Mongolia’s new nationalist president won’t harm China ties

By Meng Gencang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/13 17:33:39

Khaltmaa Battulga of the Democratic Party was sworn in as Mongolian new president on July 10 after winning the presidential elections with 50.6 percent of the votes. He is not only known as a business tycoon and judo expert, but also as a strong nationalist who used the slogan "I Win, Mongolia Wins" for his presidential campaign. His supporters expressed their concern over a "Chinese threat," accusing his opponent, Miyeegombyn Enkhbold of the Mongolian People's Party, of being of "mixed Chinese blood."

So, why did this happen in Mongolia? Mongolia is concerned that it is stuck in China' economic orbit, and as a result too dependent. There are many pros and cons with resource-rich Mongolia cooperating with resource-hungry China. China has been Mongolia's largest investment and trading partner for over a decade. Mongolia mainly exports natural resources, animal fur and finished products to China, and imports gasoline, diesel, food, machinery and equipment.

China is the biggest buyer of Mongolia's mineral resources. More than 88 percent of Mongolia's total exports went to China. More than 6,500 Chinese firms operate in Mongolia, with a combined investment of about $3.5 billion, and investment from China continues to increase. Therefore, some people in Mongolia are concerned that Mongolia is ever more vulnerable to Chinese economic domination.

As for resource exploration, worried Mongolians also blame some of their political leaders, who were bribed by foreign companies, for seeking their own economic interests regardless of the impact on the country's traditional way of life, environment and even sovereignty. Therefore, in response to his voters, Battulga said that "it is time to fix the problem."

The nationalistic slogan of his presidential campaign was a good way of defeating his opponent.

But what does this mean to China? At his inauguration ceremony, Battulga vowed to revive Mongolia's flagging economy and pursue equal relationships with the two neighboring giants, Russia and China. Democracy has brought free elections to Mongolia. However, with changes of government, Mongolian economic policy changes easily, affecting foreign investors. In order to secure its national economy, the Mongolian government might appeal to nationalism in order to seize control over domestic natural resources, the most important pillar of its economy. Therefore, Chinese investors should prepare for risks brought about by nationalistic resource policies.

In the end, the Sino-Mongolian relationship will not get worse because the two nations' all-round cooperation is a win-win situation for both countries, and Mongolia will enjoy great benefits from participating in China's Belt and Road initiative.  Moreover, China is the most important neighboring country for Mongolia from the geopolitical perspective.

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Battulga as the new president of Mongolia. Meanwhile, Battulga met with Chinese ambassador Xing Haiming and exchanged views on Sino-Mongolian relations and cooperation. In the meeting, Battulga affirmed that China's Belt and Road initiative and Mongolia's Steppe Road strategy have common concepts and content in many ways, indicating that the two countries will have a bright cooperative future.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Science.


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