Mongolia, a nation abundant in natural resources and situated between China and Russia, is solidifying its collaboration with the United States concerning rare earth minerals. Experts suggest this holds considerable geopolitical significance, potentially disrupting China’s monopoly on these essential minerals. During a visit to Washington on August 2nd, Mongolian Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrain engaged in bilateral discussions with a primary focus on the shared extraction of rare earths, including copper.
Mr. Oyun-Erdene conveyed to Reuters that the partnership in rare earth minerals will be further fortified through a memorandum of understanding established in June. He underscored the United States as a crucial “strategic third neighbor.” Furthermore, Mr. Oyun-Erdene expressed apprehensions about potential repercussions for nations bordering China and Russia should intense superpower rivalry escalate. Given Mongolia’s border with Russia, the country has endured the fallout from Russia’s intervention in Ukraine the previous year. This has resulted in challenges such as inflated prices for mining-related items like explosives, as pointed out by Mr. Oyun-Erdene.
The Biden administration’s focal point on nurturing relationships across Asia is a response to counterbalance the expanding influence of communist China and the purportedly unconstrained partnership between Beijing and Moscow. Mongolia’s reserves of rare earth minerals could potentially offer the United States, Europe, and other Western nations an opportunity to reduce their heavy reliance on China’s rare earth supply chain, suggests Tang Jingyuan, an observer of China. The collaborative efforts between the United States and Mongolia mark a notable achievement in the Western world’s efforts to diversify the rare earth supply chain away from communist influences. This partnership holds symbolic significance within the broader context of the ongoing resource, scientific, and technological rivalry between the United States and China. Mr. Tang shared these insights with The Epoch Times’ Chinese edition on August 5th- This strategic cooperation between the United States and Mongolia is anticipated to exert heightened pressure on the Chinese Communist Party, amplifying the challenges it faces in the ongoing strategic competition with the United States. In a bid to reduce its reliance on China, the United States is actively seeking alternative sources for rare earth minerals. According to BP’s recent energy review, China’s global share of rare earth element production dropped to 59 percent in 2021 from nearly 100 percent in 2010, as per data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Although the U.S. has historically depended heavily on rare earth imports from China, this reliance has diminished from 80 percent during 2014-2017 to 74 percent between 2018 and 2021, as reported by Reuters. The burgeoning partnership between Mongolia and the United States signifies a strategic shift in Mongolia’s diplomatic approach, as observed by Mr. Tang. He points to Mongolia’s distinctive geographical location within Northeast Asia, bordered by Russia and China, which enhances its significance in the geopolitical landscape.
This alliance not only leverages Mongolia’s abundant resources to forge closer ties with Western nations, but it also asserts Mongolia’s presence in a more assertive manner. This dynamic, in turn, restricts China and Russia from underestimating Mongolia’s influence, thereby affording Mongolia greater strategic autonomy and diplomatic maneuverability. While visiting Washington, Mr. Oyun-Erdene engaged in discussions with Vice President Kamala Harris and concurred to formalize the “Open Skies” civil aviation accord between their respective nations. A joint statement released by the White House on August 2 highlighted that this agreement aims to facilitate air travel connections between Mongolia and the United States. It is also anticipated to bolster their robust economic and commercial partnership, foster interpersonal connections, and pave the way for expanded opportunities in trade and tourism.
Recent developments also include the Mongolian government’s approval of utilizing SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network to enhance internet communication and security. Mr. Zhuge posits that the improving rapport between Mongolia and the United States could potentially catalyze and endorse increased Western investment in Mongolia. Given that rare earth mining and processing demand sophisticated technology and substantial infrastructure investment, this enhanced partnership could be pivotal in advancing these sectors.
This geopolitical chessboard extends beyond mere mineral resources. The United States’ concerted efforts to bolster relations across Asia, counterbalancing China’s expanding influence, are indicative of a larger effort to curtail China’s growing might. The mounting collaborations, agreements, and investments aimed at reducing China’s monopoly and asserting more diverse global power structures signify a pivotal moment in international relations. As the world continues to navigate this intricate landscape, the evolution of Mongolia’s partnership with the United States underscores the broader tensions and reconfigurations at play. China’s path to preeminence on multiple fronts faces increasing challenges, prompting a critical reevaluation of its unchecked ascent and potential repercussions for global stability and balance of power.