On the eve of a visit to Mongolia by a senior US diplomat, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for the China-Mongolia relationship to be strengthened by mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and he said China would buy more of its neighbour’s products.
In a phone call with Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Friday, Xi said China and Mongolia shared an increasing number of common interests.
“Both sides should respect each other’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independent choice of development paths chosen by the two peoples and accommodate and support each other’s core interests and major concerns,” Xi said, according to an account by the Chinese foreign ministry.
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Xi added that China was willing to continue to support Mongolia’s fight against Covid-19, and would import more minerals and agricultural products from Mongolia.
Xi also called for deepening cooperation in areas such as minerals, infrastructure and the environment.
The call came before US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman’s trip to Mongolia, Japan and South Korea, starting on Sunday.
The US Department of State said Sherman would “reinforce our strategic partnership and discuss our shared values of democracy and human rights” during her trip to Mongolia.
According to a secret document released by former US national security adviser Robert O’Brien this year, Mongolia has strategic significance to the US in advancing the Indo-Pacific region. Washington wants Mongolia to “demonstrate [its] own success and the benefits [it] has accrued” through upholding democratic values.
Sources told the South China Morning Post that China was preparing to host Sherman after her stop in Mongolia but the two sides were haggling over protocol, with the US demanding access to top Chinese decision makers.
During his phone call with Xi, Khurelsukh said that amid the pandemic, the comprehensive strategic partnership between Mongolia and China had maintained momentum and that Mongolia appreciated China’s help during the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Chinese foreign ministry readout.
China donated 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to Mongolia in February.
So far, over 55 per cent of the Mongolian population has been fully vaccinated, according to its ministry of health. Mongolian Foreign Minister Batmunkh Battsetseg told state news agency Xinhua this month that most of those vaccinated had received Chinese vaccines.
As a landlocked country surrounded by China and Russia, Mongolia’s economy is highly dependent on trade with China. Mongolia’s main export commodities are minerals and livestock-related products, which Russia is also rich in and does not need to import from Mongolia.
China is Mongolia’s largest trading partner. The bilateral trade volume was over US$6.63 billion last year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. In the first quarter of this year, Mongolia’s trade volume with China accounted for nearly 70 per cent of its total foreign trade.
“The call primarily aims to highlight the ever increasing level of partnership between the two countries, which is conducive to further cooperation,” said Ma Bin, deputy dean of the Centre for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation studies at Fudan University, adding that areas for working together include the economy and beating the pandemic.
“It also helps to create a stable and harmonious bilateral and regional environment.
“As the call is close to the time of the US deputy secretary of state visiting Mongolia, it is easy to raise conjecture about China-US competition in Mongolia,” Ma said. “Mongolia does not need such confrontation on issues of regional development, stability maintenance and the fight against pandemic. Also, relations between China and the United States cannot be simplified to just confrontation and rivalry.”
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