I would have to pay $130 for the interview, and I suspect that is why US citizens, unlike everyone else, has to pay that amount for a Chinese visa. I will probably have a visa waiting for me next week, which makes complaining a bit hard given the current state of US immigration policy, which, for those of you unaware, is a complete mess. I think a Chinese citizen trying to get a visa to the US is playing game of roulette with a $130 bet on black. That is a much worse prospect than I face, which is mostly the inconvenience of standing in line for several hours (you can no longer send other people on your behalf to apply at the PRC Embassy in Mongolia).

The process for attaining a Chinese visa could change at any time, so don't take my word for it. Be sure to check with the nearest consulate or embassy website for the most up-to-date visa information. And, happy transiting.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Forget to Renew Your Membership

It's about that time a year in which ACMS members will begin receiving notices to renew their memberships. The ACMS bylaws state that membership runs from September 1-August 30 of each year (for you rule junkies check out Article I Section 1.05 of the bylaws). Members are an integral part of the continued success of the ACMS, and I am proud to inform you that membership reached a peak of 320 individuals just before August 30. Of course, some of those members we will lose in the coming year, but we are optimistic that by December we should be solidly at 250 or more members in good standing. This is excellent, and I hope it impresses members and non-members alike that there is such a large community of researchers and scholars committed to supporting the ACMS mission of promoting scholarship in Mongolia.

There is also a very important individual reason to renew your membership. The ACMS regularly sends out announcements to its members about conferences, fellowships, and other program opportunities. This winter members should receive information about several ACMS programs including summer field research fellowships, dissertation and post-doc fellowships, language training fellowships, and several other opportunities currently in their planning stages. Whenever I hear someone say, "I didn't realize the ACMS had such a program," I usually know that is someone who either needs to become a member or renew their membership.

To join or renew your membership online visit Thanks to all our members and their continued support of the ACMS mission.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

CIEE Faculty Abroad Seminar

Mongolia: Empire and Democracy
June 21 - July 1, 2009

The Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in cooperation with the American Center for Mongolian Studies will offer a faculty development seminar in Mongolia during the summer of 2009. This 11-day seminar begins and ends in Ulaanbaatar. Included is a study tour to Khentii province, birthplace of Chinggis Khaan, where participants will spend two nights at a traditional ger camp, the circular felt tents that the Mongolians have traditionally lived in for centuries. This is a unique opportunity to travel off-the-beaten-track for on site lectures in places of historic significance and witness the traditional Mongolian nomadic lifestyle. For more information about the program and how to apply, please visit

Monday, September 1, 2008

Myth Confirmed

When it comes to Mongolian-Chinese relations, it often seems there is more myth than fact at work. Mongolians are notoriously suspicious of all things Chinese, from foreign policy intentions to packages of instant ramen. And, from what I can gather, the Chinese are notoriously dismissive of all things Mongolian, forever holding on to the belief that nothing praiseworthy or important has ever happened in the north. I so often hear rumors of Chinese machinations and extreme, almost ludicrous, conspiracies directed towards Mongolia from Beijing that I am prone to be just as dismissive as the southern naysayers at times. Yet, I am also shocked how often sino-centric visitors to Mongolia take the equally extreme but opposite position that Mongolia is hardly an important concern of the government in Beijing. As an observer, I am always trying to ascertain where the truth lies in these extreme and opposing views.

Related to this is a common rumor in Mongolia that some Chinese maps include Mongolia as part of China. I recently saw notes from a speech Owen Lattimore gave in Paris in 1976 where he relayed a similar rumor that Premier Tsedenbal had expressed to him during one of their meetings, which came as a surprise to me because of the persistence and prevalence of the rumor. Well, this myth is somewhat confirmed by a recent post I read on another blog called Asian Gypsy. He refers to a map on a Chinese website that shows no country called Mongolia, just an uninterrupted border between Russia and China. The map is available at This, of course, does not prove a conspiracy in Chinese foreign policy, but it does confirm that such maps do exist. It is surprising to say the least. What other rumors are true, I wonder?