Wednesday, June 29, 2005

All Chinggis, All the Time

Via Fulgen I found Ghengis Khan on the Web, which introduces itself thus:
This site collects, sorts and annotates more than 275 resources about Genghis Khan, the great Mongol conqueror. It includes academic biographies to movies of his life, the hunt for his long-lost tomb and his surprising genetic legacy. It represents everything I can find of any value, but it can never be finished.
There you have it. Everything you'll ever need to know about the great Khan at your fingertips.

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Watching the Inauguration

I just found Thomo's Hole through Technorati. On it, an American working in Mongolia describes the recent presidential inauguration firsthand.

Oh, and via Thomo's Hole, I found Ella's Blog, a blog so new it only has one entry. Again, by an American working in Mongolia. I don't know whether to say that the blog shows promise or not. But with the dearth of Mongolia blogs, I'm publicizing every one I can find...

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Second-guessing China

An interesting conversation about Mongolian-Chinese relationship has started up below. The topic is an important one, and it deserves an entry of its own, so I'm bringing it here.

Yan, a frequent commentator at our blog, wonders whether China might be making friendly overtures toward Mongolia. He notes that the Chinese envoy who visited Enkhbayar, Uyunqimg, is not only the vice-chairwoman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress but is also head of the Inner Mongolian autonomous region (and deputy secretary of the Regional CPC comittee). Yan said: "I think her visit only underlines once more that the PRC regards Mongolia as a souvereign nation (and as a nation it would like to have friendly relations with). The fact that they sent an Inner Mongolian might mean they are interested in closer relations between Mongolia and Inner Mongolia as well, but that's just a wild guess."

My take: I think I'm with Yan by saying that it's hard to know exactly what China's real attitude toward Mongolia is. So it's not always easy to know what China does what it does. Is what we see what we get, or are there motives, ulterior or otherwise, that are driving events? So I guess I'm a bit more suspicious than Yan.

Sorry to be so cynical, but I'm a wee bit leery of China, especially with regard to its neighbors that were once a part of its empire. Mongolia is ripe for the picking. This would be to China's benefit in that it has the natural resources that China craves. And it's part of the old Middle Kingdom, which China's always tring to restore whether more or less aggressively. On Mongolia's side, the economy is somewhat weak, unemployment is high, its having trouble entering the global marketplace, etc. China could, I imagine, easily become "good friends" with Mongolia by offering Mongolia the benefits of a closer relationship such as economic advance, industrial development, etc. and in the process gain much influence there. China would be most pleased with such an arrangement.

I'm not really given to conspiracy theories, but I don't think that China's given up on the dream of a restored territorial empire. If no one were looking, I have no doubt that China would roll right over Taiwan. And I don't think that Mongolia would be too far down on China's to do list.

(I'd be very interested to hear what Mongolian and Chinese readers of this blog have to say about this topic.)

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Macroeconomic Assessment of 2004

Mongolia--The summery of 2004 from Asian Development Outlook.

The overall situation looks like improving, but still some heavy internal issues remain: poverty, unemployment...Here

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

President Enkhbayar Inaugerated Yesterday

President-elect Enkhbayar (MPRP) was inaugerated yesterday. Links to the story here (Montsame; garbled English/Mongolian) and here (People's Daily Online, China). Backstory here (UB Post). The People's Daily report is quoted here:
The newly elected president of Mongolia Nambaryn Enkhbayar was inaugurated Friday afternoon.

After being sworn in as president of Mongolia and accepting the State Seal from former President Nachagyn Bagabandy, Enkhbayar pledged to implement his campaign promises and justify the Mongolian people's trust in him.

A parade of military troops was also held in honor of the new president and commander-in-chief of the Mongolian armed forces.

Enkhbayar, chairman of Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party since June 1997, was elected president last month. He served as minister of culture from 1992 to 1996, and in 2000 he was elected prime minister.

After the election of parliament in 2004, he became chairman of the Mongolian parliament....

We wish him and the Mongolian people the best in their democratic adventure.

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Larry Summers, Meet Mongolia

Remember that flap over Harvard's president, Larry Summers, suggesting that there may be a genetic reason for women not having proportionate representation in academic and business circles? Well, in Mongolia, the gender gap looks to be going the other direction. I found it over at Gene Expressions. A snippet:
The preference [in Mongolia] to send daughters to college has led to what the United
Nations calls a "reverse gender gap" -- women now make up 60 percent of all students at Mongolian universities. The trend is particularly distinctive because Asia is typically considered a place where women are less valued than men.

"It's just the opposite of much of Asia. Arab and Asian students in other countries often don't believe" that this could happen, says Solongo Algaa, a demographer at the National University of Mongolia,who studies the phenomenon.

Women also perform better than men at places like National University of Mongolia, says Davaa Suren, the university's vice president. Looking over the scores on a recent entrance exam in the Mongolia-language department, he notes that 8 of the top 10 students are women. In economics, women are 7 of the top 10 students; in
science departments, women account for about half of the top 10. He shrugs when asked why the gap exists: "Perhaps women are more hard-working."

Make of it what you will.

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Soyombo


A few weeks ago, I posted something about the Mongolian flag. Well, this is to clarify a bit what the sybol to the left is all about.

From Flagspot:

"The soyombo (or soyemba) is the national emblem of Mongolia. Its origins are closely associated with Lamaism, and the various elements of the design were regarded as having mystical meanings. Individually, parts of the design also may be related to brands of ownership placed on horses and cattle. The star at the top of the modern soyombo is a recent addition to the traditional symbol; it represents socialist revolution. Below that, a fire symbol has multiple significance. It represents revival and growth, and also the family hearth and the continuity of the people. The fire has three tongues of flame, symbolizing past, present, and future. Below the fire are symbols of the sun and moon, links to the pre-Buddhist nature religion of the Mongols. In ancient Mongolian symbolism, an arrow or spear pointing to the ground meant death. In the soyombo, two downward-pointing triangles signify death to the enemies of the Mongols. Two horizontal rectangles represent honesty and fairness between rulers and the people. Set between the two horizontal rectangles is the Chinese sign of yin and yang, representing dark and light, fenale and male, cold and hot - the unity of all opposites in the cosmos. In Mongolian symbolism, the figures in the yin-yang circle represent two fish which, because fish never close their eyes, signify reason and wisdom. The two vertical rectangles represent a fortress, recalling the old Mongolian proverb "The friendship of two men is stronger than stone walls." The symbol of the fortress signifies that the unity of the Mongol people is the foundation of the nation's strength. The soyombo was adopted as the official symbol of the Mongolian People's Republic by the first People's Great Khural in 1924. A golden soyombo is emblazoned on the left panel of Mongolia's blue-and-red national flag."From: 'The Land and People of Mongolia', by John S. Major, New York, 1990. (p. 183)
Elements of the Soyombo also appear in the historical flags of Russian republics of Tuva and Buryatia, and the flag of the separatist Inner Mongolian People's Party (unofficial; opposed by China).

Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Turning Point in History

In light of China's attitudes toward Mongolia, I thought I'd post a bit of penetrating analysis I just read regarding Taiwan's change in stance with re: to the land of Chinggis Khan. Thanks to reader Yan for clueing me into this giant episode in global realignment in the first place. I admit that it sailed right past me at the time.
DARE TO DREAM [Andrew Stuttaford] [Oct. 5, 2002]
In an annoyingly realistic gesture, Taiwan has renounced its claims to Mongolia (which stem from the island nation's status as the continuation of pre-Communist China). Su Jia-shan of the Taiwanese interior ministry told the Financial Times that Taipei was simply being "practical", "To have Mongolia shown as part of our territory does not accord with reality."

He's quite right, of course, but it's still somewhat disappointing. I rather like the thought of Taiwan's ambitious hegemons, hungrily staring across the ocean and dreaming of empire in distant Ulan Bator. In a way it's a little reminiscent (if I remember correctly) of the supposed war between Sweden and Yugoslavia dreamt up by the humorist Peter Simple in the London Daily Telegraph a few decades ago. The conflict had, apparently, being going on for years, with attempts to bring it to a successful conclusion by one side or the other being continually stymied by the fact that there was nowhere that these two powers could actually meet to have a battle.

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New Mongolia/CA Blog

Alan Cordova has just started a new blog: "The Alan Cordova Central Asian Democracy Project." He'll be focusing on Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. For more on what he's doing, check in here. Much luck, Alan. I look forward to checking in often. (Via Globe of Blogs.)

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Man Bites Dog

A very bizzare editorial by a fellow named Tony Henderson about Asia's delicate relationship with China. Here's the bit about the Mongolia-China relationship:
As a small nation situated between two giant powers - China and Russia - confronting one another, Mongolia’s Government saw no other choice but to come under the protective umbrella of one of them. For Mongolians, historical experience caused them to choose the Soviet umbrella. Consequently the relationship between Mongolia and China did not recover until the end of the Sino-Soviet confrontation when Beijing and Ulaanbaatar each recognised their shared strategic interests, and re-engaged. While Russia continues to have a political and economic influence in Mongolia, it is now the PRC which is emerging as the main political and economic partner.

Mongolians had viewed China as a hostile country before the late 1980s, but now generally regard China as a major power able to generate regional and world economic development.

As Jiang Zeming has said, there are no unsettled political, legal or historical problems between the two countries. Yet, deep-rooted distrust of China caused by historical experience still persists among Mongolians and the Mongolian media is frequently suspicious of China’s ambitions, particularly fearing Chinese expansion....

A mishandling of [trade] issues may provoke an upsurge in Mongolian nationalism that would damage Sino-Mongolian relations. Mongolians and Chinese each have different historical viewpoints and while Mongolians see themselves as one of Asia's oldest ethnically pure groups, as do the Han Chinese, the Chinese regard Mongolia as a former part of its Middle Kingdom and view Mongolians as an ethnic minority. This is a deep-rooted contrary view that could have explosive effects in the future relations of Ulaanbaatar and Beijing.

At present, Mongolian nationalist movements may be found in Mongolia, the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, and Russia's regions of Buryatskaya and Kalmykia. Based on their common traditional culture, Mongolian nationalism began quickening during 1989 when Mongolia was making a political turnaround. In 1990, after the Mongolian Democratic Party publicly stated its: "Uniting the Three Mongolias" stance (Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Mongolian Buryatskaya), the party also advocated "providing a unified spoken and written language and a nationality which could naturally be linked together". There was also support for a union between Inner Mongolia, Mongolian Buryatskaya, Mongolian Xinjiang, and other regions which would in turn unite Mongolians under one "Great Mongolia". China is taking note of those moves.

I'm inclined to let the irony speak for itself. Mongolia's fear of Chinese expansionism is long-standing and deeply rooted in recent experience and modern political reality (Macao, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan all may have something to say on the topic.) Oddly, that's only given a quick mention in this article. The real threat in the region, we are informed in this article, is Mongolia's desire to enfold part of China into "Great Mongolia."

Please forgive me if I state the obvious. If anyone's guilty of expansionist dreams and the power to turn them into reality, it's, well, definitely not Mongolia (well, at least not for the past 700 years or so). I've never--not even once--heard Mongolians talk about a vision of a greater Mongolia that stretches from Russia to Northern China. Even if Mongolia were to harbor secret designs on China, does anyone doubt that that any move toward Mongolian reunification would be quickly, unceremoniously, and definitively smashed to smitherines by China?

Can any balanced observer even begin to commence to start to think that Mongolia is threatening China rather than vice versa? Who writes this stuff?

(For the answer to that last question, click here.)

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Lenin a Mongolian!?

Add this to the list of things I didn't know. And to the list of things I wish I didn't know. Lenin was part Mongolian:
Lenin's original surname was Ulyanov. Lenin was a code name. According to Volkogonov, Lenin was German-Jewish-Kalmyk-Russian by ancestry, though the Kalmyk (Mongol) element in his blood seemed to dominate his physical appearance.
I blame this for enlightening me.

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The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

This has got to end. I can't believe that people--"educators" at that--expect, as a matter of policy, less from people simply because of their background. Dr. Peter West, Head of the Research Group on Men and Families at the University of Western Sydney, writes the following, obviously from personal experience:
“Yes, yes, thank you Mr Jones, please sit down. ...I want to talk to you about the grades you gave those students from Mongolia.”

“Well yes I thought they’d complain. But Dean, the University’s policies are quite clear. Plagiarism means that you fail. It’s on our website.”

“Yes of course it is. This university continues the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge, though of course with flexible learning and continuous assessment, all informed by cutting-edge research and the latest technology. The University needs to give the community, and of course the government, confidence in our reputation as defenders of academic rigour and excellence.”

“That’s why I failed those students. It was a plain case of plagiarism. They all said the same thing in that essay on business ethics. And it was all stolen from the web. Doesn’t this university believe in standards?”

“Yes, yes. Mr Jones. Of course we do! But I was going to speak to you anyway. Your failure rate is rather high, isn’t it, I mean compared with most of your colleagues?”

“Hmmm. It’s well within faculty guidelines. If students can’t write proper English sentences, don’t know what a paragraph is, and just pretend to read one or two books, what hope have they got if they don’t come to lectures? Aren’t we just making a pretence of learning if they aren’t learning anything? Most of them don’t even want to learn.”

“Mr Jones, please don’t trouble yourself marking their English. If we get obsessed with students writing a perfect English essay we could be accused of academic elitism. University is for the great unwashed these days, you know. Look, if they can’t write, just send them off to Academic Writing, or whatever that’s called since we out-sourced it to the school across the freeway. And these students really are a special case.”

“I see. All students are special, but some are more special than others. Aren’t we supposed to treat all students equally, Dean?”

“Oh of course we are. But these students have, you know, special problems. Foreign students have kept this faculty alive. We would have to have sent quite a few staff packing if it weren’t for those delightful faces that are so much more interesting really, than the great mass of apathetic students we get so often! Especially from the western suburbs. Mongolia doesn’t have the tradition of academic excellence that local students have. They don’t have the same religious beliefs, either. So their ethos, or for that matter, their business ethics seem to be rather different.” (emphasis mine)

Talk about "enlightened" racism. The Dean in this tongue-only-slightly-in-cheek article exemplifies to a T what Larry Elder rightly calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Seriously, does anyone think that giving passing grades to failing students is actually helping the Mongolians/fill-in-whatever-group-here, as opposed to making them "feel good about themselves" (whatever that's supposed to accomplish)? How on earth is this supposed to educate tomorrow's world leaders? This horrific approach to "education" will spell doom for society that it comes into contact with if it's allowed to continue. Stamp out dishonesty, corruption, offensively low expectations wherever they are. Especially when they are being fostered by folks who have the power to change things. Let the powers that be call you what they want. But people deserve to be pushed to their utmost potential, even if it makes them -gulp- work hard. It's the only way the future leaders of Mongolia or any other country are going to keep moving forward. And one day they'll thank you for it.

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Moving Forward/Backward

Reading the Kyrgyzstan Kid's observations about the post-Soviet Kyrgyz countryside reminded me of Mongolia:

Outings into the Kyrgyz countryside provide mini-adventures into the past. But the chapters of Kyrgyzstan’s recent history read more like vignettes after the apocalypse than epic tales of nomadic clans warring for land. Although the curtain never fully closed on the genetic memory of the Kyrgyz during last century’s Sovietization, the re-emergence of their own culture plays out on an eerie stage—as if the props from the previous play were only partially removed and the set director for the new show decided to work around them.

Relics of the modern world anachronistically litter Kyrgyzstan’s landscape. Shepherds bring their sheep to pasture under power lines that have long ceased to illuminate their homes. A driver training course cracks like drying mud, submitting pavement to the encroaching field. Foundations of buildings no more than fifty years old whisper out of the ground—crumbling ghost towns of a lost civilization.
If Kyrgyzstan is anything like Mongolia, the people who witnessed the encroachment of Russian influence didn't share Russia's fascination with the "modern world" and its acoutrements. Mongolians were largely nomadic when Russia rode in, and the only skills shared broadly among Mongolians were the nomadic arts of herding and the like. The new and modern Mongolia that sprang from the steppe did so exclusively because of the Russian bulldozer, Russian engineer, and Russian city planner. When Russian influence and financial support slipped away as their empire crumbled, so did those bulldozers, engineers, and city planners. What was left was a shell of a modern infrastructure with people who little knew how to sustain it and build upon it. Rarely has so much been invested and so little immediately "returned" as in the former Russian satellites.


When old and new meet: The first Russian bulldozer that came to Erdenet in 1976, the year that the Russians and Mongolians decided to build what is now one of the five biggest cities in Mongolia (pop. 80,000).

This is not to say that Monoglia does not want to stay on a modernizing trajectory. Au contraire. But it is a comment on the social and technolocialy environment in which modernization must take place. When you give a nomad a hydro-electric dam, what exactly is he supposed to do with it? When you give a herder a telephone grid, can we realistically expect him to maintain it? Mongolians are bravely doing their best, and the next generation of Mongolians looks to be more savvy in the ways of city-life and technological advance. In the mean time, it's good for those of us in the west to appreciate just how far Mongolia and other countries like it have to advance for them to take flight as as modern nations in the modern world.

Posted by Hello

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

First, eh?

Headline on the Xinhua (China) web site: "World's first museum on Mongolian history, culture opens to visitors." What follows is the description of a museum just opened in Inner Mongolia (Chinese-occupied). What's this, then?

Stuff like this coming from the likes of a state-sponsored, aggressive colonialist Chinese newspaper really galls me. Like Mongolia doesn't already have a bunch of musea already? It reminds me of the time when I was talking with a fellow from China about Mongolia. In the course of the conversation, I told him that Mongolia earned her independence in the 1921. Oh no it didn't, he informed me. It wasn't independant until the 1960s. Huh? Yea, he said, that's when China recognized Mongolia's sovereignty. So, I guess the world doesn't have a museum about Mongolia until the Chinese government has the goodness to build one. Sheesh.

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Bring on the Disinfectant

I dont' know if I'll make it a personal crusade on this website, but I'd sure like the limelights to be turned onto the corruption going on in Mongolia, wherever and whenever it appears. Mongolia has a huge chance at making it as a long-term democracy, and its people have grand and realistic aspirations for a great future. But first they need to nip this corruption business in the bud.
Another serious breach of law mentioned in the report was that tax officials in Bayankhongor aimag settled a case themselves where the offending company, Ilch Trade Company, should instead have been taken to court. It was also noted that officials in Bulgan, Orkhon, Ovorkhangai, Omnogobi, Uvs and Khentii aimags did not allow individuals and companies accused of tax offences to argue their case or provide evidence to counter the claims.
That's from the UB Post's recent report on fraud and corruption by tax officials.

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The Criminal Code: Room for Improvement

The UN, via the UB Post, provides a bit more news that not all is sweetness and light in the land of the eternal sky.

Law enforcement agencies in Mongolia are largely known for their less exemplary behavior. Even local Mongolians know that the last people to call when a crime takes place are the police. Corruption, a problem in many official spheres in the country, is also a huge problem among the police, and justice isn't something that they serve up as reliably as one might hope.
[The UN rapporteur] was also concerned with the secrecy surrounding the application of the death penalty, especially the absence of any official data. The deplorable conditions on death row and the failure to notify families, amounted to cruelty, according to Nowak. He also noted that the treatment of prisoners serving 30-year terms in isolation is inhumane. However, the ‘ordinary’ prison regime was found generally to be in line with international standards.

Mr. Nowak highlighted that impunity in Mongolia for violations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment goes unimpeded because of the absence in the Criminal Code of a definition of torture in line with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He also noted a lack of effective mechanisms to receive and investigate allegations of ill-treatment and a basic lack of awareness primarily on behalf of prosecutors, lawyers and the judiciary of the international standards relating to the prohibition of torture. There is consequently no recourse of compensation and rehabilitation for torture and other forms of ill treatment.
The more reports like this get out, the better for Mongolia in the long run. Let's hope that Mongolian law enforcement sheds the habits acquired during the era of totalitarian police-statism and adopts a new--and enforced--crimial code.

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Saturday, June 18, 2005


Sheep and goats coming back from pasture. Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

New Mongolia Blog

News in both Mongolian and English is available on a brand new blog, The United News of Mongol.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Opening North Korea

This is a fascinating development, and I admit that it's the first I've heard of it (the article is from December, 2004). Mongolia, the key to opening N. Korea? Wow. But it makes sense...
Once allies within the Soviet bloc, North Korea and Mongolia chose very different tacks after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. While North Korea's continuing Stalinism has brought it to the brink of collapse, Mongolia undertook a series of political and economic reforms that revitalized the country.

"I really believe that Mongolia's experience is very much transferable to North Korea, and we can become a kind of transition consultant to them," Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj, Mongolia's prime minister, said in a recent interview. The North Koreans "listen to us because we're not Western people trying to teach them [the Western] way of life. We are like them, and through workshops and meetings we are simply sharing our knowledge, our experience with them."

Read it all for yourself.


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Friday, June 10, 2005

Two Reasons...


...democracy is succeeding. Posted by Hello

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Mongolia: An Experiment in Democracy

Given what I've read around the web, there's a sneaking opinion in many quarters that Mongolia is a country that is breathlessly waiting to revert to closed markets, accordion wire, and good old-fashioned communism. There’s an equally strong view that Mongolia is ripe for democratic revolution, the next domino to fall in the wave of freedom that is sweeping the Middle East and the former Eastern Bloc. Well, let me set the record straight on both accounts. I thought I'd take a few minutes and demonstrate, using as objective information as I can find, just how free, open, and stable this former Eastern Bloc country has been, is now, and, if past trends are any indication for future events, will yet be.

Using the information posted on Freedom House’s excellent website, I put together a rough and ready (and admittedly unscientific) comparison of Mongolia and the former East Bloc countries, many of whom, like Mongolia, were vassal states to the USSR. I also threw in a few Asian countries to provide regional comparison.

Legend:

Example: Country_A X / Y
where:

X = political rights

Y = civil liberties

Both X and Y are scored using numbers between 1 and 7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom, and 7, the lowest level.

Let’s start with the 1994 stats. (This was the earliest year for which Freedom House provides such statistics online). These numbers give us a pretty good idea of where things stood following the democratization that deluged the region once the Soviet dam broke.

Sorted by 1994 scores


Rank

Country

1994

1

Czech Republic

1/2


Hungary

1/2


Slovenia

1/2

4

Lithuania

1/3

5

Bulgaria

2/2


Poland

2/2

7

Mongolia

2/3


Slovakia

2/3

9

Estonia

3/2


Latvia

3/2

11

Albania

3/4


Armenia

3/4


Russia

3/4


Ukraine

3/4

15

Kygyz Republic

4/3


Macedonia

4/3


Romania

4/3

18

Belarus

4/4


Croatia

4/4


Moldova

4/4

21

Georgia

5/5

22

Kazakhstan

6/5

23

Azerbaijan

6/6


Bosnia-Herzegovina

6/6


Serbia and Montenegro

6/6

26

Tajikstan

7/7


Turkmenistan

7/7


Uzbekistan

7/7





Japan

2/2


S. Korea

2/2


Taiwan

3/3


India

4/4


China

7/7


N. Korea

7/7

Among other things, notice just how fast out of the gate Mongolia was in establishing its freedoms and democratizing its political process.1994 was about 4 years after Mongolia made the jarring transfer from autocracy/communism to democracy. Already, Mongolia had earned a highly respected 2/3 rating (from something I would guess to be in the 6/6 to 7/7 range).

In terms of rank, Mongolia had a strong showing at number 7—well ahead of the next Central Asian republic (Armenia) and also ahead of such traditionally western countries as Estonia and Latvia. Comparison with Mongolia’s geographical neighbors is even sharper: Russia, Mongolia’s neighbor to the north still hung at 3/4, Kazakhstan, immediately to the west, lingered at a dismal 6/5, while the Kyrgyz Republic, further to the west, came in at 4/3. China, just to the south, checked in with an atrocious 7/7.

There’s a lot more to be said, but I think it’s clear that Mongolia moved quickly and decisively in the direction of democracy. Even Romania could have learned (and, to anticipate myself a bit, still can) a lot from the Mongolians.

Let’s move on to see how things stand today, or at least as they stood in 2003, the last year for which I can find numbers:

Sorted by 2003 scores


Rank

Country

2003

1

Slovenia

1/1

2

Bulgaria

1/2


Czech Republic

1/2


Estonia

1/2


Hungary

1/2


Latvia

1/2


Lithuania

1/2


Poland

1/2


Slovakia

1/2

10

Croatia

2/2


Mongolia

2/2


Romania

2/2

13

Serbia and Montenegro

3/2

14

Albania

3/3


Macedonia

3/3

16

Moldova

3/4

17

Armenia

4/4


Bosnia-Herzegovina:

4/4


Georgia

4/4


Ukraine

4/4

21

Russia

5/5

22

Azerbaijan

6/5


Kazakhstan

6/5


Kygyz Republic

6/5


Tajikstan

6/5

26

Belarus

6/6

27

Uzbekistan

7/6

28

Turkmenistan

7/7





Japan

1/2


S. Korea

2/2


Taiwan

2/2


India

2/3


China

7/6


N. Korea

7/7

Despite moving down in the rankings over these ten years (from tied for 7th to tied for 10th) Mongolia’s score has improved (from 2/3 to 2/2). This demonstrates a number of things, principle among them Mongolia’s stability. With numbers like this, it's easy to understand why Mongolia has been able to have nine national parliamentary and presidential national elections in about 15 years--all of them free, fair, and, perhaps most tellingly, friendly (compare elsewhere in the region). That political power has changed been passed back and forth between several parties is an indication that the Republic is advancing more strongly, more peacefully, and more openly than ever.

It is also instructive to notice that the four countries that surpassed Mongolia in the ranking were all western (Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Slovakia), and had, until Soviet expansion, had been philosophically and politically liberal, whereas Mongolia—it should go without saying—had not been. Rather, it had been under Chinese Nationalist and then, from 1921, Communist Russian domination. To say that Mongolia had enjoyed little to no open contact with liberal political ideas until the Iron Curtain unraveled would be too obvious by half. Nevertheless, Mongolia took hold of the idea of a liberal democracy and has been running ever since and ever faster.

Again, in comparison with many of its ethnic, cultural, or geographical cohorts, Mongolia’s standing in the survey form the period of 1994 to 2003 has proved exceptionally stable. A number of countries saw freedoms either advance and then retreat or retreat and then advance. Take several examples of the latter phenomenon. The Kyrgyz Republic had a score of 4/3 in 1994 (3rd best among Central Asian countries) but dropped to 6/5 by 2003 (and 4th from the bottom in CA). Belarus, then 4/4, has sunk to 6/6 under the heavy heel of Russia, which itself has dropped from 3/4 to 5/5. Kazakhstan, it must be said, has maintained stability, but stability of a rather wretched variety—6/5 then, 6/5 now. Indeed, Mongolia is an island of democratic freedom in a deeply troubled region (see a color coded map here [opens as a PDF]). (This article does not take into account the recent democratic struggles pursued by a number of CA nations).

Much more could be said, such as the parity Mongolia shares with such Asian nations as Taiwan (2/2) and South Korea (2/2) in terms of political rights and civil liberty, but I think that the numbers speak more clearly than I ever could. Regardless, by this much, it should be clear that Mongolia has been democratic since the very beginning of it’s new national existence, is democratic, and will remain democratic as long as it depends on the Mongolians. Indeed, my guess is that in the next year or two, Mongolia will make even greater strides in democracy and, in doing so, will continue to be a model for the fledgling democracies in the region and beyond.

Update: I have just discovered more complete data which covers the years 1972 through 2005 (click here). Mongolia has remained at a 2/2 (having risen, as I suspected, from a 7/7 in 1989). This newly-found data does not significantly impact the conclusions I drew in this article.

Update: Fixed mistake in rankings and a typo or two.


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Freedom House Mongolia Profile

Here's a informative rundown on Mongolia's situation with regard to personal liberties and civil rights in the years since democracy took hold. This is a good "big picture" report.

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Protest Reform: Backstory

I just discovered that Gateway Pundit linked to a number of stories on the events that led to the (up-coming) protest reform. See here and here. I started blogging on reform here.

Update: Registan.net analyzes one of Gateway Pundit's links. The ensuing string of comments provide some good insight.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Paddling Lake Hovsgol

Found an awe-inspiring article about kayaking one of the world's hidden treasures: Mongolia's Lake Hovsgol. I haven't been to the lake (yet), but I've been to areas near it, and the way that Ward describes Mongolia doesn't border a bit on the hyperbolic. The place is simply beyond description. Here's a teaser:
Since only a narrow finger of the lake drops down into Hatgal, we could not get a feel for the lake's size from town. Once we paddled just a few miles up the mountainous western shore, the lake opened up and looked more like an ocean. For Mongols, the "dark blue pearl" represents a place of national pride. We soon discovered the reason for the name. As soon as the sun slid behind the cloud, the whole lake changed from green and blue to an ominous gray. In the sun the water along the shore rivals the colors of the Caribbean, but the deep water always remains a mysterious blue.

We watched mesmerized as our shadows played over the bottom of the lake near the shore—70 feet down and we could see the bottom like we were looking through glass. Locals claim they can see the bottom of the lake even at its deepest point, more than 600 feet down.
Read the whole thing. You won't be sorry.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pride and the Art of the Possible Don't Always Mix

There was an interesting conversation (scroll down) over at the UB Post about foreign investment in Mongolia. Basically, several commentators are seem pleased that Mongolia plans to instate what some view as prohibitively high tax rates on foreign investors. This, they believe, allows Mongolia to maintain a degree of economic self-determination. Understandably, much of their oposition to more competetive tax rates seems rooted in misplaced national pride.

Anyway, Jay, one of the guys who is for lower tax rates, brought up a great point in answer to this sentiment:
Foreign investment will not only jump-start the economy by providing immediate employment, but also help establish an industrial base in Mongolia. This means that factories will be built, workers will be trained, and technical knowhows will be provided. Although the bulk of the profit generated from the operations in Mongolia may be repatriated back to such countries as Canada and the U.S., foreign investment in general will be good this country in the long run. With a sound industrial base and a strong and skillful workforce, Mongolia will fare much better than it does right now.
Exactly. Let me add: I'm an American and I love my country. Of course, I want the best for my country in all circumstances. But there are sometimes when America can't get wants and has to settle for what's possible. That's why politics has been called "the art of the possible." I think that everyone who loves Mongolia--I include myself in that category as someone whose wife is a Mongolian patriot--has to have the same attitude. It is a fact, of course, the Mongolia doesn't get its way as often as the USA gets theirs, but the principle is the same: it gets what it can when it can. And when it can't, it must consider the option of settling for what's possible (as opposed to what's most desireable).

Unfortunately, Mongolia is not currently in a position in which it can always dictate the terms most favorable to itself. As I've noted before, it's a classic case of Thucydides' maxim: the powerful do what they want, the weak do what they can. If Mongolia is to grow economically, there's going to have to be a lot of doing what they can. It's a short-run difficulty. And, as any patriot knows, the national pride will take a few lumps. But it's the first step that every fledgling country has had to take--history teaches us that America was no exeception--on the way to long-term growth and advancement.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fit for a Khan

Mongol and I just got back from a weekend with the family in Oakland, CA. Oakland is home to as thriving a Mongolian community as one can imagine in the States. I think that someone said there were about 200 Mongolians within a city block or so. Evidently, that's enough to support a Mongolian restaurant. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit it. This, however, won't hinder me from offering a critique--or at least offering a quick critique offered by my cousin who lives down the street from it.

A quick note about my cousin: he was the chef to the Mongolian President a few years ago (forgive me if I can't recall which one). So he knows his grub.

Anyway, says my cousin, it all depends on which day you go. Some days the buuz and khushuur are great. Those are the days where the professional Mongolian cook works there. Then some days the food is less than impressive. Those are the days when the folks from around the neighborhood roam the kitchen instead of the professional.

There you have it--my cousin's complete critique. My $0.02: Given the simplicity of Mongolian food, I can't imagine that there's that great of a chasm between great and less than great food. Mongol will no doubt disagree strenuously on this point. I will say, however, that horse buuz are very tasty, although they might send you "to the Prime Minister" (a good friend of that vengeful fellow Montezuma) for a few days--they did me, anyway.

Regardless, you can try the place out for yourself if you find yourself in Oakland anytime soon. It's on 14th Street Between Oak and Madison directly across from the Oakland Public Library. It has no name that I'm aware of, and there's no signage outside to distinguish it from any of the surrounding shops, so just pop your head into all the doors until you find one that leads into a restaurant. Who knows, you might be the first round-eye they've served.

(Oh, and if you have a bit of extra time on your hands and you're in the mood for a little dancing, feel free to visit the Mongolian night club just next door.)

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Long May It Wave


The Mongolian Flag (picture from here). The CIA World Factbook describes the flag thus: three equal, vertical bands of red (hoist side), blue, and red; centered on the hoist-side red band in yellow is the national emblem ("soyombo" - a columnar arrangement of abstract and geometric representation for fire, sun, moon, earth, water, and the yin-yang symbol). Posted by Hello

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Protest Reform: The Next Step Toward Clean Government?

As was reported in the UB Post last week, laws in Mongolia are changing to relax regulations on public protest:
Parliament is currently discussing changes to the law on public demonstrations that would relax the authorities'’ grip to some extent over controlling demonstrations and protests. The move is seen as long overdue by some parties, particularly the Just Society-Civic Movement, which has been campaigning for a change in the law since February.

The amendment under discussion was launched by Prime Minister Ts.Elbegdorj as a response to protestors'’ demands. Elbegdorj promised to make changes in consultation with the Just Society-Civic Movement. The revision is an attempt to bring the law more into line with the constitution, which states that citizens are guaranteed the rights of freedom of thought, opinion, expression, speech, press and peaceful assembly. Although there is a variety of opinions within the parliament, the general consensus is that the law should be changed to better meet the ideas of the constitution and respect people'’s rights.

The current law states that permission must first be obtained from the local governor before demonstrations can be held in public streets or squares. The new version proposed by the government would remove the necessity to gain permission and would instead require that the plan for the demonstration and the details of the organizers are registered with the local governor three days before the event.
This news is heartening in that it indicates that local politicians are proactively involved in continuing the liberalization of the political process, which must include freedom of peaceful assembly. As the past 15 years of elections and a proven track record of democratic reform indicate, Mongolia is well on the way to becoming a totally open society in terms of politics. More power to them!

What remains to be seen is a serious attempt to stem corruption. The recent election victory for the MPRP took place in part because of popular resentment of fraud and corruption widespread within the previous government. By all accounts, however, the MPRP is just as beholden to sleaze and graft as the government it's replacing.

To Mongolians, corruption is a way of life, a factor that shows no signs of disappearing. Government officials are always setting up friends, aggrandizing themselves and their partners, and are otherwise conducting themselves in a less than upright manner (not to say that we Americans don't have our own problems; but still, the scale of the problem here is vastly different). Personal accounts of corruption abound--my relatives were swappinging corruption stories around dinner a few nights ago. The stories would be funny if the weren't so enraging.

Light, it is said, is the best disinfectant, especially when the light is reinforced by peaceful protests (click here for an illustration from the Middle East). If the politicians won't listen to their consciences or have an interest in the greater good of their country, perhaps the people can provide some incentive for them to do so. Here's to transparency and to the hope that the protest reform has the unintended consequence of cleaning up the government.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

The UB Post

If there's a better English-language source for Mongolian domestic news than the UB Post, I haven't found it. A crucial site if you're an avid Mongolia watcher. (Bonus: Local restaurant reviews! )

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The Mongolian Language and Scripts

Interesting...This is what Mongolians think about the historical development of the language and the script, here.

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Google your Mongolia News

Google's a great source for news stories about Mongolia. Better, in fact, than any I've seen yet.

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From a German Perspektiv

Just discovered a site that has a fair bit about Mongolia. Note: it's in German. Klicken Sie hier.

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The Mongol Rally

Because there's more than one way to visit Mongolia.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Patience, Patience...

While I try to figure out how to use expandable post summaries. I thought I had the problem of long posts beat by using this fix. But then "read more" has shown up at the bottom of all the posts. Blogging, it seems, is like battling Hydra.

FYI, there is NOT more to read of this post....

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