Chinese-American competition takes hold in Beijing’s backyard

As China expands its influence across Asia with belt and road infrastructure projects, the United States is retaliating with a major development project in China’s backyard, Mongolia.

Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the United States Michael Klecheski and President Ufnergin Klersk of Mongolia presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for a U.S.-funded water purification plant program. The $ 93 million program is part of a $ 350 million grant aimed at addressing growing water shortages in the growing Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.

“Today we present a new chapter in the American partnership with the people of Mongolia,” said Alexia Rattletu, deputy director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government funding agency. I did.

“Once in service, this wastewater treatment plant … will help provide the significant water resources needed to support the daily health and economic growth of Mongolians,” she told ceremony attendees.

Relations with the United States

Between China and Russia, the two biggest geopolitical rivals of the United States, Mongolia may seem unlikely to be the target of American diplomatic and financial support.

However, Mr Krecheski told VOA in a telephone interview. Decades of educational exchanges have laid the foundations for a warm relationship between the two countries.

“Many people [Mongolia’s] “The government is educated in the United States,” he said. “The Prime Minister is a graduate of Harvard University. According to the State Department, about a third of the Mongolian parliament is made up of American graduates.

“It’s a young country. There is a lot of interest in the United States, our system and learning English, ”Krecheski said.

According to Sodontogos Erdenetsogt, a government official responsible for the MCC project in Mongolia, this relationship is more than a personal bond.

“I like working with the Americans because the Americans adhere to the rules and the system. That’s the beauty of Americans, ”she said on the phone from Ulaanbaatar. ..

She said she was impressed by the loyalty of American stakeholders to their “values,” including “transparency, accountability, accountability, objectivity and American goodwill to help others.” paddy field.

Mr Sodontogos said Mongolia’s goal is to “follow the same values” as Americans, although there are differences in the treatment of relations. “But these differences never undermine our strong collaboration. “

On August 20, 2021, U.S. Ambassador Michael Klecheski attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a water purification system in Ulaanbaatar to ensure enough water to support people, industry and the growing needs of Mongolia. (Twitter @USAmbMongolia)

Grant support

Another softener for the Mongols is that the MCC project is fully paid for by the United States, including contributions from the Mongolian government, unlike many Chinese infrastructure projects which leave countries with varying degrees of debt. That is to say.

“The US government uses grants where possible to support Mongolia’s economic growth,” Krecheski said in a groundbreaking statement.

Sodontogos said aid in the form of grants is “very, very valuable” for developing countries like Mongolia.

Water supply projects are a major problem for Ulaanbaatar, which faces a rapidly worsening water crisis as its population increases explosively. The city now has nearly half of the country’s roughly 3.3 million inhabitants.

When the project is completed, the city’s water supply is expected to increase by 65% ​​and account for most of the larger plans of an 80% increase. [[]]

“Everyone cares because it’s water, because water is our main source of life,” Sodontogos said. “People in Mongolia are very familiar with this program. They support it, appreciate it, and are ready to work with the US government to successfully implement it. ”

But for Krecheski, small projects, such as a groundbreaking ceremony that took place two weeks ago at a US-funded kindergarten in Urangum, 1,290 km (800 miles) to the west of the capital, are also satisfactory. This is the eighth kindergarten of its kind ever funded by the United States.

“We are honored to work with our Mongolian partners to provide Mongolian school-aged children with a safe and comfortable educational environment, one school at a time,” read a statement on the website of the Embassy of the States. -United in Ulaanbaatar. It is said. The US Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing construction to ensure the highest quality, the statement added.

U.S. and Mongolian troops have also forged close ties in recent years, including training Mongolian peacekeepers and contributing to U.S. and NATO efforts in Afghanistan over the past two decades.

In July 2019, the United States and Mongolia entered into a strategic partnership during a meeting between then-Mongolian President Hart Margin Baturga and President Donald Trump in Washington. As a sign of the continued commitment of the United States, Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman of the Biden administration visited Mongolia in July this year as part of a tour of East Asia that included Japan and South Korea, making a last minute stopover in China.

Krecheski said the United States appreciates that Mongolia is the first country in Asia to successfully transition from a country ruled by Communists to a free and democratic country after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. I am. “Obviously, Mongolia is in an important part of the world,” he said.

However, if Mr. Krecheski wants VOA to compete with China, which receives 90% of Mongolia’s exports (mostly minerals) and provides a third of its imports, its economic influence. The United States has said it has to do a lot. Russia also plays a major role in Mongolia’s energy sector.

“Let’s just say that the embassy is very keen to expand cooperation in more areas,” Krecheski said.

He admitted that Americans don’t know much about Mongolia, and the market for 3 million people may be too small for some companies. However, he said Mongolian mining and agriculture, the IT sector and other areas offer great potential for US investment.

The people of Mongolia are proud of their heritage which dates back to the conquest of Genghis Khan in the 13th century, but there is also a “strong modernity” here. He said he had observed a strong desire to “fit into the world”.

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About Christopher Easley

Christopher Easley

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