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Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit

Map of research areas

About the Project


The North Asian Borders Network, an international and multidisciplinary research network specialising in the strategic border area of Russia, China and Mongolia, was established in 2010 at the University of Cambridge by Professor Caroline Humphrey.

The project “Where Rising Powers meet: China and Russia at their North Asian Border,” funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (U.K.) ran between 2012 and 2015. The specific aim of the project has been to investigate the differing political economies of the two countries and their trajectories in the post-1991 era. With each state exercising full sovereignty right up to their border, there is no better place to compare the two remarkably dissimilar ways that economic development, the rule of law, citizen rights, migration, and inequality are managed. The region is also home to many ethnic groups who straddle the border, such as the Mongols, Buryats, Evenks and Koreans. When the border reopened in the early 1990s, these groups were able to re-establish old connections as well as open new links, processes which the project explores.

This research programme built on an earlier project, also funded by the ESRC (2010-2011). It brought anthropologists, sociologists, economists and stakeholders with specialist knowledge of the region into productive dialogue and led to the publication of Frontier Encounters: Knowledge and Practice at the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian Border (Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, 2012), the first book in English to focus on the border between China and Russia. This volume has been followed by many other publications, both edited volumes and research articles (see Outputs), within the framework of the ESRC funded project.

The 20 researchers who form our research team are all specialists in their field, with years of experience of research along this strategic border. Drawn from a diverse range of disciplines and national institutions–from the UK, Russia, China, Mongolia, France, Hungary and Denmark–they carry out research at various sites along the border, from Mongolia in the west to Vladivostok in the east.

Caroline Humphrey, Franck Billé, Sayana Namsaraeva and the other members of the team have presented the findings of their research at numerous conferences and workshops (see Media). For further information on this project and on our ongoing work in the region, please get in touch with either CarolineFranck, or Sayana.