Located in today’s Inner Mongolia, along the reaches of Tao'er River, in the 1920s the region was thinly populated with Mongolian tribes. In the flat plains of the region, nomadic peoples pursued a living through keeping herds of livestock. An extremely short growing season started in May; by the second half of August, the first frost of winter descended. Snow and extreme cold swept the region in the winter. Limited rains frequently led to drought conditions. In years without drought, sudden bursts of rainfall frequently caused flooding and landslides.
Yet precisely in this harsh and unforgiving clime, modernizing officers now attempted to control banditry, build an outpost, and farm corn, soybeans, wheat, millet, sorghum, and buckwheat. Officers saw the “virgin” soil of the region as ripe for agricultural development.