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Mongolia-China Relations in 2023: border reopening and other developments

Mongolia-China relations entered 2023 under sharply altered circumstances from one year earlier. International sanctions on Russia, Mongolia’s other giant neighbour, have heightened the importance of smooth relations with China; even as Mongolia seeks to diversify its foreign trade partners it is now more than ever the case that all roads to the rest of the world lead through China. In that context the Mongolian government has shown a greater willingness to expand economic ties to China than ever before.

In January, 2022 the Mongolian government launched an ambitious “New Recovery” policy that has already produced notable breakthroughs, including the completion of two long awaited rail lines from Mongolian mines to the Chinese border and impending completion of a third. On January 8 of this year China relaxed the COVID-related restrictions on cross-border trade and travel that had dealt a severe blow to the Mongolian economy since 2020.

At the same time, revelations of corruption related to Mongolia’s coal exports to China have created some uncertainty about the speed with which trade can expand in the near term. With this background the December, 2022 visit to China of Mongolian president U. Khurelsukh was one of the most significant such visits in decades. How should Mongolia balance the opportunities and risks posed by China’s economic power? Our panel of experts discussed these developments and prospects for bilateral relations in 2023 and beyond. #LSEMongoliaChina


This webinar was held on Monday 20 March.

Meet the speakers and chair

Bill Bikales (@BBikales) is an economist whose work focuses on economic and social development in China and Mongolia, in each of which he has served in senior advisory positions, including six years as economic advisor to the Mongolian Prime Minister’s Office and a recent stint as the Lead Economist in the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, in addition to earlier senior posts in China for UNICEF and UNDP. He has also held long-term positions in Ukraine and the Philippines, were he served for three years as Southeast Asia Principal Economist at the Asian Development Bank. He is currently working on a multisectoral assessment of Post-Communist Mongolia’s transition to a market economy and continuing his research into fresh perspectives on China’s poverty alleviation achievements and challenges.

Namjildorj Enkhbayar has a Master’s degree in business administration. His work experience includes working as Director of the Fiscal Policy Department and Macroeconomic Policy Department, Ministry of Finance of Mongolia, Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mongolia, and advisor to the Executive Director for Mongolia at the World Bank in Washington D.C. Mr. Enkhbayar also worked as an associate professor of the Department of Policy and Politics Studies, National Academy of Governance, Mongolia.

Sukhbaatar Chandmani has a B.A. in International Business and Management from Ming Chuan University in Taiwan and received his MA degree in International Politics from Peking University, China. He previously worked in the Mongolian National Security Council’s executive office as an analyst and foreign relations officer. Currently, he is working at the International Security Studies Centre of the Institute for Strategic Studies. He recently co-authored an article in the Mongolian Geopolitics journal, titled “Sino – Mongolian economic interconnectivity: Big talks, little progress”. His research interests focus on Mongolia-China relations

Chris Alden is Director of LSE IDEAS and Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.