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Xi's visit will set course for future ties

Updated: 2014-08-21 06:50
By Qiu Bo in Ulan Bator and Wu Jiao in Beijing (China Daily)

President Xi Jinping leaves on a two-day state visit to Mongolia on Thursday in the latest effort by Beijing to enhance its ties with surrounding countries.

It will be China's first presidential visit to Mongolia in 11 years and Xi's second one-stop overseas visit since he took office in March 2013.

Observers from both countries described the visit as historic.

Xi will meet his Mongolian counterpart, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, issue a political document, and witness the signing of more than 20 cooperative agreements covering politics, economics and finance.

Xi will hold talks with other Mongolian leaders and deliver a speech at the State Great Hural, Mongolia's parliament.

Mongolia, landlocked by China and Russia, is the country that shares the longest land border with China.

The two countries established diplomatic ties as early as 1949, but their relationship suffered twists and turns in the 1960s as a result of deteriorating relations between China and the Soviet Union. The situation began to improve in the 1990s.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Gao Shumao, China's former ambassador to Mongolia, described this week's visit as "historic".

"Paying a one-stop visit to Mongolia is testimony to the importance Xi attaches to bilateral ties," said Gao.

Gao said Mongolia was making special arrangements for the visit. In addition to standard protocol events, Mongolia's presidential couple is going to host a private dinner for Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan, which is quite unusual.

Trade and investment

Officials from both sides have confirmed that the countries will ink key mineral, infrastructure and financial projects during the visit.

Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao said China is considering giving Mongolia better access to ports and overseas markets for its natural resources, including coal.

Mongolian officials said a deal allowing Mongolia to use several Chinese ports, including those at Tianjin and Dalian, for imports and exports will be agreed upon.

China has been Mongolia's largest trading partner and a major investor for more than a decade, with the bilateral trade volume reaching almost $6 billion in 2013 - nearly 20 times the figure in 2002 and more than half of Mongolia's total foreign trade. The trade volume also accounts for half of Mongolia's annual GDP.

Xi's trip to the mineral-rich nation comes ahead of an expected visit there by Russian President Vladimir Putin in two weeks time.

Bloomberg said the visits "signal a pivot to Russia and China" after foreign investment in Mongolia collapsed by 70 percent in the first half of the year.

"After two decades courting Western investors and political allies, Mongolia is refocusing on foreign ties closer to home seeking to revive its economy," Bloomberg said on Wednesday.

According to Wang Fan, a foreign studies expert at the China Foreign Affairs University, China and Mongolia can achieve win-win cooperation in the energy sector as China provides huge demand while Mongolia has advantages in resources and geographical closeness.

"While Mongolia has abundant land and rich resources, it is still at its initial stage of development and lacks capital and technology," Wang said. "China can supply these."

The bilateral ties are of "paramount importance" now as both nations are developing rapidly, said Batchimeg Migeddorj, a member of Mongolia's State Great Hural who studied and worked in China.

"Mongolia has only two adjacent countries and maintaining a friendly relationship (with China) is always our top task," she added.

Contact the writers at qiubo@chinadaily.com.cn and wujiao@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 08/21/2014 page3)

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