Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh will begin a two-day visit to China today.
The visit will be anchored by a bilateral meeting with Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping, at the conclusion of which a joint statement on the joint comprehensive strategic partnership will be issued before the signing of cooperation agreements.
The trip also highlights the strategic vulnerability that Mongolia—bordered by China to the south and Russia to the north—faces in balancing relations between the two traditional superpowers. China accounts for 90% of Mongolia’s exports. Furthermore, landlocked Mongolia uses Tianjin on China’s north-east as the country’s main trading port. Yet Mongolia’s close political ties with the former Soviet Union reflects a centuries-old cultural unease with Beijing. In the post-Soviet era, Mongolia mostly balanced China’s economic dominance by cultivating ties with Russia—which supplies 30% of Mongolia’s energy imports.
However, Russian pressure to increase Mongolian energy reliance on Russia has forced Khurelsukh to seek distance from both Moscow and Beijing. Regardless, this trip will almost certainly reinforce Mongolia’s economic dependence on China. Despite China’s ongoing Covid-Zero policies restricting cross-border trade, the opening of the Zuunbayan-Kwanji railway—potentially increasing freight exports to China by 30% and further binding Mongolia’s post-Covid economic recovery to China.
John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.