Heart of Genghis Khan’s empire in the thirteenth century, Mongolia was a Chinese province between the seventeenth century and 1921, when it gained independence. The support assured by the Soviet Union to the Mongolian nationalists in the struggle for independence made the newborn Mongolian Republic a satellite state of the USSR, led until 1990 by the Revolutionary Party of the Mongolian people, of communist origin. The collapse of the Soviet Union has therefore profoundly influenced the political and economic configuration of Mongolia, which since 1991 has initiated a phase of transition to democracy and the market economy, pursuing new directions of foreign policy.
Although steppe and semi-desert areas cover most of the land – landlocked and sparsely populated – Mongolia has considerable geopolitical significance, mainly due to the wealth of mineral resources and its nature as a buffer zone between the two neighboring powers, China and Russia. According to itypeusa, relations with these two countries have long been an almost obligatory choice for Ulaanbaatar. Relations with China have improved since the 1980s and are now based on the 1994 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which enshrines mutual respect for independence and territorial integrity. In parallel, the relationship with Moscow was re-founded on new foundations after the completion of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Mongolian territory in 1992, and then with the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of 1993. In 2000, following the visit to Mongolia of the then new Russian president Vladimir Putin, the two countries signed the Ulaanbaatar Declaration which, reaffirming the friendship between the two states, relaunched cooperation in numerous political and economic fields. With the visit conducted in 2009 by Putin, as Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, bilateral cooperation was also extended to the socio-economic sector. A cooperation that was strengthened following a further visit by Putin, this time again as president of the Russian Federation, in September 2014.
It remains essential for the Mongolian government today to maintain good relations with both: while Russia is the main supplier of energy, China is a viable export market.
While maintaining relations with Moscow and Beijing, Mongolia has begun to pursue an autonomous foreign policy, joining the Non-Aligned Movement and pursuing greater participation in the United Nations and multilateral cooperation forums. In this way, Ulaanbaatar has established relations with other Asian countries, the so-called ‘third neighbors’, such as Japan, India and South Korea, but also with the United States and the European Union.
The transition to democracy began in 1990, the year of the legalization of opposition parties and the first free elections. Legislative power is entrusted to a unicameral parliament (the Grande Khural), made up of 76 members and elected every four years by universal suffrage: if a quorum is not reached50% turnout among those entitled to vote, the elections are not considered valid. In 1992, a new Constitution based on democratic principles was adopted and, in 1996, the Democratic Union won the legislative elections for the first time, although the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, heir to the Communist tradition, maintained an important role in the politics of the country, also thanks to the poor preparation and the scarce financial resources of the opposition parties.
The last election, in June 2012, marked the success of the Democratic Party, born from the merger of five opposition political parties. The political situation, however, is far from stable. On the one hand, there are tensions with the Mongolian People’s Party – which succeeded the Revolutionary Party in 2010 – which, contesting the electoral result, launched a series of boycotts of parliamentary activities; on the other hand, there is the growing crisis of the ruling coalition, formed by the Democratic Party and the Coalition for Justice. The latter, born from an offshoot of the old Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party and opposed to changing the party’s name, withdrew support for the government in December 2012, in protest of the corruption conviction of Nambaryn Enkhbayar, its historical leader. and former president of the country between 2005 and 2009. Successor of Enkhbayar was Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.
On October 27, 1937, the Japanese gathered in Kueihya (Suiyüan) an assembly of 300 delegates – under the presidency of Prince Yun – who unanimously approved the creation of the new confederal government of Mongolia. This was given the name of Meng Kiang (Chinese: “brand” or “Mongolian border”) and as the capital, from November 22, 1937, was designated Khalgan. The new state was definitively organized on 1 September 1939 and this arrangement maintained throughout the Japanese occupation.
The new state, which had a federal system, extended over approximately 587,000 sq km. with a population of 5.8 million residents. The three federal states were: 1) the Mêng – ku or Mêng – ku Lien – mêng Tzû – chih Chêng – ju (Autonomous Government of the Leagues of Mongolia), comprising almost all the two Chinese provinces of Sui-yüan and Chahar (quest ‘last without the district of Khalgan), a traditionally and historically Mongolian territory, with an area of approximately 543,000 sq km. and 2.8 million residents, of which only 300,000 Mongols and the rest Chinese. Capital: Kuei-hua (in Mongolian: Hoho Khoto, the blue city); 2) the Cha – nan o Cha – nan Tzû – chih Chêngfu (Autonomous Government of Southern Chahar), consisting of the portion of the Chinese province of Chahar included within the Great Wall (i.e. the district of Khalgan). Area about 20,000 sq. Km. with 1.5 million residents, almost all Chinese, less, perhaps, 100,000 Mongols. Capital: Khalgan; 3) the Chin – pei or Chin – pei Tzû – chih Chêng – fu (Northern Shan-hsi Autonomous Government), comprising the portion of Shan-hsi province (v. XXXI, p. 601) located within the Great Wall. Surface about 24,000 sq. Km. and 1.5 million residents, almost all Chinese, minus about 200,000 Mongols. Capital: Ta-t’ung. The federal government was headed by a president, assisted by a Federal Council of 6 Mongolian members, acting as ministers, and 2 Japanese advisers.
The Meng Kiang was a real defensive barrier for the western frontier of the Man-Chu Kwo. In addition to its strategic interest in the USSR, it represented a significant aid to the war effort of Japan which soon took over the country’s economy. Agriculture, industry and commerce had a remarkable development, but the exploitation soon became unbearable: instead of the expected prosperity, the region experienced poverty and hunger again. The peasants and workers were compensated with very low wages while the lamas retained their privileges. The Communist Party of China strengthened its power over the working masses because it was able to identify the struggle against Japanese imperialism with the struggle against feudalism. In August 1945, when the Japanese capitulated, the Communists, under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung, head of the Yennan government, dominated all of Inner Mongolia and a part of Northern China. They were able to lay the foundations for a political and social reorganization which brought about a significant improvement in the living conditions of the residents. The current program of the Chinese Communists is quite different from the Soviet one and is quite close to that of socialism. The territory controlled by the Communists was divided into a number of regions which each have their own government which depends on the central power. The Chahar region saw the invasion of Chinese government forces that occupied its capital, Khalgan, on 10 October 1946.