Despite harsh campaign words, Sino-Mongolian ties stable

By Li Chao Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/3 13:43:39

During the 2017 Mongolian presidential election, there were some negative comments about China, including the hype about a "China threat." However, Mongolia will not change its friendly policy toward China.

The reasons for hyping up the China factor in Mongolia's presidential election can be explained with the following two points.

From the national level, it reflects the nationalism in Mongolian society. Owing to its special geographical location and subtle historical contacts with nearby countries, Mongolia falls into a contradiction between promoting development and maintaining security. On the one hand, the political elites in the country hope to strengthen Mongolia's economic ties with other countries. On the other hand, they fear a loss of independence in economic development and even in sovereignty. This kind of psychological contradiction is particularly obvious when Mongolia deals with neighboring countries.

Therefore, although the rapid development of Mongolia's economy once benefited from large exports of mineral resources and China's strong market demand, some voices have emerged claiming Mongolia cannot get equal benefits from resource development agreements signed with other countries. These voices warn about the possibility of China's control over Mongolia's mineral resources, and the risk of Mongolia's excessive economic dependence on China.

Under these circumstances, the nominee of the Democratic Party (DP) for the country's presidential election in 2017, Battulga Khaltmaa, claimed that Mongolia's economy has been threatened by its southern neighbors. He also played up the dangers of excessive exports of mineral resources to China during the campaign, appealing to a number of nationalists in Mongolia.

At the individual level, the negative remarks about China are both personality-driven and a kind of election strategy. Among the three presidential candidates, Battulga from the DP has held himself up as a nationalist. Sainkhüügiin Ganbaatar from the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party is also known as a populist leader. They have showed their biases against China before. So it is not surprising for them to criticize China during their campaign and it cannot represent Mongolia's mainstream opinions.

Besides, a presidential election is different from a legislative election. For the presidential election, voters are more concerned about the candidates' image and reputation than the parties which the candidates belong to. As China's economic development has a huge influence on Mongolia, saying some errant words on China, whether on a street campaign or in a televised debate, can help attract voters' attention and establish a powerful image. In addition, the three candidates have been involved in scandals. Hyping up the "China threat" can distract Mongolian people's dissatisfaction from the scandals and make use of public opinion to attack opponents.

Nonetheless, these tactics will not affect the stable development of Sino-Mongolian relations. No matter who will become the fifth president of Mongolia, Mongolia's friendly policies toward China will not change.

First of all, in the Concept of National Security and the Concept of Foreign Policy which guide the country's security and foreign policies, Mongolia stresses that it will maintain warm relations and all-round cooperation with neighboring countries, and put the development of friendly relations with Russia and China in its foreign policy priorities. It can be said that the development of favorable relations with China is the cornerstone of Mongolia's foreign and security policies.

Besides, at present, China is Mongolia's most important trading partner and foreign investor. According to data from 2016, Mongolia's trade with China accounted for 60 percent of its total foreign trade over the same period. Mongolia's exports to Chin accounted for 80 percent of its total exports, and its imports from China accounted for 30 percent of its total imports. And due to its geographical restrictions, Mongolia also needs China to offer the nearest seaport for the country's external economic and trade exchanges.

Last but not the least, since the Mongolian People's Party won the majority of seats in parliament and formed the new government, the good momentum of the Sino-Mongolian relationship has continued, though it suffered from the negative impact of the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia in late 2016.

To sum up, as a parliamentary state, Mongolia's good interactions with China in different fields will influence and play a positive role in the incoming Mongolian president's China policies.

The author is a junior research fellow from the Russia and Mongolia Research Institute at Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Science.


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