What signal does the first China-Mongolia joint army training send?
Published: May 13, 2024 09:07 PM
The opening ceremony of the China-Mongolia Steppe Partner-2024 joint army training. Photo: Ministry of National Defense website

The opening ceremony of the China-Mongolia "Steppe Partner-2024" joint army training. Photo: Ministry of National Defense website

The China-Mongolia "Steppe Partner-2024" joint army training kicked off on Sunday in the Dornogovi Province of Mongolia. This is the first joint training between the two armies, with the Chinese side sending battalion-sized troops with various types of weapons and wheeled equipment to participate in the training. What signal does "Steppe Partner-2024" send?

Firstly, military mutual trust between the two countries continues to strengthen. Looking back over the past 20 years, military defense cooperation between China and Mongolia has been gradually progressing. This China-Mongolia joint army training is the first time that the land forces play the role as the leading unit in the cooperation. China has dispatched battalion-sized troops with various types of weapons and wheeled equipment into Mongolia for training, encompassing firepower assault, operational support, logistic support and various other specialized elements. It can be seen that the content of the joint training is more diverse, with an increase in professional subjects, and the difficulty is also increasing, demonstrating the trend of continuous enhancement of military mutual trust between China and Mongolia. 

Mongolia shares its 4,710-km land border with China, making it the country with the longest land border with China. Military cooperation between the two countries undoubtedly has significance for the security environment of both countries. The enhancement of military mutual trust between China and Mongolia is conducive to further exchanges between the two militaries, helping both sides to maintain peace and tranquility in border areas.

Secondly, this is a sign that regional security and stability is being jointly maintained. In recent years, the US has frequently taken diplomatic actions toward Asia-Pacific countries. In 2023, the US and South Korean leaders issued the Washington Declaration, which underlined US extending deterrence commitments and possible nuclear weapons employment on the Korean Peninsula. At the same year, the US, Japan and South Korea held their first trilateral aerial exercise, which further intensified the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula. This year, the US held a trilateral summit with Japan and the Philippines, provoking regional conflicts. The US still holds onto Cold War mind-set and zero-sum mentality, leading to its continuous manipulation of bloc politics. This approach not only aims to rope in regional countries to cooperate in its major power competition but also exacerbates the atmosphere of confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Such moves of the US harm the strategic security of countries within the region, increase the pressure for countries in the region to take sides, thereby impacting the stability of Mongolia's foreign diplomatic and security policies. 

As Mongolia shares borders with both China and Russia, its security and developmental environment are inevitably influenced. Faced with this background, Mongolia maintains a diversified approach to military cooperation, and its military cooperation with China doesn't target any third party. The recent China-Mongolia joint army training reflects Mongolia's reluctance to be drawn into confrontational alliances. Instead, Mongolia hopes to continue promoting pragmatic cooperation with neighboring countries in defense affairs in response to changes in regional security situations. 

Furthermore, both countries join hands to implement the Global Security Initiative (GSI). In the 2022 Joint Statement on Advancing the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the New Era Between the People's Republic of China and Mongolia, Mongolia expressed its willingness to cooperate with China within the framework of China's GSI. In 2023, during his visit to China, Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene reiterated his support for the China-proposed three global initiatives. The GSI stays committed to maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains. The current China-Mongolia joint army training focuses on how to deal with the activities of illegal armed groups, falling within the realm of non-traditional security. This not only indicates the importance of training on relevant sectors due to the long and diverse border terrain between China and Mongolia, but also demonstrates that both sides are actively cooperating and aligning their actions with the GSI.

China and Mongolia joining hands to implement the GSI is conducive to the healthy development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. Furthermore, it also lays the foundation for both parties to jointly promote security governance in Northeast Asia and prevent and resolve security challenges, injecting stability and positive energy into regional security cooperation. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Mongolia. In the context of the comprehensive development of cooperation in various fields between China and Mongolia, the future of China-Mongolia defense relations will continue to be enriched.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Belt and Road Research Institute of the Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn