Friday, January 13, 2006

Political Trouble Brewing

There's trouble in the land of the eternal sky. Unfortunately, I don't have time to cover it. But a few other great blogs are, including Mongolian Matters and ….yuu bna? Some background may be found at Chris Miller's blog. Registan has a roundup plus a string of comments. Perhaps most informative is Tom Terry's blog, where Tom is liveblogging the situation.


There are also a few news sites that are devoting a lot of coverage to it, including Mongolia Web
and The UB Post. Lastly, here are a few news stories that came to me through Inside World:

8.54pm Fury at Mongolian political crisis
Theaustralian.news.com.au - Thu Jan 12, 01:43 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Demonstrations in support of Mongolian PM
Rnw.nl - Thu Jan 12, 11:03 am GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Hundreds of protesters storm Mongolian political ...
Wvgazette.com - Thu Jan 12, 11:57 am GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Hundreds of protesters storm Mongolian political party's headquarters
Www1.wsvn.com - Thu Jan 12, 12:05 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Mongolia's cabinet near collapse
Dw-world.de - Thu Jan 12, 11:16 am GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Mongolia's largest party quits government
Washtimes.com - Thu Jan 12, 12:03 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Mongolian Govt in crisis after mass resignations
Abc.net.au - Wed Jan 11, 03:19 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Mongolian party agrees to rethink government pull out after protesters storm headquarters
Www1.wsvn.com - Thu Jan 12, 08:08 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Protesters storm Mongolia govt. HQ
Read full story for latest details.
13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Protesters storm Mongolian political party’s headquarters
Article.wn.com - Thu Jan 12, 09:02 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Protesters storm ruling coalition party office in Mongolian capital
Monitor.bbc.co.uk - Thu Jan 12, 11:21 am GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY

Thousands protest as Mongolia's govt teeters
Stuff.co.nz - Thu Jan 12, 04:43 pm GMT 13 January 10:30 FULL STORY


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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bush's speech: text

I know, this is waaaay late, but I thought I'd post it anyway if only for the sake of completeness.

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Geography 101

Someone had better remind the folks over at The New American of their 4th grade geography. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this short piece, reprinted here in all its fact-challenged glory:
President Bush Showers Mongolian Reds With Praise, Aid
by William F. Jasper
December 3, 2005

President George Bush stopped in Mongolia on November 21 during his China trip to praise Mongolia's "democracy" and to drop off $11 million in U.S. aid, the first installment of a larger package still to come.

“You are an example of success for the region and for the world,” Bush said in a speech to Mongolia’s President Nambaryn Enkhbayar, military leaders, and legislators in the capital of Ulan Batur. “As you build a free society in the heart of Central Asia, the American people stand with you.” Referring to the 160 troops Mongolia has contributed to the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, Bush declared, “Mongolia and the United States are standing together as brothers in the cause of freedom.”

President Enkhbayar is a “former” communist and head of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, which is the renamed and (supposedly) reformed Communist Party of Mongolia. Red China pretended to grant Mongolia full autonomy in 1990 — and the United Nations and the U.S. government (along with the rest of the world’s nations) pretend that Mongolia is now truly independent of Beijing’s communist control. Over the past five decades, Red China has carried out a systematic program of repression of the Mongols, including the forced transfer of Mongols from their ancestral lands, to be replaced by ethnic Chinese. As a result, ethnic Chinese now outnumber Mongolians in Mongolia by a ratio of five to one. Thousands of the nomadic Mongols who live off their herds of sheep and goats continue to be driven from their lands by the central authorities, who cite environmental excuses, such as the need to protect the grasslands from overgrazing.
Good one, huh?

(Okay, for those of you who are scratching your heads, Mr. Jasper confused Mongolia, the independent country, with Inner Mongolia, an "autonomous region" in northern China, and attributed many characteristics of the latter to the former.)

Update: Guido's got his hackles up, too, as has Mongolian Artist (rightmost column).

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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

China and Mongolia have finally agreed upon a mutually-acceptable border and each other's full independence. Something tells me that it wasn't Mongolia that was slowing things down on the mutual-recognition bit. Anyway, how very neighborly of China. It would make Mr. Rogers proud.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Why Mongolia (5)

Here's another view. Why Mongolia? The Bush Doctrine. In a recent American Enterprise Intstitute paper entitled Bush to Asia: Freedom is more than Markets, Dan Blumenthal and Thomas Donnelly write:
The president's just-concluded Asian trip bore signs that his devotion to democracy is beginning to shape American strategy beyond the "greater Middle East," calling into question the policy of economic engagement and the belief in the democratizing power of free trade that Washington has followed up until now. And military preparations are underway to give substance to the rhetoric of liberty.
After summing up some of Bush's words in recent speeches in Asia, AEI continues:
All this would just be high-flying rhetoric were it not for the fact that the Bush administration is coupling it with a realignment of U.S. forces in Asia and in the western Pacific. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has been something of a reluctant warrior in the Middle East, but he and his lieutenants in charge of Asia are deeply engaged in the transformation of U.S. posture along China's periphery.
This sounds like a fair assessment to me. Bush has struck me as being a true believer when it comes to democracy. So the fact that he's strengthening democracy in places like Mongolia, while helping out America's own interests, seems entirely logical. And considering that democracy = relative stability, then democracy in Mongolia and elsewhere = American interests.

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Wildlife in Peril

From UPI. I'll comment throughout.
Mongolian Wildlife Face Extinction Crisis
There's an attention getter. But how accurate is it? I think my headline is better. Might not get as many views, though :)
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Wildlife Conservation Society scientists say they are deeply concerned about an alarming decrease in general wildlife populations in Mongolia.

The New York-based organization blames overhunting and excessive trade in skins and other animal products for the problem, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
This stands to reason. Hunting is one of the things that draws folks to visit Mongolia. That hunters are bagging animals faster than they can replentish themselves comes, alas, as no surprise.
A WCS study of Mongolia's wildlife says by some estimates, the populations of endangered species -- marmots, argali sheep, antelope, red deer, bears, Asiatic wild asses -- have plummeted by 50 percent to 90 percent.
What do other folks say the numbers are? Just wondering. It'd be nice to have some opposing views here. In the event that everyone agrees, it'd be nice to be told that, too.
Two exceptions are an apparent increase in the number of wolves and a gradual increase in the number of endangered Przewalski wild horses.

Again, though, more views on the numbers would be nice. Regardless, this stands to reason. When I was there last (January), wolves were wreaking havoc on nomads everywhere (or at least in the part of the country I was in). Wolves were once known to be a tad less populous, but they're becoming alarmingly common. Driving from UB to Erdenet one evening, I saw three wolves along the side of the road. When I asked the driver if there were wolves in those parts, he said that there were more wolves than anyone wanted, by far. Stories of missing children and all that. Granted, to a herder or a parent, one wolf is one wolf too many. Later that month, I was visiting relatives and they were constantly building fires in the mountains near their gers to keep the wolves away from the sheep and goats. The only dead wolf I saw was strapped to the hood of an SUV--blood still fresh (though frozen) from the recent kill outside of town.

"The country is facing a quite extraordinary and unnoticed extinction crisis, or at least the threat of one," Peter Zahler, assistant director for Asia at the New York-headquartered Wildlife Conservation Society, told the newspaper.

Well, a crisis and a threatened crisis are very different. Given the hands-in-the-air, the-end-is-coming nature of many eco groups, I'm not sure what to make of this kinds of claims. (But if I didn't think over-hunting were a problem at all, well then I wouldn't be posting this.)

The WCS said the nation's independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 "was the undoing of Mongolia's century-long effort to control wildlife trade."

You know, the trains ran on time in Italy until Mussolini got hanged from that bridge. But that's not enough to make Italians get all misty-eyed about the early 1940s. I mean, come on. And you wonder why I take many eco groups claims (and the media that promulgates them) with a grain of salt.

The WCS says nearly all of Mongolia's annual $100 million in wildlife trade is illegal.

I have no way of knowing if this last claim is true or not, the Mongolian hunting statues not being at my fintertips. But the rule of law being what it is in the far-flung parts of Mongolian wilderness, I wouldn't be surprised if the report is about right.

Anyway, over-hunting in Mongolia is a problem that should be addressed sooner rather than later. America nearly out-hunted its beavers, muskrat, bison, etc. I think that American wolves (the Gray Wolf?) were hunted clean out of existence (??) because they were thought to be so plentiful. Similar problems have been repeated the world over. So there's a lesson to be learned by up-and-coming countries not to make the same mistakes.

One thing getting in the way is the sense that Mongolians have of the spaciousness and inexhaustibility of their land. It's seemed eternally large for millennia now, and the thought that people can exhaust the land, the trees, the animals, seems absurd to many Mongolians. I was once talking with someone who said of logging ventures in Siberia. She, a Mongol, said, "Siberia will never run out of wood. I've been on the train from UB to Moscow. It's trees the whole way." Well, eventually even a great quantity of natural resources can be exhausted. So, it's an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of the locals. Anyway, here's to the hope that Mongolia works on a sensible and enforced hunting code.

UPDATE: Here's the story from which the UPI story was evidently edited. This New York Times piece also has a very informative (and depressing) graphic. This fuller story is worth the visit should you be interested.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why Mongolia (4)

To continue this thread and perhaps clarify what I seem to have left ambiguous, let me note the following in response to the always thoughtful Yan:

The other day, I wrote: "As should be known by now, I'm with Double Toothpicks here: there are reasons for the US's cozying up to Mongolia that are for the US's own national interests." I didn't mean to imply that the airbase angle is the SOLE reason that the US is friends with Mongolia. Obviously, there are several reasons:

1) Support for Mongolia's contribution to the War on Terror

2) Building friendship with a country, an alliance with whom would add considerably to the US's own regional and global positioning.

3) Support for Mongolia as a new and successful democracy in that part of the world

4) Giving Mongolia a shot in the arm by giving it good press and bringing it into the international spotlight.

But note: the two dominant ones (#1 and #2)--those without which Bush wouldn't have visited Mongolia in the first place--are strongly American interests. If it weren't for #1 and #2 on the following list, #3 and #4 would never have been sufficient to earn Mongolia a presidential visit. In other words, American self-interest (which may be and are shared by other countries) are the driver of American foreign policy. This is the case with just about every country everywhere (one notable exception is Europe, where countries are apparently giving up on their own national interest for those of a greater Europe), so I don't see why this should be a surprise to anyone.

Of course, there are also altrusitic motives that the US apparently has with re: democracy and freedom. But even then, if democracy and freedom abroad were sharply against American interests, I sincerely doubt that America would be quite so involved in promoting them in the world. Eventually, everything in politics (and perhaps beyond) boils down to some kind of self-interest. I'm not saying that this is the way things should be, but that's the way I think they are. There you are. I hope I'm clear this time.

Note: This response is also posted in the comments section of the post that prompted it.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Why Mongolia (3)

Double Toothpicks fleshes out what he thinks could be Bush's idea in making friends with Mongolia:
Look at the map again. Mongolia is just a KC135-tanker-load away from North Korea for any of our jets. If we make nice with the Mongols, we might gain a non-Japanese strategic basing option that could be used to keep Kim Jong Il in check. Thus, the President continues to place his chess pieces to cover the three key points on the Axis of Evil. The guy's no dummy.
I'm not part of the crowd that thinks that the reason Bush went there was to give an "emerging democracy" a pat on the back. Neither do I run with the folks that say that Bush went to Mongolia to make positive headlines in the face of "disaster" at home--you know, "wag the dog." And, for that matter, the idea that Mongolia is Bush's next stop on a path toward World Empire is good only for a laugh. As should be known by now, I'm with Double Toothpicks here: there are reasons for the US's cozying up to Mongolia that are for the US's own national interests.

And, by the way, the idea that Mongolia may figure in the US's thinking re: North Korea is not a new idea. Col. Wilhelm, America's man in Mongolia, said as much in Robert Kaplan's article in the Atlantic (original link here):
One might wonder why the United States would ever need an air base in Mongolia. In the 1990s Wilhelm wondered the same thing about Tajikistan. Then came September 11, 2001, and suddenly back-of-beyond Tajikistan, with its southern border facing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, became a crucial staging area for American operations. "That's when I learned never to say 'never,'" he told me. With Mongolia's eastern border only 500 miles from North Korea, and with the strategic environment unpredictable and fast-changing, an air base here could be an important asset.
Whatever the reason, we think that America's increased involvement in Mongolia is a good thing for all involved--and perhaps for the North Korean people as well.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Elbegdorj: In His Own Words

Prime Minister Elbegdorj penned an editorial for the Washington Post a few days ago. I'm late in linking to it, but here it is in its entirety. I'll refrain from editorializing, for reasons of temporal exigencies, except to bold a few things that caught my attention and in general met with my approval.
Mongolia: Moving Mountains
By Elbegdorj Tsakhia

Monday, November 21, 2005; Page A15

ULAN BATOR -- Mr. President, welcome to Mongolia. Welcome to freedom.

Those are the words with which I will greet President Bush when he arrives in Mongolia today. They represent an extraordinary odyssey for my country, one that has taken us from totalitarianism to free-market democracy in just 15 years.

When Mongolia shed the yoke of communist rule, thousands of us took to the streets and rallied outside our government building demanding democracy. Never again did the Mongolian people want to suffer under a system of government that oppressed the people and denied the fundamental rights provided to each of us at birth: the right to life, individual liberties and freedom of expression.

We enshrined these principles in Article 2 of our constitution: "The fundamental purpose of state activity is the ensurance of democracy, justice, freedom, equality, and national unity and respect of law." Many of us had tears in our eyes when we voted to adopt our constitution in 1992. Without a bullet being fired, without tanks in the streets, we laid the groundwork for building a new society based on democracy, the rule of law and free-market economic reforms. It has served us well, as Mongolian voters have used the ballot box to transfer political power in several parliamentary elections. Our people are working hard to consolidate our freedom. They have made Mongolia an open, free and vibrant society.

Since our transition, Mongolia has faced many difficult hardships. Thanks to support from the United States, as well as from other countries and international financial institutions, we were able to make the transition to a free-market economy. More than 80 percent of our gross domestic product is derived from the private sector. This is critical.

The national security of our landlocked country has less to do with military power than with economic growth. Last year, through unleashing the potential of foreign investors and our business community, Mongolia experienced a growth rate of more than 10 percent. We need this to continue. I want to move forward and expand our relationship with the United States by implementing a free trade agreement between our two countries.

This is a good start, but much more remains to be done. Without question among the greatest challenges facing our democratic institutions are poverty and corruption. Parliamentarians in both parties of our ruling Grand Coalition are working to provide the legal framework and resources to ensure that civil servants remain exactly that -- servants of the people.

With a population of just 2.5 million, many of whom are nomads, our strategy to fight poverty is through education. My government is seeking to use wireless communications -- the Internet, cell phones and data transmission -- to build an information bridge to the outside world. It is now not uncommon to see a satellite dish outside a herdsman's ger -- our traditional dwelling. Exploring educational opportunities through U.S.-Mongolian educational exchanges and student scholarships will be an investment in our greatest resource, our youth. To give our students an advantage in international business we have made English our official second language.

Further strengthening our development efforts is the inclusion of Mongolia in the Millennium Challenge program. When we sign our compact to begin project implementation, it will add a new level of transparency, "sunlight" and public participation to this critical poverty alleviation program by supporting economic growth. The mechanics of putting together our Millennium program have involved public input and solicitation of proposals from the people. This is grass-roots governance at its best.

Mongolia's experiment with democracy is far from finished, but perhaps there are already lessons for others in what we have accomplished. There is no reason or excuse why economic and political reforms cannot go hand in hand. The concept that democracy is a Western value is a fallacy. It is a universal value inherited by each and every person in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.

How we share those values abroad is as important as institutionalizing them here at home.

Mongolians are standing shoulder to shoulder with their U.S. and coalition colleagues to create free societies and fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. The recent bombings in Jordan and attacks in Iraq are a warning that defeating terrorism will take international cooperation and dedication.

Mongolians are justifiably proud of the country we are building. Many within Asia can find examples in our economic and political successes as well as learning from our failures.

President Bush's historic visit to Mongolia will give us much-needed encouragement. It will also help us recall our past while rededicating our efforts to build peace, freedom and prosperity in the volatile regions of Northeast Asia.

The writer is prime minister of Mongolia.

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Dilbert on Mongolia

Posted without comment except to say that Dilbert has never once been funny to me. Link.

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First-hand impression of Bush in Mongolia

Carrie has a few interesting comments, especially about the event itself. She has a few editorial comments as well. Her anti-Bush comments leave a bit to be desired. Regardless, the post is worth the visit for a first hand account.

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Mongolian Blogging Universe Expands

...and given the quality and frequency of yan's comments at our own blog, ...yuu bna? ("What's up?") may well become the brightest star in it. Everybody, do yourself a treat and check it out.

I've bloglined you, yan, and will check in frequently for your always insightful comments. Best of luck.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bush Visits and We're Off-line

Oy. We're out of town and have been forced into ultra-light blogging due to our Internet access. It's a bummer, since Bush just visited and there's lots to be said. In the mean time, here's Registan and Mongolian Matters with some news/blog roundups. We hope to weigh in later. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Greener Pastures


Summer evenings like this are a distant memory now that the steppe has given way to sub-zero temperatures. Posted by Picasa

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Surprise!

It's understandable that more folks don't really know what's going on in Mongolia. It's not like it's in the news (mainstream or otherwise) every day. So it's good to see when reporters with a broad readership travel there and share their revelations with a bit of wide-eyed wonder and genuine surprise. George Lewis, correspondent for NBC News is there now in advance of Bush's visit, and he's pretty astonished that Mongolia isn't a failing state in which people surpress their women, loathe America, and wish to be secluded from the rest of the world. Surprise!

And thought it might be news to NBC (see headline), none of this is likely to surprise Mr. Bush.

Re: Mr. Lewis's first point, though, a gentle correction: Yes, Mongolians are quite friendly toward Americans. But as any foreigner who's been to Mongolia can tell you, Mongolians give warm hospitality to just about anyone who happens by their ger regardless of the traveler's passport.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Critiquing the Critic: Bikales on Rossabi

Mongolia Web prints a blistering review by William Bikales of Morris Rossabi's book Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists (via Mongolian Matters). Well worth the read for its brief economic history of Mongolia and its point by point criticism of what he judges to be Rossabi's underlying point:
Rossabi...arguesthe foreign donors who came to Mongolia’s aid following the 1991 termination of Soviet support forced the country to follow “pure market” policies of shock therapy, minimal government and privatization. The disastrous results, supposedly, were poverty, corruption, environmental degradation, cultural decline and economic dependence on China.
He also sums up (and dismisses) Rossabi's proposed solution to poverty.
The government must pay higher wages and pensions, maintain other social expenditures, and hold down electricity and heat prices. Environmental degradation? Hire lots of park rangers and enforce those laws. Industrial decline? Support companies with budget funds and low interest bank credits, and with high import tariffs and export bans on raw materials. Difficulties in the lives of the herding population? Maintain the heavily subsidized herder cooperatives of the communist era. And so on.
That's some plan. Just thinking out loud here, but perhaps Rossabi would be interested in a reconstituted USSR to fund such a project.

Anyway, like I say, the entire review is exceedingly interesting. While you're at it, please check out Mr. Bikales's informal yet important addendum to his review at Mongolia Matters.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Spelling Disaster?

This is the second time I've heard about this, so I thought I'd post a quick link to it--though there must be a more complete treatment of this somewhere:
The [Mongolian] government also is working with the United States on a project to change the Mongolian language from the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet.
I mentioned this to Mongol, who was outraged about the whole thing. I must admit I'm scratching my head about it, too. I mean, I'm a dyed in the cashmere conservative (with a small c). Change doesn't come easy to me (read my thoughts on land-privatization in Mongolia here and here to see what I'm talking about). If it works one way, why tinker with it and in the process blow everything up?

From a purely practical standpoint, I can forsee any number of problems tied with this: Everything in modern Mongolian history/government/society/culture, etc. is in the Cyrillic alphabet. Switching to the Roman alphabet seems like a recipie for a disaster of discontinuity between Mongolia's past century and the years to come. How much will quite literally lost in translation? How does one bridge the gap that will inevitably open? What will happen when older people can no longer read the "new" Mongolian? For that matter, what will happen when young people can no longer read the "old" Mongolian? Mongolia was robbed once of their history when the USSR russified everything. Is Mongolia going to lose it again when the most recent 100 years of history become locked behind a Cyrillic alphabet that no-one but older generations and scholars can decipher? Besides, hasn't Mongolia already tried to make a switch to the classic Mongolian script, only to have it founder and for the most part disappear?

This isn't to say that I don't understand the arguments in favor of the switch. Indeed, those arguments are formidable, especially from a pragamatic standpoint. Let's face it--English is the new lingua franca of the world, and anything a country can do to make its language accessible to English speakers, so much the better. Success (economic, political, etc.) is in large part due to how integrated one is with the world as a whole, and the world speaks English. Still, though, the whole idea seems too dismissive of heritage (no matter how recent, no matter how Russian, no matter how imperialist) and the way things are on the ground to be very appealing to me.

Having said all that, I hope with all my heart that the change is more successful than my admitedly narrow mind can imagine.

For another perspective, I'd be interested to read Mongol's thoughts about this if time permits posting.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

More American Visitors

Aparently, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also on the way to Mongolia. Rumsfeld, Rice, Bush. Mongolia scores a hat-trick.

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The Complete Bush-ETV Interview

From the White House website, here's the complete interview that President Bush did with Eagle Television. As everyone loves to remind everyone else, Bush is not the most nuanced man in the world. Frankly speaking, I think that's more of a positive than a negative. For one, it makes things like his his conviction about democracy and its importance in emerging nations such as Mongolia is as apparent as it is deeply held:
Q So, there are many developing countries in Asia. So why did you choose to visit Mongolia at this time?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I am really looking forward to going. This is going to be an exciting trip for me and Laura. Mongolia has got a certain fascination for me. I grew up in the west of the United States where there's -- where we like wide open spaces. And when you think about Mongolia, you think about a big country with a lot of space. But what's interesting about Mongolia is it's more than geography now, as far as I'm concerned. It's a people that have worked hard to become free, a democracy.

We kind of consider ourselves -- and we like the slogan, "the third neighbor" of Mongolia. And so I've chosen to go there because of the spirit of the people, and a leadership that shares our desire to let the -- to have a government of and by and for the people.

Q Great. So, Mr. President, let's talk for a moment about America's foreign policy.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay.

Q Democracies change leaders every few years, so in that change often comes a change in a nation's foreign policy. So what steps has your administration taken to ensure that the foreign policy initiatives you have taken will continue to be guiding principles for the U.S. after you leave the White House?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, that's a very interesting question. First of all, there are certain values that are inherent in our country that any leader will bring to the White House: the value of human rights, human dignity, freedom to worship, freedom of the press, freedom to speak your mind. And so foreign policy will have inherent in it those values.

The other thing is, is that once democracy takes hold -- it's hard work to make it work, but once it takes hold, it's hard to change it. Because democracy really speaks to the people and says, we listen to you, you're free, you can realize your dreams. And so one of the things my administration is doing is working in places where there hasn't been democracy. I think of the Palestinian Territories, or Iraq. We're working in places where there's a new democracy to help strengthen those democracies. Lebanon is a good example -- Georgia, Ukraine. We're working with countries that have dedicated themselves to democracy but want the friendship of the United States to help them even further democracy. And Mongolia is such a case.

And so one way you leave behind a foundation that others can't undo is to give people -- help people develop a form of government that just can't be unwound unless something catastrophic were to take place inside the country.

Q Okay, great. So as part of our new relationship, Mongolia has contributed our peacekeeping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. So in the future, if there are any military threats against Mongolia by its neighbors, would the U.S., under your administration also rise to our defense?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a very good question. We're close friends. And by being friends, I think we can prevent any potential military dispute from arising. But of course we would support our friends. We certainly would -- nobody anticipates over the next three years of my administration any force being used against our friend. But my visit should send a signal to the people of Mongolia that you've got a friend in the United States and a friend in George W. Bush.

Q Great to hear it. So during your visit to Mongolia, you will be addressing the nation in a wide televised address. So our nation is experiencing a crisis of corruption.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q So you will be speaking to our leaders and our nation about the dangers that corruption poses to our democracy. Can you give us a preview about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not going to give you a preview of the speech, because then people may not watch it if they get a preview, see. On the other hand, I will say on your TV screens, there should be no corruption in government, that one of the foundations of any government is the ability for the people to trust the government, itself. And a foundation of democracy, and a foundation of our foreign policy, and a foundation of our Millennium Challenge Account is that there be honest government.

Q Okay. The next related question is going to be to Millennium Challenge.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay.

Q So how has the issue of political corruption affected Mongolia's status for the Millennium Challenge Account?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we intend to move forward on the Millennium Challenge Account with Mongolia. Mongolia is a friend. On the other hand, we will insist that as a condition of the Millennium Challenge checks being written that there be honest government, that there be investment in health and education of the people, that there be a dedication to rule of law and to the marketplace.

Q Okay, the last question is so important for our television. You might be aware that the Eagle Television was the first independent TV station established in Mongolia, with American Christians, and Mongolians are working together to advance freedom of speech, press and conscience in our country. So, first, how do you feel about the role of ordinary American citizens supporting this kind of work for Mongolia's democracy? And the second, what further role do you think the ordinary American citizens can play in helping to address faith and freedom in Mongolia through media?

THE PRESIDENT: Very good question. First of all, I believe in a free media, and I believe that people ought to -- and a media that is independent from government, like we have in America, is an important part of a society. In other words, government officials should not fear a free media, they ought to welcome a free media.

Listen, in my own media, I don't agree with everything that is said, but I strongly support their right to say it, just like I strongly support the right of people of faith to be involved with helping to spread this concept of freedom.

Secondly, I think investments will help the people of Mongolia. In other words, there's a way for people in America -- businesses, for example -- to invest in Mongolia, because that means jobs and stability and a good future.

But, no, listen, you'll find Americans are very compassionate people that love freedom. And they want to help people be free. And by the way, your form of government is democracy, but it ought to reflect your traditions and your great history. And I know it is.

Listen, I'm looking forward to going to your wonderful country. It's going to be a fantastic experience. I'm excited, I truly am excited to come.

Q Great. Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very good job. Thank you.

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Condition for Aid: Eliminate Corruption

Bush told Mongolia's Eagle Television that American aid depends on the Mongolian Government's cleaning up its act:
President George W. Bush warned Mongolia that there "should be no corruption in government," if it wanted to receive American aid."

I will say on your TV screens, there should be no corruption in government, that one of the foundations of any government is the ability for the people to trust the government, itself," the president told Mongolia's Eagle television....

"A foundation of our foreign policy, and a foundation of our Millennium Challenge Account is that there be honest government," the president added.

"On the other hand, we will insist that as a condition of the Millennium Challenge checks being written that there be honest government, that there be investment in health and education of the people, that there be a dedication to rule of law and to the marketplace," he pointed out.

Millennium Challenge Accounts have been created by the Bush administration as part of reform of US foreign aid programs.

I don't know how much a televised call to clean up government will be, even if it's issued by America's president and is backed with a threat to withhold aid. Ultimately, the only way to clean up government is to clean up people. Still, though, the more light on the subject, the better.


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Why Mongolia (2)

Guido at Mongolian Matters reports the word on the streets about Mr. Bush's visit:
I heard the joke that he is jealous at Rumsfeld for getting a horse, and wants one too. A more serious rumor I heard is that he might promise import tax exemptions for Mongolia, what could potentially mean a boost for the Mongolian economy. The return favor being most probably continued support in Iraq, because the official statement doesn't make much of a secret about that being the most important topic.
Re: the horse: he'll probably get one.

Re: the rumor: interesting, and exciting, and if true, a great idea.

Re: Iraq: right on.

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New Blog Alert

Mongoliac is written by a Brit in Mongolia about everything and anything there that strikes her fancy.

Update: OK, OK, it's not all that new, but it is new to me.

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Speaking of Slaughter...

The leftover knuckles could be used for this traditional Mongolian game. (From The Golden Road to Samarqand.)


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Cuisine Mongolien: avec Photografs

There's my from the hip attempt at French. Which should be an indication of just how little I understood over at this page. But each of the pictures there are worth a thousand words (and ten thousand words in French). This should give you a good idea of how a goat or lamb is slaughtered in Mongolia, as well as different types of Mongolian food. Fascinating if you've never seen this kind of thing. Some pictures are definitely not for the squeemish.

Note: in case you're wondering about the first pictures (slaughter), the way they kill a goat is to make an incision in the animal's belly (picture 2) and then reach in and up to pinch a critical artery (picture 3). This (a) kills the goat, (b) insures that no blood leaves the goat's body, and (c) makes the slaughterer's arm exceedingly messy.

Mmmm....makes me hungry.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Presidential Travels: Why Mongolia?

Well, today just that question was answered over at "Ask the White House"--"an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House." Dr. Michael Green was doing the honors today, and this was his answer:
In Mongolia the President will congratulate the Mongolian people on the progress they have made to become a mature and stable democracy and he will thank them for their role in Iraq. Per capita only two other countries have sent more of their soldiers to help the Iraqi people establish a democratic and stable nation. It is young democracies like Mongolia's that often understand freedom the most, and the President wants to say thank you. He also wants to demonstrate that even remote countries have a strong friend in the United States when they embark on the path of reform and good governance.
Interesting note about the per capita involvement in Iraq. I hadn't considered that before.

In response to whether the American President will take in any cultural sights and sounds in Mongolia, Dr. Green mentioned that "the President and First Lady will visit a traditional Ger (felt tent) village to see Mongolian traditional throat singing, horse-head fiddle playing and other cultural events."

We look forward to the actual trip and to seeing what comes of it.

After all, it's not every day the leader of the Free World visits the Central Asian steppe.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Third Neighbor"

Via Elephants in Academia (which is via Publius Pundit in turn), a story by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times (reg. required) re: Rumsfeld in Mongolia.
Mongolia is focusing its defense efforts on building close relations with its neighbors rather than undertaking a large-scale military buildup, the official said. It considers the United States its "third neighbor" after Russia and China.

"We have a strong bilateral relationship based on shared values," the official said.
(bold mine) Nice, huh ?

Mongolia is doing this mainly out of self interest. And that's a good thing. That's what countries are supposed to do. Anyway there's a lot that can come with this kind of relationship. For one:
The United States is providing Mongolia's forces with $18 million to upgrade outdated and aging equipment. Part of the money will help pay for setting up an international peacekeeping training center under the Global Peace Operations Initiative. The center is under construction at the Five Hills Training Center outside Ulan Bator.
Publius makes a good observations as well.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Economic help for Mongolian Private Sector

Good news from the Asian Development Bank:
ADB will support the Mongolian Government in promoting higher private sector-led growth and inclusive social development, in a new Country Strategy and Program (CSP) for 2006-2008.

The CSP proposes assistance from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund totaling about $85 million over the three years, averaging about $28 million a year. This will be supplemented by an additional $40 million from ADB's regional fund and cofinancing sources. The lending program will be supported by technical assistance grants averaging about $1.9 million a year.

The CSP aims to help Mongolia maintain stable broad-based economic growth and address priority goals of reducing disparities in development between urban and rural areas, while improving access to jobs, incomes, and higher quality public services.

Planned for the period are projects to address urban development, public administration reform, agriculture, transport, and health.
Of course, the intractible problem here is the amazingly primitive state of Mongolia's population. And I mean that in a proudly positive way. As I've noted before, Mongolia's singular for its success (largely accidental) at presrving its historical way of life, which consists mainly of herding on wide open, non-private (and non-government) land. One of the problems has been people migrating to the cities to seek work as the economy isn't strong--or developed--or even really existing at all--in the countryside. After all, there are not all that many Mongolian towns in the sense that a westerner might understand the term. Herders live a fairly independent and transient life, so it's hard, even impossible, for shops and garages and barbershops and manufacturers to pop up and have much logevity. If you can't make money (or even survive) herding, there's very little option than to move to a city (esp. Ulaan Baator). But there are so few jobs in the cities, that people fleeing to the city for work (1) doesn't help them and (2) doesn't help UB and even (3) doesn't help the Mongolia economy all that much. There are many factors for this. And people have been working on solving the problem.

With the ADB doing what they're doing, it looks like help is slowly and surely on the way. But agian, as I've noted (I'll add links later; sorry), the change that it seems must happen will happen with a heavy cost: the ending of traditional Mongolian life. Indeed, permanence and a departure from the age old nomadic way of life may be the only way for Mongolia to ever take economic flight. More on this later.

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Rumsfeld's Visit

So, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld's come and gone. And he got a horse in the deal, too. (He named the horse Montana, so much does Mongolia remind him of Montana.--Ah, how that warms the cockles of my Montanan/Mongolian heart!) .

Anyway, the US-Mongolia relationship seems to be ever tightening--something that's mutually beneficial to both. Mongolia's a rising star in peace-keeping, and one that's unabashadly friendly to America--somehwat of a rarity these days. From a WaPo story, we learn of the benefits to both. For America, there's the need for allies who are proactive with regard to active peacekeeping and (see more on this in the article) anti-terrorism:
On what he said was the first visit by U.S. defense secretary to Mongolia, Rumsfeld sought to encourage Mongolia's efforts to build a peacekeeping force with global reach.

"If there's anything that's clear in the 21st century it's that the world needs peacekeepers," Rumsfeld said at a news conference with his Mongolian counterpart, Sharavdorj.

..."I congratulate the people of Mongolia, the government and the armed forces of Mongolia for selecting that (peacekeeping) as a principle aspect of their military focus, and certainly the United States is anxious and willing and ready to be of assistance," Rumsfeld said.

For Mongolia, there's the need for foreign assistance and constructive attention from movers and shakers in the geopolitical realm:

A contingent of six U.S. Marines is working closely with the Mongolian Army, which numbers 11,000. The Pentagon is planning to supply the army with body armor and other equipment to help Mongolians design a more modern force proficient in peacekeeping duties.

Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is eager for closer military-to-military relations with the U.S. and a measure of international prestige for a focus on peacekeeping. Peacekeeping can also prove lucrative; those missions placed under U.N. control pay relatively well.

Also of note in the story, Rumsfelds comments regarding two recently-minted Mongolian heros:

Rumsfeld also spoke to a group of 180 Mongolian soldiers who had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.

He told them that history would look kindly on their efforts and he thanked them for their contributions.

"It's a privilege to be able to look you in the eye and say thank you," Rumsfeld said.

He singled out two soldiers, Sgt. Azzya and Sgt. Sambuu-Yondon. They were on a patrol near Hilla, Iraq, in February 2004 when they fired on and killed the driver of a truck who turned out to be a suicide bomber. Their action apparently saved a number of lives of Mongolian and other coalition troops.

Rumsfeld's visit is no doubt heartening to many Mongolia watchers. But the next state visit looks to be billed even better. President Bush himself. Mongol's eyes were bright upon hearing this news. Perhaps a trip to Mongolia to see Bush in Mongol's homeland? Depends on how much our readers donate :)


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Friday, October 21, 2005

New Blog!

Well, folks, Mongolian blogs are really popping up these days. And it's a good thing, since we've been posting so little of late. Anyway, stepping into the now-not-so-yawning vacuum of Mongolian blogs is Alex Batbold. Alex was born and raised in Mongolia and has been living in the US for the past seven years, so I'll be anticipating some interesting observations from him about Mongolia, etc.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Alex!

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Rummy to Mongolia

Looks like the US Secretary of Defense is on the way to Mongolia. Via acyyx.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Investing in Entrepreneurs

This is exactly the kind of thing we'd like to see a lot more of in Mongolia. I'll let Mercy Corps's press release speak for itself (italics mine):
MANDALGOVI, Mongolia -- Small-time cashmere trader Davaasuren suffered through Gobi Desert droughts and freezes while dreaming of starting a business. He wanted to supply his town with eggs, but he lacked money for chickens. Portland-based Mercy Corps aimed to help Mongolians out of poverty, but the humanitarian organization avoids handouts that foster dependency. So Mercy Corps introduced Davaasuren -- who like many Mongolians, goes by one name -- to XacBank, a commercial bank that the nonprofit launched four years ago.

Now a loan from XacBank, pronounced "hassbank," enables the 29-year-old entrepreneur to sell fresh eggs, replacing those trucked in from the capital under the former socialist system. More XacBank loans allow scores of Gobi Desert herders to survive by launching small shops, factories and gas stations.

The idea of a humanitarian organization establishing a for-profit bank might seem as far-fetched as the presence of a tree in the harshest region of Mongolia. But nonprofit development organizations have funded commercial enterprises in places ranging from Romania and Haiti to Aceh, the tsunami-battered area of Indonesia.

Humanitarians may be new to the profit ethic, but they like the idea of creating incentives and of founding banks and businesses that last far longer than one-time grants. They acknowledge the commercial approach bypasses the poorest of the poor, but they say other conventional programs already address those needs. "The reason you own the for-profit companies is because you want to make something sustainable and last forever," says Ed Epp, Mennonite Economic Development Associates vice president for resource development.

Instead of awarding grants in Nicaragua, for example, MEDA bought a bank and redirected it to make small loans. In Haiti, the group founded a credit union that's become the nation's largest.

Mercy Corps goes a step further. It trains Mongolian herders and others, helping them prepare business plans and apply for loans. Then Mercy Corps guarantees some of the collateral so that XacBank, or a competing bank, can assume less risk and charge lower interest.

In an added twist, Mercy Corps links some of its global beneficiaries -- including Davaasuren, the egg man -- to donors with business experience. Western entrepreneurs who donate $10,000 shares to Mercy Corps' Phoenix Fund can advise on business plans and visit projects financed by the fund....

Mercy Corps' objective is not to move nomads off the range. It aims to diversify incomes, stemming migration to Ulan Bator, the nation's swelling capital. "Herders realize they can't afford to be a single-product kind of business," says Steve Zimmerman, Mercy Corps Mongolia country director. "They can produce dairy goods, make furniture, run gas stations."
This is great, great news. Among other things, it addresses a number of problems in Mongolia. Namely,
  1. It seeks to foster financial independence instead of dependency. In other words, it helps foster an ownership society, at least in a small way.
  2. It has a long-term view: don't give them a fish--teach them how to fish.
  3. It addresses the problem of exorbitant interest charges by lowering risk to local financial institutions. I've heard reports of people in Mongolia borrowing money to start businesses and paying well over 100% in yearly interest on it.
  4. It links local entrepreneurs to experienced business people and has what looks to be something like a business mentoring program.
  5. It seeks to preserve Mongolian culture intact and stemming the unsustainable tide of job-seeking migrants to UB from the countryside.
While large scale business investment in resources, etc. are great (see previous posts), small scale investment in ground-level business people is just as critical. I look forward to seeing where this takes us.

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A Study in Frustration

I can't describe how galling it is to read this item from Xinhuanet. It would hardly be more ironic if France became the leading center of British studies.
HOHHOT, Aug. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- China is the leading center of Mongolian studies in the world, according to experts convened at the International Symposium on Mongolian Studies, which closed in the capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Sunday.

More than 330 scholars of the Mongolian studies from 13 countries and regions attended the three-day academic meeting, which collected 240 thesis papers covering linguistics, translation, culture studies of the language as well as the latesttrend of economic, military and archeological development in the Mongolia-speaking regions.

Professor J. A. Janhunen of Helsinki University said China is in a very important position to offer materials for Mongolian Studies.

Janhunen witnessed that Chinese scholars in the sector have hadincreasing contacts with their foreign counterparts in recent years. "Many scholars from China's Inner Mongolia University studyin Germany, Britain, France and also in Finland. I had two doctoral students from the university in my institution in Helsinki."

The Finnish professor, who first visited the Inner Mongolia Region in 1986, said that the international meeting held in Hohhotwas better organized and larger than most previous ones, which showed that the Mongolian studies had received more attention fromthe Chinese government and also the regional government of Inner Mongolia.
One anticipates the day when Mongolia becomes heralded as the academic center of its own heritage. Perhaps I'm giving too much credit to this report, but I don't think it's that far off base. Regardless, I wonder how scholars who are Mongolian would weigh in on this. Baabar, are you reading this?

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Ties strengthen with the UAE and Turkey

Connections between Mongolia and oil-rich Middle Eastern states are more than apparent in Mongolia. One more connection was recently formed when the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Mongolia presented his credentials.

Turkey is also continuing to show interest in Mongolia, particularly in the textiles and food sectors:
ANKARA - Turkish Labor & Social Security Minister Murat Basesgioglu stated regarding his visit to Mongolia, ''we want to prepare an infrastructure aiming to help Turkish workers who will work in Mongolia as well as Turkish entrepreneurs who will invest in this country.''

''We will also rapidly arrange basis of working life and social security for these initiatives,'' he added....

Basesgioglu stated, ''11 Turkish companies have made investment worth of nearly 1.4 million USD in Mongolia. Annual foreign trade volume between Turkey and Mongolia is nearly 3.1 million USD.''

''Foreign trade volume between the two countries is not at desired level. We aim to provide necessary infrastructure to help Turkish entrepreneurs who will invest especially in mining, construction, textile and food sectors in Mongolia,'' he added.

I've always thought that the food sector (especially livestock) is something that a smart investor in Mongolia could captitalize on. Mongolia really ought to develop this market. It could be a potential source of sustainable growth that fits well with something the Mongol nomads have been good at for thousands of years.

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Mongolia and Kazakhstan to Strengthen Ties

News from Kazakhstan:
ASTANA. September 13. KAZINFORM./Dulat Moldabayev/ Today Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Mongolia to Kazakhstan Ravdangiin Khatanbaatar has handed credentials to the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. We have intentions to develop trade and economic relations of the states, Mongolian Ambassador said. "We will purchase petroleum derivates and grain in Kazakhstan”.

“There are many Kazakhs residing in Mongolia and lots of Kazakhs from Mongolia are living in Kazakhstan. This fact will contribute also to the development of mutual benefit collaboration,” the diplomat added.
Here's to more cooperation between the Kazakhs and Mongolians, Mongol brethren.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mongolian in Vietnam War

I just discovered here that a Mongolian, Cpl. Enver Bajin, was killed in the Vietnam War:
Cpl. Enver BAJIN116426657/6055 USMC was from College Point, New York. He was born on Dec. 27, 1948. He arrived in Viet nam on July 23, 1970. He was 21 years old at the time of his death on Nov. 18, 1970. He died as a result of a Helicopter crash on land, in Quang Nam Province, due to Hostile fire. His body was recovered. He was single. His race was Mongolian.
His name can be found at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (official page here; unofficial page here) in Washington, D.C. on panel 06W, line 67.

Semper Fi.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Still Busy

Things are still boiling. When they simmer down, I'll turn up the gas on blogging again. Thanks for the patience.

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Why I Love America: Follow Up

United News of Mongol apparently reproduced all of Mongol's post, "Why I love America." The reprinting elicited a number of interesting comments over at their blog. Check it out.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

New Mongolia Blog: Mongolian Matters

A new Mongolia blog is up and running in English, Mongolian, and, potentially at least, in Dutch. Mongolian Matters (Mens in Mongolië) is covering "life in the land of the blue heaven" and looks to be interesting.

(Via this site, I also discovered that the Mongol Messenger is back.)

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mongolia Disappears?

I was catching up at The Marmot's Hole when I stumbled upon the fact that Mongolia has--well, how to put this delicately?--vanished. What a surprise. I'm pretty sure it was there when I checked a few weeks ago. And just when we got the Mongolia blog going, too!

Seriously, though, when I first began blogging this, I had hoped that the omission of Mongolia from the China National Tourism homepage's list China's neighbors was simply an editorial oversight or at most geographical illiteracy on the part of one of the website's flunkies:
China has shared borders for centuries with Korea, the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
Then again, a commenter at The Marmot's Hole noted that neither is Tibet mentioned (understandable, perhaps). Suspicions raised, I took a look through the list again. And a very interesting list it is, too (click here for a map of the region): North Korea is identified on the list simply as "Korea." Did I miss reunification? Also, Sikkim is counted as an independent country. Sikkim was independent, but that ended in 1975, when a successful referrendum made it India's 22nd state. It's also puzzling that Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are not named--instead "the former Soviet Union" is. Aha! Perhaps the explanation for Mongolia's nonmention is this list is that it got lumped into the "former Soviet Union" along with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan--something that didn't even happen in Soviet times. While Mongolia was under aggressive Soviet influence, its independence was always recognized (cf. old Czechoslovakia, Hungary).

Anyway, I have written a [polite] e-mail to the webmaster of the site in question (webmaster@cnta.gov.cn) kindly requesting a correction with regard to Mongolia. If that goes well, I might follow up re: Korea, Sikkim, etc. I'll be sure to blog any responses.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Out of Pocket; Quick Roundup

Life has sped up a few notches and I've been left with very, very little time to blog. Many thanks to those who have commented. I'll try to respond sooner or later--whenever things calm down again.

In the mean time...
  1. Andy from Siberianlight.net was kind enough to send me an interesting link about Jews in Mongolia. Actually, there were 3 or 4 such stories on the wires when he sent it. Very interesting. Check it out. I'd be interested to know if any Mongolians have converted to Judaism.
  2. Always wanted to go to Mongolia, but never have? Here's more fuel for the fire.
  3. It's a bad summer in Mongolia for animal diseases that can be contracted by humans--Anthrax (another story here) and Avian Flu. Hopefully this doesn't cancel out your desire to visit Mongolia.
  4. Here's something on the Mongolian gold rush. I haven't commented on it in the past, but it's a growing issue there and is constantly in the news (mining in general is, too).
That's it for now. Signing off...

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Why I Love America

A few nights ago, we had our friend (an American) over for dinner. Of course, the conversation went on and on about US policies in foreign countries. Our friend kept insisting and trying to convince us that America is doing everything wrong by trying to "help" other countries and by “telling other countries what to do.”

After much listening him and Nabetz talk, I could not but ask them to be quiet for a little bit. The first thing that came to my mind was to ask our friend whether he had ever lived (not traveled, not visited, but lived!) in a communist country or in a country with totalitarian regime? Of course, he hadn’t it (otherwise he would not talk like he did). And rivers of feeling flooded my being when I thought of how appreciative I am to what America believes in and to what America tries to carry out throughout the world. Politics is not my arena of strength, so I will not go into details about American foreign policy. However, I know that America believes in Democracy and believes in making the world free.

I grew up in a Communist country and came to US when I was 22 years old. And I could not believe my eyes when I saw how free and care-free people could live. On my first day of college in America, the professor asked me to write an assay about what I wanted to be in five years. I had never thought about what I want to be in five years! In Mongolia, we never wrote a paper on "what I want to be" or "how I see myself in 10 years". In communist Mongolia, you were always told what to be and what to do.

But the main reason I love America is for giving the world freedom, which comes with the true meaning of democracy. In 1990, Mongolia opened up for the first time. And one of the first things that came with democracy was the freedom of religion. We all grew up under the influence of Buddhism, because there was nothing else offered. (All religion, even Buddhism, was strictly controlled by the communist regime). The people usually would go to the temple to worship idols, and offer a little of what they had (usually money) or invite over the monks (lamas) and spread a feast for them. However, in the early 90's many different missionary groups came to Mongolia and began to preach. For the first time we had a chance to openly ask questions and to choose to believe for ourselves.

Often I wish that many Americans would go out and live in a third world country. Many of them, of course, would “break” in the harshness and unfairness of life there. But some might return full of inward strength and with deep appreciation that a country like America exists!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Welcome, Corner Readers

How flattered we are that a quick comment to Mr. Derbyshire on his post re: barbarism vs. civilization would result in a link to this lowly blog from no place other than The Corner. We are deeply honored.

More than anything, we hope that this blog gets people thinking about, travelling to, and investing in, Mongolia. The Land of the Eternal Sky is making rapid progress out of the mess that the Soviet Union made of it, and the backwardness from which it had hitherto been. We're here to chronicle that progress and to give the world a place to watch it happen.

Thanks to the Derb for posting, and and to you, gentle reader, for stopping by.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Historic Day

On this day in 1991, Secretary of State James Baker (US) became the first Western diplomat to address the Mongolian parliament. (source via Google News)

Perhaps more interestingly, James Baker had previously visited Mongolia briefly on August 2, 1990, which happens to be the day on which Sadam Hussein invaded Kuwait. At the time, he was at a USA-USSR summit. Gwendolyn Stewart, in her yet to be published Russia Redux, picks up the fascinating story, in which Mongolia plays, admittedly, only a cameo.
The atmosphere of the entire ministerial "summit" was good-natured and rather casual. For Baker and Shevardnadze, it was their sixteenth meeting in eighteen months.

Arms control was the official focus of their working sessions in the nearby half-million strong city of Irkutsk, with Afghanistan and Cambodia also prominent on the agenda. There was bargaining over the Soviet desire for another Bush-Gorbachev summit that year. The get-together broke up on its second day, August 2, 1990, with a morning press conference featuring the two foreign ministers standing above us on a veranda in Irkutsk, and with the sudden, startling news just afterwards that Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. The Iraqi ruler's move put paid to all the questions the reporters had been so focused on a moment before. Now it was: How would Moscow respond to U.S. military action against its Iraqi ally? Baker dutifully made his scheduled way a few hundred miles to the capital city of Ulan Bator on an abbreviated mission to Mongolia, yet another "emerging democracy," then flew back to Moscow to nail down a joint statement with Shevardnadze. They met at the Moscow airport August 3 to visually and viscerally fix into people's minds the jointness of their actions.

James Baker has gone so far as to pronounce August 2, 1990, "The Day the Cold War Ended," and to assert that "the world as I had known it for my entire adult life would no longer exist." Since he was one of the principals, he may be forgiven for thinking that the real end of the Cold War came on his watch. Even Bush's National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft, who was not there, and not un-competitive, also acknowledges its significance. The Baker-Shevardnadze joint declaration condemning the invasion, he writes, "dramatically put the two superpowers on the same side of a major crisis for the first time since the Cold War began." The prospective payoff was the possibility of UN resolutions against Iraq, free of the risk of Soviet vetoes.
Interesting what one happens across on the Internet, no?

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Further Thoughts on China

In answer to a bit of skepticism voiced by a frequent and faithful commenter, I thought I’d write out more fully my thoughts about the US-China situation and Max Boot's comments on it. My argument (if indeed that's what it is) is not airtight, but it should give you a sense of where I'm coming from and why, to boot, I didn't give Boot the boot.

I fully own that some of the stuff Boot wrote about seems a bit iffy and smells strongly of what might be conspiracy theorism. But I think that Boot is right about the direction China isheaded. In fact, I think that eventually it's going to come to push and shove between China and the USA. We're talking about the general idea here.

It's not like we haven't seen this kind of conflict, even in recent history. The Soviet Union, anyone? Admittedly, China is a vastly different beast with vastly different intentions. But that doesn’t mean that it won't still be a threat of international proportions. Let me explain.

First, from what I’ve read and been told, China has never really had any designs on empire ...beyond it's own region, that is. Today as yesterday, China is at heart an introspective nation that basically wants to do it's own thing and be left alone. It's been like this for thousands of years and I can't imagine things changing. The problem is that while China hasn't changed, the world around it has. To simplify grossly, China used to have its own sandbox and could do pretty much as it wished without any greater power interfering (or being interfered with, for that matter). When Europe started to project it's power into the region in the 18th and 19th century, Chinese aspirations began to be limited by international actors, and the Middle Kingdom, which since time out of memory had generally been able to maintain it's own sphere of uncontested influence (Mongols, etc. notwithstanding), no longer held total sway its backyard.

Despite the change of international dynamics, China's ambitions today remain as they always have been: regional dominance/empire and a desire to not be bothered by outsiders. Now, couple this deep, traditional aspiration with its growing demand for resources and economic influence with which is can fuel it's recent industrial and economic growth and what you get is an empire hungry country that now must, somewhat paradoxically, look abroad in order to (and before it can) fulfill its domestic dreams.

Right now the United States happens to be, on balance, helpful to China as China seeks to realize its economic and industrial purposes. In fact, until last week, the Yuan was pegged to dollar, meaning that China's economic future was tied to US economic success. While the US is assisting China's growth today, however, it is also in many ways stifling it--especially with regard to empire building (or at least hegemony-retention). Hence, when the US completely outgrows its usefulness to China and China no longer relies on the US as it has in the past, it should be no surprise to anyone that China will desire to eliminate USinternational influence, which by that point will the biggest hurdle between China and it's dreams. When that tipping point comes in the China-US relationship, why should anyone be surprised if the way that China elects to get the US out of its way is to engage in warfare, conventional or otherwise, perhaps even in the way that Boot describes? I, for one, would not be surprised in the least. War has a long and illustrious history in the conflict resolution department.

By all accounts, that tipping point is fast approaching. One of the indications, I think, is the recent change in China’s monetary policy. No longer is the Yuan pegged to the US dollar. Instead, it’s pegged to a “basket” of international currencies. This is an indication that China’s starting to get it’s economic sea legs and feel a bit more independent from the US in terms of economic prosperity. And then there’s China’s major military buildup and increasingly bellicose stance toward the US over the past few years. The news in the past few weeks has been full of the new military threat that China is presenting to the world. Now China’s generals are rattling sabers and polishing the red button. Could it be that China’s getting ready to rumble once the time is right? To me the answer is clear.

I think it high time we face the music and begin to realize it's very, very possible that the dragon is getting ready to turn the tables and slay the knight. China doesn’t want US territory. China doesn’t really want anything beyond its historic sphere of influence, which is to say, East (and some Central) Asia. All it cares about is ending the limitations that the one remaining superpower in the world is creating for China’s Asian empire. Once the US is defeated and sent home licking its wounds, no one (let alone any superpower) would be left to stop China from doing whatever it has a mind to in Asia (goodbye, Taiwan). And the ancient dream of an undisturbed Chinese empire could be fulfilled.


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Speaking of the Turks

There's what looks to be a great new book about them and the Turkic people as a whole by Hugh Pope and a fascinating review of the book here (via The Corner).

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Turkish Delight (Second Helping)

More on the family reunion that is Turkish-Mongolian relations (from Turkey's Zaman online newspaper:
Turkey revives its historic relations with Mongolia to have closer ties with Central Asian countries.

Turkey will assist in the economic development of Mongolia. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan conducted a visit to Mongolia together with State Minister Besir Atalay, Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Hilmi Guler and Minister of Agriculture Mehdi Eker. Erdogan and his entourage were welcomed by Mongolian Minister of Education Punstag Tsagaan at Ulan Bator Airport. "Welcome to your motherland esteemed prime minister!" Tsaagan said. Erdogan first held meeting with his Mongolian counterpart Tasahia Elbegdorj. The two countries signed industrial, commercial and technological cooperation agreements and an agreement regarding the appropriation of land for embassies was also signed.

Erdogan expressed pleasure to be in the country of the Mongolian sovereign Cengiz Han (Genghis Khan). The parties discussed military, economic, commercial and tourism issues. "May our relations continue not only at business level but also at cultural level and may my visit become the start of a new era and synergy between our countries," declared Erdogan.

The Turkish Prime Minister referring to the importance of the deep historical ties between the two countries said these relations should be reinforced in many aspects. Turkey aims to increase its mutual trade volume from three million dollars to $50 millions, Erdogan added. This medium term target is highly important for Mongolia. The country's budget is $500 million and it has a population of only 2.7 million. The Turkish Prime Minister encouraged fellow businessmen to invest in organized industrial zones specifically for the leather manufacturing and production that will be established in Ulan Bator.

Mongolian Prime Minister Elbegdorj informed Erdogan about the Genghis Khan Complex that they plan to build and asked, "support from friends". Erdogan responded positively to his Mongolian counterpart regarding this request.

Erdogan and his delegation will travel to the Karakurum province, where the Orhun Inscriptions (ancient Turkish Monuments with Turkish inscriptions) stand. The foundation of a 46-km long highway that will be built connecting Karakurum and Kultigin and Bilke Kagan Monuments was laid. Turkey will meet all construction costs of the five million dollar project in addition to building a museum and collecting artworks, historical artifacts belonging to the Mongolian's ancestors for protection and preservation in the museum. Construction of the highway and the museum is expected to contribute Mongolia's tourism.


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The Southern Threat

Oh, and let's keep an eye out south of the border, too. This article is mainly about Sino-American relations, but a China that's looking at sinking the US probably woudn't be that safe to resource-rich Mongolia just up the road.
Cols. Qiao and Wang write approvingly of Al Qaeda, Colombian drug lords and computer hackers who operate outside the "bandwidths understood by the American military." They envision a scenario in which a "network attack against the enemy" — clearly a red, white and blue enemy — would be carried out "so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed," leading to "social panic, street riots and a political crisis." Only then would conventional military force be deployed "until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable peace treaty."

This isn't just loose talk. There are signs of this strategy being implemented. The anti-Japanese riots that swept China in April? That would be psychological warfare against a major Asian rival. The stage-managed protests in 1999, after the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, fall into the same category.

The bid by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co., to acquire Unocal? Resource warfare. Attempts by China's spy apparatus to infiltrate U.S. high-tech firms and defense contractors? Technological warfare. China siding against the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council over the invasion of Iraq? International law warfare. Gen. Zhu's threat to nuke the U.S.? Media warfare.

And so on. Once you know what to look for, the pieces fall into place with disturbing ease. Of course, most of these events have alternative, more benign explanations: Maybe Gen. Zhu is an eccentric old coot who's seen "Dr. Strangelove" a few too many times.
Read the whole article by Max Boot if you don't have enough in your life to worry about (via the Corner, BTW). Combine this article with the ones I linked to here and here, and you might be able to say that there's a lot of potential for the world to fall apart before our very eyes. And for Mongolia to be smack dab in the middle of it all.

Have a nice day.

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The Northern Threat

It's probably worthwhile to keep keep and eye north of the border. Peter Baker and Susan Glasser have written a new book, Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of the Revolution, that details Putin and his path to power. James M. Goldgeler of George Washington University reviews it:
In their brilliant study of Vladimir Putin’s rule over contemporary Russia, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser come back again and again to the current Russian president’s eerily Stalinist rhetoric about the need to avoid looking weak so as not to be beaten and his resulting Bolshevik-like obsession with control. Putin’s aim has been to pursue economic growth and recreate a strong state to rebuild Russia’s place in the world.

...At the heart of this tale is “Project Putin,” the president’s crusade to remove all challenges to his authority. It includes the elimination of independent TV networks and elections for regional governors, as well as the jailing of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the destruction of his private company, Yukos. To get a sense of how obsessive Putin can be, consider his behavior in the run-up to his re-election in 2004. After he ensured that he faced no serious opposition, Putin’s only fear was that turnout might be below the 50-percent threshold required to validate the results – which would trigger a new election, making Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who had served as Boris Yeltsin’s finance minister, acting president in the interim. So Putin fired Kasyanov and gave the job to Mikhail Fradkov, who was unknown and unthreatening.

...Methodical in its approach, as riveting as a novel in its depiction of modern Russian life, “Kremlin Rising” is a powerful indictment of Putin’s years as president. In his quest for control and a stronger Russian state, Putin is undermining Russia’s future just as Soviet leaders did in their own repressive days. Given how often President Bush has spoken of Putin’s commitment to democracy, one can only hope that this book is on the must-read list for those vacationing in Crawford, Texas, this summer.
And those vacationing in Hovsgol for that matter, too.

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New Ambassador to Beijing

Canada's Embassy Magazine reports that Dr. Galsan Batsukh, Mongolia's Ambassador to Canada is becoming ambassador to China. If you haven't already guessed, this is a big job (scroll up to see why).

Among other things he'll have to take care of are trade and investment (China's #1 when it comes to investing in Mongolia). Also key to both China's and Mongolia's national existence (industrially for China, economically for Mongolia) is mining. We wish Dr. Batsukh, his family, and his staff all the best.


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EU Heart China?

What an inauspicious couple. Beaurocratic, arrogant, and increasingly undemocratic Europe on one hand; empirialist, militarist, and anti-human rights China on the other. Both major world players by themselves, together this ugly couple could do very scary things. Ugh. And evidently, some would like to see Mongolia and Kazakhstan be the point of geo-physical union. Sick. But it's just the kind of thing the folks in Brussels dream about.
The president of the European Union Commission, Jose Barroso, has just completed a visit to China, which this year celebrates the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Brussels.

Fifteen to 20 years from now the EU, enlarged further eastwards, more integrated and more independent, might prove to be the model for the governance of macro-regions, paving the way for a global political architecture that can cope with technological, economic and business globalization.

China 2020, a booming platform, will be the link between Eastern Eurasian sub-regions, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Northeast Asia. With this anticipation in mind, we now have to shape the relationship between these two matrices of civilization.

In the post-Cold-War world, the relationship between Europe and China has gained momentum. However, as the world dramatically changed for a second time in a decade in the fall of 2001, Beijing, a model for developing countries (paving the way to poverty reduction), and Brussels, a model for cooperation between countries (paving the way to articulate sovereignty and globalization), have to take greater responsibilities to work as the main architects of a cooperative Eurasia.

In the post-September 11 world disorder, the EU and China have to conceive a genuine strategy to act as Eurasia's structuring poles, making them into the pillars, with the US, of a stable world order.

...The attitude of Central Eurasia's rising power, Kazakhstan, and of a democratic Mongolia - whose intellectual and political elite understands better than others Eurasian dimensions - complete also the picture of a Eurasian arc where a momentum for closer cooperation is gathering.
Read more about this disastrous plan for the new world order at the Asia Times (via Joel J. Legendre's Asian Gazette).

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