Relations between Mongolia, Russia and China continue to develop successfully. The focal point of this process lies in the rational and considered decisions of national leaders. Mongolia, a landlocked country with a population of 3.4 million, interacts primarily with its neighbors along its land border, the PRC and the Russian Federation.
During the Soviet era, cooperation between the PRC and Mongolia was minimal, as the authorities of the two states had a negative view of each other. First, this was due to the fact that for centuries Mongolia had been part of China and gained formal independence only in 1911, when it came under the protectorate of the Russian Empire. Until 1945, the only country in the world that recognized Mongolia’s sovereignty was the USSR. For a long time, the PRC considered Mongolia as its territory, contesting its right to independence. Mongolia did not become a fully-fledged and internationally recognized state until 1961, when it joined the UN. Until 1991, Mongolia’s economy was entirely dependent on trade with the USSR, which played an enormous role in the country’s social and political life. Second, relations between China and the Soviet Union were quite distant, and therefore China had little contact with states friendly to the USSR.
Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s main geopolitical ally was China, which revised its historical outlook and renounced its claims to Mongolian lands. The PRC set itself the goal of establishing relations with the Mongolian side and subsequently successfully achieved it. In 1994, representatives of the two states signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation, and in 2017 Mongolia joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China is Mongolia’s largest trading partner, both in exports and imports. Most foreign investment in the Mongolian economy comes from China.
On September 26, 2022, a ceremony was held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar to mark the start of China-Mongolia Friendship Week. The event was organized by the staff of the Chinese Embassy in the country as well as the China-Mongolia Friendship Association.
The opening ceremony was attended by Ambassador of China to Mongolia Chai Wenrui, who said that good people-to-people relations are the foundation of inter-state relations, and frank dialogue is the key to unity. The Chinese diplomat praised the event, which he said should bring the Mongolian and Chinese peoples together, create a positive opinion of each other among members of the public of the two countries and prepare the ground for further Chinese-Mongolian interaction.
During his speech, Nyamdorj Ankhbayar, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, stressed that the partnership and cordial relations between the two states are constantly developing in all sectors. The Mongolian diplomat spoke positively of the outcome of the China-Mongolia dialogue over the past 30 years and expressed the hope that the cooperation would be further strengthened.
The ceremony, attended by a large number of Chinese and Mongolian academics, also dealt with pressing issues such as combating desertification and fighting poverty. There was also a presentation of numerous books on the history of relations between the two states.
Sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia over events in Ukraine forced Moscow to increase energy supplies to other states in order to minimize losses from the economic blockade by the US and its allies. Western bloc leaders did not listen to Russia’s representatives and began to pursue economic policies based on their own strategic interests and without regard for the aspirations of their own citizens, who risk serious consequences caused by oil and gas shortages.
China is gradually becoming the main buyer of Russian energy resources. In order to increase the supply of natural gas and oil, the leaderships of both countries have started to address the issue of building new pipelines. Aspiring to reduce logistics costs, the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian authorities have agreed that some of the pipelines will pass through Mongolian territory.
On September 15, 2022, the leaders of the PRC, the Russian Federation and Mongolia met in Samarkand during an expanded meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State. The most pressing issue was the trilateral partnership and the creation of an effective economic corridor between the three states.
As a result of the talks, agreements were reached on the improvement of the railways connecting the countries, and the technical and economic aspects of the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor Program approved in 2015 were discussed in detail.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the outcome of the meeting, thanked his Mongolian and Chinese colleagues and expressed the hope for continued fruitful cooperation. Vladimir Putin also attaches great importance to the fact that trade between the Russian Federation and Mongolia has increased by 30% since the beginning of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021.
Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh said he approves of Russian gas and oil pipelines to China passing through Mongolia. The Mongolian leader invited experts from the three countries to study the construction of the pipelines from an engineering perspective in order to rule out the possibility of technical malfunctions.
Russian energy company Gazprom’s plans include the completion of the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline through Mongolia to China by 2030. Analysts estimate that about 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year will be exported to Mongolia and China through the new pipeline, which will go some way to making up for the loss of energy supplies from Russia to the EU.
If the authorities of the three countries were to realize their vision, a new step towards a multipolar world would be taken. By redirecting trade vectors towards developing Asian countries, Russia is not only cutting off relations with Western states that are prejudiced against other countries and do not consider other countries’ interests, but is also setting an example for states around the world by demonstrating the lack of serious economic consequences of not cooperating with Washington and its allies.