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Ceke–Shivee Khuren


N 42° 34′ 05′′, E 101° 17′ 16′′
1,032 MASL
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Harvesting wheat at Bayan Taolai Farm in Ejin Banner in Inner Mongolia’s Alxa League in Spring 1964. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Etsin-gol/Heihe River basin was open steppe supporting a nomadic population. The establishment of state-owned and operated farms within the water catchment in the 1950s and 60s eventually led to the drying out of wetlands and lakes downstream.

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Employees of the Linhe–Ceke Railway of the Hohhot Railway Bureau maintaining the checkerboard sand barrier along the railway. Constructed mainly for the transportation of coal from Mongolia’s Nariin Sukhait Coal Mine to the northern regions of China, the Linhe–Ceke Railway passes through the Gobi Desert known for its shifting sand dunes. The 200-meter-wide, 400-kilometer-long checkerboard sand barrier protects the railway from being inundated by sand.

1860: Increasing Russia influences in Mongolia since the 1860s threatened the interest of the Qing Empire that gradually took control of Mongolia over the 17th century. Separated by the Gobi Desert, one of the world's largest belts of arid sand dunes and gravel plains, Inner Mongolia in the south was closely tied to the Qing administrative system, whereas Outer Mongolia in the north was treated as a militarized buffer area until the early 1900s.


1895: Soon after Russia and Britain settled the Pamirs issue, they exchanged identical notes delimiting their respective spheres of interest in China. Russia agreed to restrain from involvement in the new railway construction in the Yangtze Basin in exchange for the British to promise to do the same for Chinese territories north of the Great Wall.


1900: Russian and British explorers, such as Pyotr Kozlov and Aurel Stein, conducted expedition in the Chu-yen (or Juyan) Lake Basin in the early 20th century. Located in the western part of Inner Mongolia, Chu-yen is a rare wetland located in the Gobi Desert and historically part of the Hexi Corridor (or Gansu Corridor) of the Northern Silk Road linking China proper to the historic Western Regions for traders and military incursions into Central Asia.


1907: After the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Russia and Japan signed a treaty in 1907, dividing Manchuria and Mongolia into two spheres of interest. With Russia in the north and Japan in the south, Outer Mongolia was recognized by Japan as a part of the Russian sphere.


1911: During the first decade of the 20th century, Qing accelerated Han migration to Inner Mongolia in the belief that Russia would find it difficult to absorb territories if they had a significant Han population. On the eve of the collapse of the Qing dynasty, the Chinese government decided that Inner and Outer Mongolia should be formally incorporated into China.


1924: The rapid influx of Han migrants exacerbated tensions in Mongolia, and the resentment toward Han Chinese helped open the door for Russian economic and political expansion. After Outer Mongolia was established as Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924, economic system developed by Qing, such as expanding and using monasteries as trade depots, helped pave the way for the Russians.


1930: Sven Hedin’s Sino-Swedish Expedition of 1927–1935 discovered Han-inscribed wooden slips in the Chu-yen region. Chu-yen is a strategic garrison site, with military agricultural colonies established since the 2nd century BC. It included two lakes into which the Etsin-gol/Heihe River had flowed in its northeasterly course from the Hexi Corridor.


1946: Independence of the Outer Mongolia, or Mongolian People’s Republic, was recognized by the Republic of China in 1946.


1961: Given its strategic frontier location, Chu-yen region witnessed the establishment of air defense projects and rapid wasteland reclamation over the three decades after 1949. West Chu-yen Lake dried up in 1961, and the region became a source of sandstorm throughout the rest of the 20th century.


1992: East Chu-yen Lake dried up. A new constitution of Mongolia was formed, and Ceke Port in the Chu-yen region opened as a seasonal port. “Ceke” means “River Bay” in Mongolian.


2001: Environmental conservation projects that reallocate water resources have been planned and implemented within the Etsin-gol/Heihe River basin since 2001, and East Chu-yen Lake reappeared in 2005.


2005: The demarcation of the 4,630-kilometer Sino-Mongolian border, China’s longest land border, was completed. Ceke Port was officially established and opened throughout the year.


2006: Since the 2005 operation of Nariin Sukhait/Ovoot Tolgoi Mine, located 56- kilometer north of Shivee Khuren–Ceke, several infrastructure projects have been completed to facilitate the production and transportation of coal ore. Notably, the Jiayuguan–Ceke Railway (2006) and the Linhe–Ceke Railway (2010) were completed. The exportation of electricity to Mongolia by the Ejina Banner Power Company began in 2007.


2016: The construction of a cross-border railway project started, extending the Linhe–Ceke Railway to Mongolia’s Nariin Sukhait/Ovoot Tolgoi Mine through Shivee Khuren–Ceke. The railway will be connected with the Trans-Siberian European Railway as part the fourth Eurasian Landbridge in the long run.

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