Asia in Review Archive
Date of AiR edition
31 August 2021
China, Pakistan, Mongolia and Thailand to hold military exercise
(nd) China, Pakistan, Mongolia and Thailand will hold joint live exercise next month. The first, multinational peacekeeping exercises “Shared Destiny-2021” are organized by the People’s Liberation Army and will include drills, involving units of infantry, fast response, security, helicopter, engineering, transportation and medical services. All four countries will dispatch more than 1,000 troops for the joint exercise, which is a response to the United Nation’s “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative, promoting practical cooperation and enhance joint peacekeeping capabilities. [The Economic Times] [Nagaland]
17 August 2021
Mongolia: Mandatory Mandarin language in classrooms
(nd) In an effort to what critics and rights groups refer to as “cultural genocide”, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) extends compulsory Mandarin teaching to pre-schoolers in the Northern region of inner Mongolia as of the fall semester 2021, according to a recent directive from the ministry of education. To ensure sufficient staff, the government launched a nationwide “batch training” scheme for kindergarten teachers. According to the directive, the move aims at “enabling pre-school children in ethnic minority and rural areas and rural areas to gradually acquire the ability to communicate at a basic level in Mandarin, and to lay the foundations for the compulsory education phase.”
Critics say it is yet another step in CCP general secretary Xi Jinping’s plan to extend the party’s political agenda from cradle to grave, his two pillars being to China from poverty and to unify the nation. For Mongolia, this process was initiated last year with the suppression of opposition voices, when state security policy cracked down on street protesters and boycotters in fall 2020, after announcing to cease teaching Mongolian language at schools. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people were arrested.
Similar curricula changes were introduced to Korean-language teaching schools in northeast China, which inhabits about 2.3 million Koreans, to schools in China’s North-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), as well as for Tibetans.
Rights advocates have emphasized the meaning of language for a national identity as well as history and culture to be transported, not automatically giving rise to separatism. Also, according to the Chinese Constitution as well as the Ethnic Autonomous Region Law, ethnic groups have the right and freedom to preserve and develop their own languages.
The “education for national unity” policy has been rooted to a speech of Xi Jinping in September 2019, asserting: “The Chinese nation is one big family, and we will build the Chinese dream together.”
The New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) commented that the CCP is implementing “wholesale cultural genocide” in Inner Mongolia and called for an international boycott of the 2022 Olympics in China. [Radio Free Asia] [UCA News]
Still, Mongolia does not take sides amid the recent tensions between the US and China but maintains good relations with both countries and others, as seen recently with a string of diplomatic visits to respectively from the US, China, Japan, and South Korea [See also AiR No. 30, July/2021, 4] While their respective counterpart had strategic visions in mind, the Mongolian side was sure to emphasize the economic and trade part of the high-level talks. [The Diplomat]
17 August 2021
Indo-Pacific forces from 21 partner nations kick off SEACAT
(lm) Maritime forces from Indo-Pacific partner nations on August 10 began the 20th iteration of the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) naval exercise in Singapore and virtually. [Al Jazeera] [NavyTimes]
Signifying the largest iteration to date, this year’s exercise involves ten ships and more than 400 personnel. 21 nations participate, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
This year’s also presents a new element by incorporating international organizations and nongovernmental organizations, whose objective is to create an even more realistic scenario to “enhance understanding and adherence to accepted rules, laws, and norms,” the US Navy said in a statement. Participants include United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), EU Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO), and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet]
The SEACAT exercises commenced just a day after more than 10,000 troops from China and Russia began a major exercise, West-Interaction 2021, in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [AiR No. 32, August/2021, 2]
Last year, the event was conducted as part of a virtual symposium amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
27 July 2021
China and the US reach out to Mongolia
(dql) Over the weekend, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met leading Mongolian officials including Speaker of the Mongolian Parliament Gombojav Zandanshatar, Foreign Minister Batmunkh Battsetseg, and Deputy Foreign Minister Munkhjin Batsumber. During the meetings Sherman stressed the importance of the US-Mongolian Strategic Partnership. Discussions, meanwhile, touched upon strengthening Mongolia’s democratic institutions, enhancing the country’s sovereignty, and diversifying its economy. The visit to Ulaanbaatar was part of her East Asia tour which included stops in Japan, South Korea and China. [Mirage]
Only two days later, Battsetseg arrived in China to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday. During their meeting both ministers agreed to deepen cooperation and bilateral relations between both countries in various fields. [CGTN]
On Monday, meanwhile, Chinese Defense Wei Fenghe and his Mongolian counterpart Gursed Saikhanbayar vowed to intensify pragmatic cooperation between their countries’ militaries. [China Org]
20 July 2021
China-Mongolia relations: Presidents hold a phone ahead of trip of US high level official to Ulaanbaatar
(dql) In a phone call with his Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged both countries “to 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.” He also called for strengthening cooperation in various areas including minerals, infrastructure and the environment. Khurelsukh, for his part, rassurred that his country “stands ready to conduct close exchanges with China, advance practical cooperation in all fields, actively join the Belt and Road cooperation, and strengthen coordination and cooperation in multilateral affairs.” [Foreign Ministry, China] [South China Morning Post]
The phone call comes days ahead of the trip of US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to Mongolia, signaling the strategic importance of the country for both China and the US. Sherman’s visit to Mongolia is part of her East Asia trip covering also Japan and South Korea. [The Diplomat]
20 July 2021
Mongolia’s democracy doomed under ruling party?
(dql) In June Mongolia held presidential election in which former Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khürelsükh of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) won with 68% of the vote. With his presidency, which begun weeks later on June 25, all branches of government came under the control of the MPP [see AiR No. 24, June/2021, 3].
For a critical assessment of the election and the prospects of Mongolian democracy under the MPP, see Munkhnaran Bayarlkhagva in [Aljazeera] who argues that Khürelsükh’ victory was “very much the result of a ploy by the MPP and the country’s elite, which prefers to get rich on the back of commodity exports to China instead of working towards full democracy,” and predicts that “under the leadership of the MPP and with the full approval of the economic and political elite, Mongolian democracy is dying a slow death.”
13 July 2021
China-EU relations: European Parliament adopts Hong Kong resolution calling for boycott of Winter Olympics in Beijing
(dql) In an overwhelming vote, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the recent forced closure of the government-critical Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong and the arrest of its journalists [see AiR No. 26, June/2021, 5] as another step to undermine free society and abolish media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong. It calls on the European Commission and the Council of the EU as well as the member states “to decline invitations for government representatives and diplomats to attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics,” as long as the Chinese government fails to show “a verifiable improvement in the human rights situation in Hong Kong, the Xinjiang Uyghur Region, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and elsewhere in China.” It also urges the member states to impose sanctions against individuals and entities in Hong Kong and China for “serious violations of human rights and international law in Hong Kong.” [European Parliament] [France 24]
The resolution is the latest sign in strained China-EU relations over tit-for-tat sanctions over human rights issues that prompted the suspension of the ratification of the China-EU investment deal. [see AiR No. 12, March/2021, 4] [see AiR No. 21, May/2021, 4]
Responding to the resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi underscored in a video conference with his EU counterpart Josep Borrell China’s uncompromising stance towards Hong Kong opposing all kinds of “hypocritical preachers.” He urged the Brussels to clear all obstructions and advance bilateral ties. [Global Times]
6 July 2021
Mongolia: Parliament signs amnesty law
(nm) The Mongolian Parliament adopted the country’s seventh Amnesty Law whereby around 3.6 percent of the nation’s prisoners will be released with further prison sentences being reduced or replaced with restrictions to movement. The amnesty enters into force this week and excludes 38 types of crimes and offences, including but not limited to terrorism financing, tax avoidance, drug-related crimes, environmental crimes, sexual assaults, and corruption cases. [AKIpress]
29 June 2021
China holds Belt and Road conference
(dql) China held on June 23 a virtual conference on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Attending countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Unlike the two previous conferences in 2017 and 2019 when heads of state and heads of government took part, this year’s forum was held at ministerial level.
Equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and ensuring climate-friendly growth in the post-pandemic era topped the conferenced agenda. Among the major outcomes of the conference were two initiatives: first, the Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation” which addresses especially developing countries in boosting international cooperation in vaccine research and development, production and distribution, and improving accessibility and affordability of vaccines globally; and second, the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Green Development, which seeks to strengthen cooperation among BRI countries in several areas including as green infrastructure, green energy and green finance, and promote green, low-carbon and sustainable development.” [The Diplomat]
15 June 2021
Mongolia: Ruling party candidate wins presidential election by great margin
(nm) Former Prime Minister and current chairman of the ruling Mongolian People Party (MPP) Ukhnaa Khurelsukh won Mongolia’s presidential election by a great margin, replacing outgoing President Battulga Khaltmaa. The candidate of the National Labor Party came in second, while Erdene Sodnomzundui, candidate of the Democratic Party (DP) of incumbent President Battulga Khatmaa, only received 6 percent of the vote.
The MPP is now controlling all three major branches of government as the party also holds a supermajority in parliament and controls the office of the prime minister, a concentration of power that is seen by some observers as a risk to Mongolia’s democracy. Making use of its supermajority, the MPP passed constitutional amendments limiting presidents to a single six-year term in 2019, thereby practically preventing incumbent Battulga from seeking re-election.
Top campaign issues included reviving the economy and tackling unemployment and corruption. Mongolia had closed its border relatively early in the pandemic and initially managed to contain any major Covid-19 outbreaks. However, in 2020, the nation’s resource-based and largely China-dependent economy also experienced its worst contraction (5.3%) since the early 1990s. [The Diplomat] [The Washington Post] [Nikkei Asia]
If you wish to learn more about the institutional arrangements of Mongolia’s political system and about why these very arrangements might be a factor in Mongolia’s recent political trouble, please see this blog entry on [Verfassungsblog].
8 June 2021
Mongolia votes in presidential elections
(nm) This Wednesday, Mongolian voters will choose their sixth democratically-elected president for a term of six years, with the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) expected to be consolidating its power. The election is the first after a constitutional amendment had reduced the power of the president to a single term, preventing incumbent president Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party from seeking re-election. While the election-campaigns themselves had been kept at a rather low profile due to the Covid-19 pandemic, national as well as international voices had expressed concern that Mongolia’s democracy might be in peril following a string of court rulings, constitutional amendments, and the weakening of the major opposition Democratic Party. [Reuters]
For a short run-down of the state of Mongolian politics ahead of the presidential election, please see [The Diplomat].
25 May 2021
Mongolia: Presidential election campaign kicks off
(nm) With the nation’s General Election Commission (GEC) approving the candidates nominated by three political parties and coalitions, Mongolia’s presidential election race has officially kicked off. As only groups represented in the State Great Khural, Mongolia’s parliament, are tasked with presenting presidential candidates, the GEC approved nominations by the ruling Mongolian People Party, the Democratic Party, and the Right Person Electorate Coalition for the upcoming June 9 elections. Candidates now have the possibility to engage with voters until the end of June 7, while their declaration of income and assets as well as their actions plan are laid open to the public. [AKIPress]
Recently, concerns have intensified about Mongolia’s human rights situation and democracy, including restrictions to the freedom of expression. [AiR No. 20, May/2021, 3]
18 May 2021
Mongolia: Concerns mounting over June presidential elections
(nm) With the June 9 presidential elections only one month away, concerns are mounting over the human rights situation and restrictions to the freedom of expression of those critical of the Mongolian government. In recent weeks, political polarization has been met with court rulings, presidential decrees, as well as party splits and mergers, putting Mongolia’s democracy at risk.
The June election is the first after a 2019 constitutional amendment that increased the presidential term from four to six years while nullifying the possibility of re-election. Incumbent President Khaltmaagiin Battulga had first claimed he should still be able to run for re-election, but the claim was rebutted by the Constitutional Court in April. Following the decision, Battulga – who is member of the opposition Democratic Party (DP) – banned the ruling Mongolia People’s Party (MPP) which had obtained a supermajority after the 2020 parliamentary elections. In Mongolia’s political system, only parliamentary parties can nominate candidates in presidential elections. [The Diplomat] [The Economist]
11 May 2021
EU and India to boost trade, Indo-Pacific partnership
(lm) The European Union and India have agreed to resume long-stalled talks on a free trade deal, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on May 8. Brussel and New Delhi will also launch negotiations on reciprocal investments and on the protection of so-called geographical indications. [South China Morning Post]
Earlier on May 8, the first EU-Indian Leaders’ Meeting brought together all 27 heads of the EU member states and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Considering that previous EU-India summits have involved only the Indian prime minister and the heads of the European Commission and the European Council, the recent summit signals the bloc’s renewed interest in the Indo-Pacific region. [Reuters]
Last month, the EU Council asked the European Commission and high representatives to draw up the bloc’s Indo-Pacific strategy by September this year. In doing so, the Council unveiled the strategy’s main thrust, which included exploring closer economic ties with India and pledging to foster a rules-based order with “free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law”, without naming China.
Earlier last week, the EU also said that efforts to ratify the proposed EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China had been suspended after Beijing imposed sanctions on several high-profile members of the European Parliament, three members of national parliaments, two EU committees, and several China-focused European academics.
For a comprehensive examination of the decision, please consider Chris Devonshire-Ellis’ comment for [China Briefing].
27 April 2021
Mongolia-US relations: Foreign ministers discuss deepening ties
(nm) Mongolian Foreign Minister B. Battsetseg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed bilateral ties in a phone call last week. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations, building on the framework of the Strategic Partnership. Battsetseg also informed Blinken of the entry into force of Mongolia’s Millennium Challenge Corporation Water Compact, a $350 million partnership between a US government agency and the Mongolian government that seeks to tackle the impending water crisis in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. [Montsame] [US embassy]
20 April 2021
Mongolia: Permanent representative to UN meets WTO Director General
(nm) Last week, Mongolia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Lundeg Purevsuren, held a meeting with the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Purevsuren congratulated the Director General for being selected to chair the WTO Council for Trade in Goods from 2021 to 2022 and expressed hope that she would strengthen the Mongolian government’s capacity and increase the country’s participation in multilateral trade negotiations. [AKI Press]
Last month, the WTO concluded its Mongolia trade policy review for 2021, noting severe economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the heavy reliance on a few sectors. [WTO]
23 March 2021
China: Anti-corruption fight in Inner Mongolia to be sharpened
(dql) Chinese President Xi Jinping announced to sharpen the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption campaign in Inner Mongolia, following a recent large coal-related corruption case in this autonomous region, involving the province’s former Party chief and illicit money of more than 463 million USD.
Speaking to Inner Mongolian deputies at the recent plenary session of the National People’s Congress, Xi made clear that the Chinese Communist Party “will go after these people – who use our national resources for bribery, trade power for money by taking advantage of their positions as Communist Party officials and public servants – at all costs and hold them responsible.” He added that the Party “won’t tolerate the old cases once they have been uncovered,” referring to cases older than 2012 when Xi launched his anti-corruption campaign and signaling the Party’s determination to hold officials “accountable for life.”
Since 2018, over 670 corruption cases related to the region’s coal industry and 960 cadres and officials have been investigated. Inner Mongolia is China’s second largest coal producer supplying the country with around 25% of its coal reserves. Output reached 1 billion tons in 2019. [South China Morning Post] [Global Times]
2 February 2021
Mongolia: Discussions over bilateral ties and vaccines gifted by India
(nm) State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs N.Ankhbayar and Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, Jasper Wieck, held an online meeting last week, discussing strengthening bilateral ties, regional cooperation, and mutual support within international organizations, as well as exchanging their views on the current Covid-19 pandemic. Both sides agreed to hold a consultative meeting in Ulaanbaatar in September. [AKIpress 1]
Meanwhile, India has donated 1.5 million doses of the British-developed AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 to Mongolia, adding to the 10 million doses of vaccine that Mongolia had purchased from India. The donation is part of India’s vaccine diplomacy which seeks to deepen ties between India and its neighbouring states. [AkIpress 2] [Reuters]
26 January 2021
Mongolia: Prime Minister resigns over mistreat of Covid-19 infected woman
(dql/nm) Mongolian Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa announced last week he will immediately resign to take responsibility for a case in which a woman who recently gave birth to child was moved from a maternity hospital to an infectious disease center after she was tested positive on the coronavirus while wearing only hospital pyjamas and plastic slippers, despite temperatures of around minus 25 degrees Celsius. The TV footage of the incident sparked protests of thousands of people expressing their discontent with the treatment of the woman and the government’s Covid-19 policies in general.
Mongolia reported very low numbers of Covid-19 cases last year. The first official domestic transmissions then led to extended lockdowns and restrictions on movement, as well as a ban on cross-border travel.
Along with the Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister, who doubles as head of the national emergency commission handling the pandemic, the Minister of Health, and the directors of the hospital and disease center submitted their resignation. [Strait Times] [Channel News Asia]
Ukhnaa is member of the governing Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), which holds a strong majority in the State Great Khural, Mongolia’s parliament. Its Steeering Committee and the MPP’s Conference have since agreed to nominate L. Oyun-Erdene, who has been serving as the government’s Chief of the Cabinet Secretary, as the next Prime Minister. The nomination is yet to be discussed by the MPP parliamentary group, Parliament’s Standing Committee on State Structures, and a plenary session of the State Great Khural.
Ukhnaa has found himself in a long-running political rivalry with President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party. In a statement to parliament last week, he accused Battulga of politicizing and funding the people’s demonstration. On his resignation, he further said to have “made this decision to prevent riot and disorder which might be caused by misuse of people’s trust and instigation.” Now-resigning Ukhnaa had been considered a likely presidential candidate to run against Battulga in elections to be held in June, though facing competition within his own political party. [The Independent[ [The New York Times, $] [AkIpress 1] [AKIpress 2]
19 January 2021
China in the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific”
(dql) Shortly before Joe Biden will be sworn in as US President in this week, the Trump administration declassified and published the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific”, approved by President Trump in 2018 and stamped secret and not for release to foreign nationals until 2043.
The 10-page national security strategy paper identifies maintaining “U.S. strategic primacy over the Indo-Pacific region,” and promoting “a liberal economic order, while preventing China from establishing new, illiberal spheres of influence and cultivating areas of cooperation to promote regional peace and prosperity” one of three national security challenges, along with North Korea’s threat to the US and its allies as well as the advancement of US global economic leadership.
Furthermore, the document assumes that the “[s]trategic competition between the United States and China will persists,” with China “circumvent[ing] international norms and rules to gain advantage,” and seeking to “dissolve U.S. alliances and partnerships,” in order to “exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds.”
As an desired outcome with regards to China, the “United States and its partners on every continent” shall become “resistant to Chinese activities aimed at undermining their sovereignty, including through covert or coercive influence.” [White House, USA]
For a concise assessment of what has been achieved under this strategic framework, see Grant Newsham in [Asia Times] who argues that “Trump and his staff are handing off to Joseph Biden an Indo-Pacific that is better off than it was in 2017.
19 January 2021
Mongolia: NATO concludes project boosting Mongolian cyber defense capacity
(dql) On Monday NATO celebrated the successful completion of a project that ran between 2017 and 2020 and is designed to strengthen Mongolia’s cyber defence capacity. Supported by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, it includes the set up of a Cyber Security Centre for the Mongolian Armed Forces and specialized training and equipment as well as technical support from the NATO Communications and Information Agency. [NATO]
22 December 2020
Mongolia receives first batch of EU funding for employment sector transformation
(dql) As part of the 50.8 million Euro Budget Support program signed be the European Union and Mongolia in May, Brussels has disbursed the first 16 million Euro to the Mongolian government to implement so-called “SDG-aligned Budgeting to Transform Employment in Mongolia,” project to complement the government’s efforts to cope with the socio-economic fallouts of the pandemic. The project is designed to support employment and promotion of decent work and improved public finance management systems through results-oriented budget initiatives as direct contribution to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. [Aki Press]
3 November 2020
South Korea-Mongolia relations: Agreement on mutual tariff reductions
(dql) The South Korean Finance Ministry announce that South Korea and Mongolia will lower tariffs on some products starting in 2021, with Seoul reducing tariffs almost 2.800, while Ulaanbaatar will cut tariffs on 366 items. [Korea Times]
The announcement comes shortly after Mongolia acceded the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), to which South Korea is party state, along with China, Laos, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. [AiR No. 40, October/2020, 1]
Mongolia: Asian Development Bank approves 420 million USD financing facility
(dql) The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved up to 420 million USD for a multi-tranche financing facility aimed at improving economic opportunities and living conditions along the border between China’s Inner Mongolia and Mongolia.
The loans will mainly help fund the use of smart port management, smart drip irrigation with reclaimed water, and smart waste collection and transfer in the border ports in Inner Mongolia. [MENAFN].
China: Thousands of arrests over protest against language policy in Inner Mongolia
(dql/ef) According to the New York-based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), at least 8.000 ethnic Mongolians have been detained in the northern region of Inner Mongolia in the course of the crackdown of protests and resistance against plans of the Chinese government to reduce and gradually to phase out Mongolian as primary teaching language in schools.
Chinese authorities are accused of mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, house arrests, and “intensive training” during this crackdown. [Radio Free Asia]
Beijing, meanwhile, insisted that its actions against protesters are aimed to “fight against separatism, firmly implement anti-terrorist measures, and promote stability and harmony in the ethnic and religious fields.” It insisted that the use of the Mongolian language, textbooks and the bilingual education system will not change while the new language regulation reflects efforts to strengthen Mandarin as China’s common language and as “a symbol of its sovereignty,” adding that “it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to learn and use it.” [AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2]
Japan-Mongolia: Joining efforts to promote Free and Open Indo-Pacific
(dql) Japanese and Mongolian Foreign Ministers – Toshimitsu Motegi and Nyamtseren Enkhtaivan – last week agreed to cooperate in promoting a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” during the former’s visit to Ulaanbaatar last week. They also agreed on stepping up security, medical and economic cooperation, and signed a 235 million USD emergency loan to help the pandemic-hit Mongolian economy and fund medical equipment. [Yahoo News] [Kyodo News]
Motegi’s visit came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to Mongolia because of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 infection. According to Shannon Tiezzi in [The Diplomat] the cancellation of the visit defrauded the USA from an opportunity to profit from an anti-China sentiment currently running high in Mongolia over the sidelining of Mongolian-language education in China’s Inner Mongolia region.
Mongolia: Anti-Chinese protests
(dql) Ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Mongolia, Mongolian protesters took to streets in Ulaanbaatar to demand the release of ethnic Mongolians arrested in China for criticizing a controversial language policy which was introduced in neighboring Inner Mongolia last month and which reduces Mongolian as instructing language in schools.
Mongolia: Access to Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement
(dql) Mongolia last week acceded to the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), the country’s first regional trade agreement with developing countries. Joining the APTA, Mongolia will benefit from reduced tariff barriers as well as from enhanced market access to Bangladesh, China, India, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka, the other six member of APTA
APTA, signed as Bangkok Agreement in 1975 and renamed in 2005, is currently negotiating expanding tariff preferences in trade in goods and further liberalization in investment, services trade, and trade facilitation. [Scoop]
In an earlier move, Mongolia and Turkey during consultations late September agreed to boost efforts to deepen economic cooperation in the fields of agriculture, tourism, culture, humanitarian aid, and energy. [Aki Press]
22 September 2020
Mongolia-Russia relations: Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to be deepened
(dql) Mongolian and Russian Foreign Ministers Nyamtseren Enkhtaivan and Sergey Lavrov met Monday in Moscow to discuss issues on bilateral ties, international and regional cooperation. Both sides agreed to further expand and develop their countries’ Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. [Aki Press]
22 September 2020
China and Mongolia agree on deepening ties and Health Silk Road
(dql/ef) Just weeks after China replaced Mongolian language books in Inner Mongolian schools, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Mongolian President Battulga Khaltmaa, Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa and Foreign Minister Enkhtaivan Nyamtseren. The protests that ensued after the curriculum change in Inner Mongolian schools drew vast attention in Mongolia and led to protests in front of the Government Palace on the first day of Wang’s visit. However, official meeting summaries did not indicate that the topic of Inner Mongolia came up. Rather, it is stated that Wang visited Mongolia in order to strengthen cooperation in the fight against Covid-19, to extend cooperation on economic and social development, and to ensure long-term healthy and stable development of China-Mongolia ties. [The Diplomat (€)]
Meanwhile, Wang also announced last week that China and Mongolia along with Russia, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan have agreed to jointly build a Health Silk Road, adding that China will provide the participating countries with support in the purchase of anti-pandemic supplies, expertise training, experience sharing and cooperation in drug development, and accelerate the building of communication mechanisms with concerned parties on pandemic information. [The Star]
15 September 2020
China: Protests against reducing Mongolian as teaching language in Inner Mongolia quashed
(ef) The school strikes in the past weeks that were aimed against reducing Mongolian as teaching language in favor of Mandarin in schools in Inner Mongolia [AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2] have been successfully quashed by Chinese authorities, with parents sending their children back to school without further public complaints and the new textbooks being used. [Financial Times] [Manila Standard]
8 September 2020
China: Beijing’s hardline response to protest against reducing Mongolian as teaching language in Inner Mongolia
(dql/ef) In response to what a Mongolian human rights organization called a “a massive, nonviolent, civil disobedience resistance movement” of ethnic Mongolians against a new regulation of the Chinese government to reduce Mongolian as language of instruction in schools in Inner Mongolia, the Chinese police has conducted a search operation for protesters, in an attempt to “firmly crack down on illegal activities related to the new regulation,” according to a notice of an Inner Mongolian public security office. Furthermore, government officials and Communist party members are threatened with expulsion from the party if they do not send their children back to school, while Mongolians will become automatically ineligible for social benefits for the same offense. [Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center] [Wall Street Journal] [The Diplomat ($)]
The central government, meanwhile, insisted that the protest was caused by misinformation about the new regulation, adding that the use of the Mongolian language, textbooks and the bilingual education system will not change while the new regulation reflects efforts to strengthen the “common language of a country [as] a symbol of its sovereignty, and it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to learn and use it.” Echoing this, China’s Public Security Minister, who was present in Inner Mongolia at the time of the protest, called on the security authorities to “fight against separatism, firmly implement anti-terrorist measures, and promote stability and harmony in the ethnic and religious fields.” [Global Times]
Critics of this move view it as part of an assimilationist education policy within the frame of a nation-wide drive to promote ‘ethnic unity’, with some having even termed this development a ‘cultural genocide’ against the Mongolian minority in China. [Human Rights Watch] [BBC]
1 September 2020
China: Beijing tightens grip on Tibet and Inner Mongolia
(dql) Indicating fresh efforts of the central government to tighten its grip on Tibet, President Xi Jinping, speaking at a work meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee last week, stressed the need for a new strategy to govern Tibet and deepen the promotion of coordinated economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement there. To this purpose, he called for the establishment of a “impregnable fortress” to maintain stability in Tibet and protect national unity, underpinned by political and ideological education in Tibet’s schools which “plants the seeds of loving China in the depths of the hearts of the young people,” adding that “Tibet’s traditional Buddhism needed to be sinicized.” [Xinhua, in Chinese]
For the geostrategic importance of Tibet for China (and for India) see [AiR No. 33, August/2020, 3].
Meanwhile, in a rare move ethnic Mongolians in northern China have staged rallies to protest against new rules to reduce teaching in the Mongolian language in favor of Chinese in three subjects – including politics, history, and language and literature – before completely switching to Chinese. [BBC]
The measure deepens fears that Beijing is gearing up its efforts to assimilate the Mongolian minority in China, mirroring developments in Xinjiang and Tibet.
In a related development, Bainu, the only Mongolian-language social media site in China, was shut down last week by Chinese authorities. [Vice]
25 August 2020
Mongolia: China censors and threatens Mongolian language policy critics
(ef) After plans for the elimination of teaching in the Mongolian native languages were leaked, widespread protests in the Southern Mongolian society have ensued. As a consequence, the only social media application in Mongolian-language available in China was shut down by Chinese authorities as it was used to discuss this so-called “bilingual education” policy which entails the elimination of teaching in Mongolian language starting on September 1. Some have suggested that a school strike should be carried out to boycott this new policy. Others have called this policy part of “the trend of Chinese cultural genocide against Southern Mongolians”. [UNPO] [Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center] [Radio Free Asia]
11 August 2020
China-Mongolia relations: Ulaanbaatar reassures Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are Chinese domestic affairs
(dql) At the Fifth China-Mongolia Strategic Dialogue Between Foreign Ministries held last week, both sides agreed to deepen cooperation in a number of areas including political and diplomatic affairs, economy and trade as well as cultural and people-to-people exchange. The Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister reassured that “Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xizang [sic] affairs are purely China’s internal affairs.” [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China]
28 July 2020
Mongolia: Ex-prime minister sentenced to five years in prison
(dql) Mongolia’s former Prime Minister Sanjaagiin Bayar (2007-2009) was sentenced to five years in jail for power abuse in the context of signing a fuel and lubricants supply agreement favoring a friend’s a company and allowing it to illegally gain a profit of 147 million USD. [Aki Press]
30 June 2020
Mongolia: Mongolian People’s Party retains majority in parliament
(ef) In last week’s parliamentary election, held under special Covid-19 related health and safety measures, the ruling Mongolian People’s Party, although loosing three seats compared with the election in 2016, retained its majority securing 62 out of 76 seats. Voters turnout was high at more than 73 percent of the electorate. [AKI Press]
For more details on the composition of the new parliament see Julian Dierkes at [East Asia Forum] who sees the outcome of the election as a “sign that Mongolian democracy is starting to heal from the corruption-induced frustrations of the 2010s.”
23 June 2020
Mongolia: Ruling party set to win parliamentary election
(dql) In Mongolia’s eighth parliamentary election since the country adopted a constitutional system in 1992 after sixty years of rule of the Soviet Union, a total of 606 candidates, representing 13 political parties and 4 coalitions as well as 121 independents, will compete this Wednesday for 76 seats in parliament.
The ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) led by Prime Minister Khurelsukh, which won 65 seats in the past election 2016, is believed to win the election again due to its success in combating the coronavirus pandemic. [East Asia Forum] [Nikkei Asian Review]
26 May 2020
Mongolia: A new type of candidates in upcoming parliamentary election
(dql) In less than four weeks, Mongolia will hold parliamentary election in which 670 candidates will race for 76 seats. Bulgan Batdorj and Julian Dierkes at [The Diplomat] provide insights into the diversity of the candidates and argue that while new candidates might not win in the election they might contribute to “nudg[ing] political discourse in the direction of concrete policy debates that have been lacking in previous elections” because they establish a new kind of relationship with the parties and the people.
28 April 2020
Mongolia: Parliament ratifies social protection deal with the Czech Republic
(ef) In a move to eradicate flaws in pension calculation for Mongolian citizen residing in the Czech Republic, the Mongolian parliament has ratified an intergovernmental agreement between Mongolia and the central European country. Under the agreement Mongolian expats to receive their pension in the Czech Republic or have their years of service abroad included in the calculation of their benefits in Mongolia. [AKI Press]
28 April 2020
Mongolia: Asian Development Bank approves loan for renewable energy
(ef) As Mongolia is set to install its first large-scale advanced battery energy storage system, the country received a 100 million USD loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to complete that project. Being among the most heavily coal-dependent developing member countries of the Asian Development Bank, Mongolia seeks to increase the share of renewable energy in total installed capacity from about 12% in 2018 to 30% by 2030. [AKI Press]
4 February 2020
Mongolia: Amendment to Rome Statue of International Criminal Court ratified
(dql) Mongolia’s parliament last week passed a bill ratifying the 2010 Amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adding the definition of the crime of aggression and the conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction over this crime. [Aki Press]
Mongolia signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2000 and ratified it in 2002.
7 January 2020
Mongolia: Parliament approves law to write off loans of pensioners
(dql) Mongolia’s parliament approved a law to write off loans of pensioners. The move follows President Khaltmaa Battulga’s a decision at the end of the last year to pay off the loans of pensioners to help them get out of debt. Under the law, loans of up to almost 2,200 USD of each pensioner will be written off. [AKI Press]
26 November 2019
Mongolia: Head of Constitutional Court dismissed over sexual harassment case
(dql) Mongolia’s Constitutional Court last week dismissed its chairman Odbayar Dorj from his office for sexually harassing a Korean flight attendant on his flight to South Korea weeks ago. Dorj, however, remains one of the nine members of the court. [Channel News Asia]
The case sheds light on the fact that there is no legislation to punish sexual harassment and to protect the victims in Mongolia.
19 November 2019
Mongolia: Constitution amended to strengthen Prime Minister against President
(dql) Mongolia has amended its constitution for the second time since it was ratified in 1992, strengthening the powers of the prime minister in a bid to end years of costly political instability and economic stagnation. In Mongolia’s hybrid political system, power has been shared by an elected president and the government, which is appointed by parliament and headed by a prime minister. The president, who usually comes from the political party in opposition, is able to veto legislation and propose his own. Experts say the changes, approved by parliament on Thursday, will tip the balance of power in favour of the prime minister, giving the office full authority to appoint and dismiss the cabinet and weakening the role of the presidency. Future presidents, though still elected directly by the people, will be limited to one six-year term, compared to two four-year terms previously, starting from 2025. [Reuters]
12 November 2019
Mongolia: Hundreds of Chinese citizens detained in crackdown on cybercrime
(dql) Mongolian local authorities announced that 800 Chinese citizens have been arrested on various charges including illegal gambling, fraud, computer hacking, identity theft and money laundering. [Reuters]
22 October 2019
Mongolia put of FATF “graylist”
(dql) The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last week put Mongolia on its “graylist” of monitored jurisdictions, acknowledging the country’s development of an action plan with the FATF to address the most serious deficiencies
1 October 2019
Mongolia’s parliament set to debate country’s first whistleblower protection law
(dql) Transparency International (TI) has welcome Mongolia starting to debate in the parliament a draft law on whistleblower protection, submitted in 2016, as part of a reform of the country’s anti-corruption law. At the same time TI has warned against attempts of the parliament to shrink space for political rights in Mongolia. [Transparency International]
Date of AiR edition
9 July 2019
Mongolia: Concerns over dismissal of judges
(dql) Transparency International expressed extreme concerns over the dismissal of 17 judges two weeks ago by the Judiciary Council and National Security Council. The judges, accused of corruption, were dismissed on the basis of amendments to the laws governing the judiciary and anti-corruption agency adopted in an emergency session of the parliament in March, at a time when two-thirds of Mongolia’s 76 lawmakers were investigated over allegations of embezzlement of public funds. [Transparency International] [AiR 1/4/2019]
4 June 2019
Mongolia: Protesters demand government to step down
(dql) Thousands of government-critical protesters took to the streets of Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, last week and demanded the resignation of the leadership over corruption allegations and failure to revive the country’s struggling economy.
Mongolia was plunged into an economic crisis in 2016 over disputes with foreign investors like mining giant Rio Tinto, government overspending and slipping commodity prices from which the country has not recovered yet. Government pledges of large spending on infrastructure, social services and housing based on foreign investment have remained unmaterialised. [Reuters]
4 December 2018
Mongolia: Government survives no-confidence vote
(dql) Last week a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh and his cabinet government was launched in parliament but narrowly failed to oust the government after 40 out of the attending 73 lawmakers in the 76-seat parliament voted against the motion and 33 for the motion. [Xinhua 1]
The motion was submitted by 27 lawmakers of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), which holds 65 seats, over a scandal pertaining to financial irregularities which involves members of parliament and government suspected of receiving a number of loans with low interest rates from a fund that serves small and medium-sized enterprises. [The Guardian] [AiR 3/11/2018]
In a latest development, three lawmakers of the Mongolia’s opposition Democratic Party (9 seats) were expelled or banned for four years to compete in elections for cross-voting in the motion. [Xinhua 2]
20 November 2018
Mongolia: Government under pressure over loan scandal
(dql) Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh is facing pressure over allegations that cabinet members received low-interest loans for business controlled by them or their family members. More than a dozen parliament members and police officials are believed to be also implicated in this scandal. According to the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry over 3,500 member companies vowed to withhold tax payments until the scandal is resolved. [Nikkei Asian Review]
In a latest development of the scandal, legislator Damdin Khayankhyarvaa from the ruling People’s Party submitted a proposal to dismiss the government over the scandal. The proposal was signed by 27 of the 76 members of parliament in which the People’s Party holds 65 seats. [Xinhua]
13 November 2018
Mongolia: High-profile corruption case under investigation
(dql) Mongolia’s anti-corruption authority is investigating a high-profile corruption case involving government ministers, members of parliament, the general prosecutor, the general auditor, and the former head of the intelligence authority who – according to leaked reports – channeled more than 1 million USD of a 25 million USD government fund to their families and friends. The fund was set up 18 years ago to offer government loans at 3 per cent interest to owners of small and medium-sized enterprises, compared to banks and finance companies charging between 12 and 30 per cent. Pressured by these reports, Food, Agriculture and Light Industry Minister Batjargal Batzorig, who oversaw the SME fund, resigned. [South China Morning Post]
15 April 2018
Mongolia: Former PM’s arrested over corruption case
(dql) In the context of an investigation into a copper mine joint venture in 2009 and 2015, Mongolia’s anti-corruption agency arrested two former Prime Ministers on suspicion of misuse of power: Bayar Sanj, Prime Minister at the time of the signing of the original investment deal in 2009, and Saikhanbileg Chimed, Prime Minister at the time the agreement on the expansion of the mine was sealed in 2015. [Reuters]
Prior to the high-level arrests, a former finance minister had alraedy been detained. [AiR 2/4/2018]
8 April 2018
Mongolia: Arrests in high-profile graft probe
(dql) Mongolia’s Independent Authority Against Corruption announced this week the arrest of former Finance Minister Bayartsogt Sangajav in the frame of an investigation into alleged abuse of power in the context of investment talks for the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, Mongolia’s giant mining joint venture between Turquoise Hill Resources, a majority owned subsidiary of Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto, and the Mongolian Government with the former holding 66% ownership and the latter 34%.
The arrest of Bayartsogt comes amid an ongoing criminal investigation of the Swiss Office of the Attorney General into a seized bank account which according to court documents had been used to transfer 10 million USD to Bayartsogt in September 2008 who on behalf of Mongolia signed an agreement with Canadian Ivanhoe Mines in 2009 to develop the giant mine. [Reuters]
In a related investigation into a 2015 financing deal for the mine’s underground expansion between Turquoise Hill, Rio Tinto and the government of Mongolia former Mongolian Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed, in office for two years until 2016, has been asked to return from the US to justify himself to the prosecutors while the former chief executive of the state-owned entity holding Mongolia’s stake in Oyu Tolgoi, who signed the deal, and the former director general of the General Department of Taxation were arrested. [Financial Times]
17 November 2017
Bleak outlook for the Mongolia’s future
In office since October, Prime Minister U Khurelsukh is lacking a consistent agenda and strategy to fight corruption and to enhance the civil service and judiciary, the root causes for Mongolia’s current political crisis reflected by three governments within two years. Caught up with factionalism within his ruling Mongolian People’s Party, he will fail to lead the country out of this crisis, Julian Dierkes and Mendee Jargalsaikhan predict in this article [East Asia Forum].
6 October 2017
New Mongolian Prime Minister
Following the impeachment of Jargaltulgiin Erdenebat and his cabinet on grounds of corruption weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh has been elected as new Prime Minister by the ruling Mongolia People’s Party [The Straits Times].
18 August 2017
For Mongolia’s new president is Mongolia first and China last
Mongolia’s new President Khaltmaa Battulga won the presidential election with a nationalistic, anti-China campaign. Since more than a month in office, a core issue and challenge of his administration will be to balance the relation-ships of Mongolia with Russia and China [East Asia Forum].