Chinese President Xi Jinping
kicked off a two-day state visit to Mongolia on Thursday. This visit shows China is paying unprecedented attention to Mongolia, as it is the only country Xi is visiting during this overseas tour.
Former US President George W Bush paid a 4-hour visit to Ulan Bator in 2005 after visiting Beijing. This has been the only state visit to this country paid by US presidents so far.
This is the second time that Xi organized an exclusive visit to a neighboring country this year, after another two-day visit to South Korea this July.
China is laying greater importance to its peripheral nations, and some countries are also dipping their fingers in this region.
The Chinese neighborhood is growing to be a geopolitical area with special significance. It has been widely accepted that Washington's "rebalancing to Asia" strategy is designed to focus on the many Asian nations geographically close to China.
China and the US give different advice to these countries about how to make use of this new political identity. China suggests that regional stakeholders could cooperate and share the opportunities brought by China's rise, while the US is using a "pivot to Asia" strategy to counterbalance China. As China's rise could be much easily interpreted by the West as the root cause of possible Asian geopolitical turbulence, many regional nations are more willing, on the one hand, to be free riders of Chinese economy, and on the other hand, to get insured by Washington's promise to counterbalance China.
Lying between China and Russia, Mongolia boasts exceptional advantages to cooperate with the two big powers. But Mongolia is also concerned about its geographical position because it is also a disadvantage.
China has performed well to show its kindness to Mongolia since the latter tried to find a "third neighbor" at the end of the 20th century.
Mongolia's diplomatic policy didn't work well, and China's patience and equal advocacy have been proven honest.
Washington is eager to transform the Chinese neighborhood into a conflict zone, hoping all kinds of controversies and clashes within can drain China's energy.
But Washington's wish won't come true as expected. So far, the Chinese neighborhood has generally maintained its independence in the pursuit of interests. The US is far from having full control. When China's rise can offer more chances to these neighbors, Washington will have to restrain its rebalancing.
The bilateral relationship between China and Mongolia can serve as a role model as both sides have overcome many typical predicaments from history to geopolitics.
China's neighbors should have a clearer understanding that the closer they get to China, the more benefits they can acquire from its growth. In the meantime, China should put more effort into its neighborhood policy, as this might be one of the decisive elements for China's peaceful rise.