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Does Mongolia Need China?

4:00 PM, Jul 7, 2008 • By JENNIFER CHOU
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Chinese media have been enthusiastically quoting Russian press reports attributing last week's post-election violence in Ulan Bator to a U.S.-engineered "color revolution" aimed at countering Russian and Chinese influence in resource-rich Mongolia.

A commentary widely circulated in Chinese cyberspace, including the website of People's Daily, asks with obvious sarcasm whether the unrest in Mongolia resulting from "electoral chaos" constitutes a "millennium challenge":

It is acknowledged that democratization in Mongolia began 16 years ago. And in October of last year, Mongolia was designated by the American government as one of 16 "millennium challenge accounts" because of its "outstanding achievements in democratic reforms." Why then is it that after all this time opponents of the government still feel they need to express themselves through "non-electoral" and "anti-electoral" means?

According to the article, the U.S.-Mongolian joint venture Eagle TV has been force-feeding the Mongolians ideas such as democracy and free elections. However, the piece continues, while both the ruling party and the opposition are well acquainted with these "fashionable words," it is difficult for an "ancient, semi-feudal, and semi-nomadic" people to fully absorb and integrate these concepts into their own culture.

Mongolia's development is dependent upon China. This is the thesis of another commentary carried by several Chinese news outlets, including People's Daily:

Mongolia cannot rely on Russia. The United States and Japan--especially Japan--take great interest in Mongolia. They hope to participate in mineral exploration in Mongolia and contain China. But only China can provide Mongolia with the capital, technology, and goods it requires.

To drive home the point, readers are reminded that China long ago replaced Russia as Mongolia's largest trading partner, that 90 percent of the consumer goods sold in Mongolia are Chinese made, and that having invested $1.181 billion in 3,769 projects, China is Mongolia's biggest investor, creating more than 50,000 jobs in the landlocked country of three million people. Moreover, during the five-year period from 2003 to 2007 alone, Beijing provided Ulan Bator with more than three billion RMB (about $428 million) in loans and grants.

Between 1991 and 2008, U.S. aid to Mongolia totaled a mere $174.5 million.