First Mongolian President: How China’s Development Influence Sino-Mongolian Future?
In 1991, after thirty years of virtually severed relations, former Chinese president Yang Shangkun and his Mongolian counterpart, president Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat, met to reinstate their diplomatic relationship. Since then, the two countries’ collaboration has strengthened progressively, with cooperation on the Russia-Mongolia-China Economic Corridor the latest in a series of projects that has aligned the two countries closer.
In a wide-ranging interview, China Focus interviewed Mongolia’s first President Ochirbat to find out how China and Mongolia’s relationship is growing, how China’s rapid development has had beneficial knock-on affects in Mongolia and why future ties promise to bring further benefits to both countries.
China Focus： What do you think of China’s development?
Former President of Mongolia Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat still remembers the first time he visited Beijing more than 30 years ago. “In 1980, I went to Hong Kong through Chinese mainland,” he said. “That time, Beijing seemed very poor and underprivileged: the life, the streets, the bicycles, the carriages and such.” During an interview with China Focus, he told our reporter that his impressions of Beijing have changed tremendously, “Now I don’t know where anything is in Beijing. I only know where the Mongolian Embassy is,” he said humorously. “Everything else is so unrecognizable to me. That’s how much China has reformed and developed.”
During his presidency, he chose China for his first official visit. He and Li Peng, who was then Chinese premier, signed a joint communique and held meetings and discussions on the future relationship between the two countries, exploring how to further develop mutually beneficial cooperation. “This all became a reality because of that official visit, I believe,” Ochirbat recalls. “One country had begun to develop, while the other had developed rapidly.” This is how he described the meaning of his visit. In addition to the history of Chinese and Mongolian relations he also shared his opinion on China’s development and the Belt and Road Initiative.
“In general, we are proud of China’s development. The more China develops, the more it will contribute to Mongolia’s development. That’s why we have a much bigger purpose than just the interest of one country. We need many countries to come together and join forces so that collectively, we can all benefit. We place a great deal of importance on promoting mutually beneficial cooperation with China”, he says.
China Focus：How do you view the Belt and Road Initiative？
For China, this big initiative is very beneficial, and it is also for China’s neighbours, including Mongolia. The Sixth Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative is the corridor connecting three countries: China, Mongolia and Russia. It may seem like a way to create a large network of three countries. But in fact, through this network, there will be many opportunities for industries and cultures to blossom in a wide range of ways.
For example, power plants will be built along this route, brand new factories will also be built and existing factories will become more efficient. President Xi Jinping said there are many big projects regarding Mongolia, such as the Tavan Tolgoi’s coal deposit project and the building of a copper smelting plant, based on the Oyu tolgoi copper-gold industry.
Many railways, roads and high-voltage power transmission lines are the basis for the development of these three countries. So, I understand that the Belt and Road Initiative is the fundamental basis for global development of supply. The initiative is a fundamental basis for worldwide development.
China Focus：What’s your expectations of the Chinese and Mongolian future development?
I heard someone say that if you want to see the world’s development, look at China. If you want to see China’s development, look at Guangdong. If you want see the development of Guangdong, look at Shenzhen. Now that I think about it, I have been to these places. New technology and leading designs have been taken up all over China, creating a quality and an aesthetic that is very pleasing.
What I’ve heard from there is that China built a 5000 km highway in just 13 months. This is amazingly fast work. So, I thought to myself, they could build a high quality railway through Mongolia, from China to Russia, in just as quick a time. It would be a wonderful contribution and it would speed up the process of the Sixth Economic Corridor plan.