Mongolia finds itself in a challenging situation in the face of today’s uncertain geopolitical and geo-economic environment. Landlocked and sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia must skillfully navigate through the latest regional and global developments between the great powers. In an increasingly polarized world with threats to multilateralism, maintaining the rule-based order is important for Mongolia. In the past, the Northeast Asian country has been able to manage and navigate skillfully. Although ithas benefited from good cultural and diplomatic ties with its natural neighbours, it is crucial that Mongolia also continues to actively forge and maintain relations with other ‘third countries’ to explore multiple markets as a way of diversifying its economic partnerships.
Through the two-day Mongolian National Foresight and Strategy Lab, FES Asia offered a platform for key Mongolian stakeholders from various backgrounds to analyze major internal and external geopolitical and geo-economic dynamics that might affect the country and develop scenarios and strategic options for the future. Facilitated by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Executive Education team, the Lab looked into a broad set of trends and driving forces in the political, economic, security, societal and environmental domains. Using futures thinking tools and methods, the participants analysed the complexity and tensions between the different stakeholders in the current state of play, created a positive future for Mongolia and recommended some concrete policy options.
As Mongolia is landlocked between and economically dependent on Russia and China for their imports and exports respectively, many participants expressed concerns about Mongolia having to choose sides between the complex relationship and intensifying rivalry between US, China and Russia. Mongolia’s large economic dependency on their immediate neighbours may also create negative consequences for the country in the context of geo-economic trends brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation in Ukraine.
Despite the great power rivalry and increasing polarisation, Mongolia has maintained a neutral stance in their foreign policy through their Third Neighbour Policy and by proactively seeking a nuclear-free zone. Apart from its stable external security, Mongolia has also been successful in maintaining its internal stability. The impact of climate change and environmental degradation and the need to harness Mongolia’s energy and agricultural sector remain key concerns.
Improved developments in renewable technologies and agricultural technologies characterize the emerging technological trends in Mongolia. This will positively affect the country’s energy security and agricultural production, in the long run reducing Mongolia’s energy dependency on Russia and increasing agricultural yields respectively. However, the effect of climate change is adding a negative mix to the future of Mongolia’s agricultural production. Participants also noted that better infrastructure, connectivity, and technological adoptability can strengthen and diversify the country’s economy, transforming Mongolia into a leader in green technology with a self-reliant economy based on high-value mineral exports and agricultural products. Geopolitically, the rise of China may impact both the world order and the current neutral foreign policy of Mongolia. Nevertheless, it presents an opportunity for Mongolia to be an intermediary and a regional peacekeeper among neighbouring global powers.
Reflecting on the discussions above, the participants explored policy options and recommendations for Mongolia. They developed broad internal and external policy recommendations and strategies to help the country navigate the transition between the present and their future vision of Mongolia. They suggested a range of internal and external priorities. Some of these include:
Event summary compiled by Dinkim Sailo, Senior Programme Manager, FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia.
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