HomeExpansionismIn your Face China - Mongolia Wants Closer to U.S.

In your Face China – Mongolia Wants Closer to U.S.

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Mongolia, a landlocked country nestled between the powerful neighbors Russia and China, is on a mission to forge closer economic ties with the United States without undermining its vital relationships with its “eternal neighbors.” Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene has embarked on a crucial visit to Washington to emphasize Mongolia’s strategic position and vast mineral resources, presenting itself as a democratic partner for the West in Asia’s clean energy transition.

During a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris, Oyun-Erdene expressed his vision for Mongolia’s economic future, stating, “The United States is not just our trading neighbor, it’s the North Star for Mongolia’s market economy and democratic values.” The prime minister’s visit is part of a series of high-profile engagements aimed at attracting foreign investment and diversifying Mongolia’s economy.

Mongolia’s geographical location and rich mineral reserves have garnered international attention, making it a significant player in the global minerals market. The country’s vast resources of rare earths and copper, essential for clean energy technologies, have caught the eye of the Biden administration, which seeks to secure critical minerals to bolster sustainable investment in clean energy.

However, balancing its aspirations for Western investment with the need to maintain stable relations with China, Mongolia’s largest trading partner, poses a delicate challenge. Oyun-Erdene acknowledges the geopolitical complexities, stating, “We have our geopolitical tensions … but I’m confident that our two neighbors will continue respecting our choices and the partnerships that we are developing.”

Mongolia’s heavy reliance on China for trade and imports necessitates cautious diplomacy. China currently purchases more than 90 percent of Mongolia’s exports, and the country relies on Chinese ports for shipping goods to the rest of the world. To reduce dependence, Mongolia is exploring innovative solutions, with Oyun-Erdene envisioning a future where cargo could be transported by drones, potentially diversifying its export routes.

The prime minister’s ambitious agenda includes attracting more international companies to explore Mongolia’s untapped mineral resources. Foreign investment has been constrained by issues like infrastructure challenges and corruption. The U.S. government is keen to partner with Mongolia in enhancing transparency to attract Western investors. Oyun-Erdene sees the need to be “more open and transparent to our investors, especially Western partners and including the United States.”

As Mongolia seeks closer ties with the West, the country’s pivot is also evident in its willingness to explore space cooperation with SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The government approved the use of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet service and has been discussing establishing training centers in Mongolia due to the physical similarities between the Gobi Desert and Mars.

Geopolitically, Mongolia’s position is complex, and it navigates carefully between the United States and its democratic allies and China and Russia, two authoritarian powers. Amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, Mongolia’s abstention from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reflects its cautious approach to global conflicts.

The prime minister’s visit to Washington comes as Mongolia seeks to revitalize its economy following the slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s economic growth is projected to rebound, and it is engaging with international organizations like the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for financial assistance in infrastructure projects.

Mongolia’s quest for closer ties with the U.S. while maintaining regional stability underscores its strategic importance in the clean energy transition. As the U.S. seeks to secure critical minerals for sustainable energy, Mongolia’s vast reserves become pivotal in fostering green technologies. Will Mongolia be allowed to pursued a deeper relationship? Or will China put a stop to it? Or will Russia make its own arrangement? In any event, the fear of the totalitarian Chinese Communist party is well justified.

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