ULAN BATOR (AP) ― Landlocked Mongolia is hoping to secure better access to Chinese ports as President Xi Jinping becomes the first Chinese head of state in more than a decade to visit this sprawling nation sandwiched between China and Russia.
Xi arrived in the Mongolian capital Thursday and was to meet with Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia later in the day. He also planned to meet with parliamentary officials on Friday.
Faced with declining foreign investment and increased inflation and unemployment, Mongolia is desperate for more ways to export its mineral resources. Xi’s trip to Mongolia ― the first by a Chinese head of state in 11 years ― is expected to include discussions on infrastructure investment, as well transportation deals to help Mongolia export minerals through the Chinese ports.
|Chinese President Xi Jinping (second from left) and his wife Peng Liyuan (third from left) are greeted by Mongolian Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag and his wife at the airport in Ulan Bator on Thursday. (Xinhua-Yonhap)|
Four of 11 agreements under discussion have to do with ground transportation to Chinese ports, to better ship high-value minerals to South Korea and Japan, China expert Munkhtuul Banzragch said.
Mongolia is building a railway from one of its largest coking coal deposits to the Chinese border. Still undecided is the much-debated issue of whether to stay with Mongolia’s wide-gauge rail inherited from its time as a Soviet client state, or shift to a narrower gauge used in China.
In the 1990s, after the disintegration of Soviet rule, Mongolia chose the path of democracy and a market economy, and adopted a “third neighbor” policy to court nations like the United States and Japan and reduce its reliance on its two giant neighbors.
However, China’s influence remains vast. China is by far Mongolia’s largest trading partner, and most of what Mongolia produces from its agricultural and mining industries is exported to China in raw or semi-processed forms.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit Mongolia in September.