By Global Times (4 August 2019) – US President Donald Trump met Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga on Wednesday. A Bloomberg News report on Tuesday quoted a senior US official as saying the two leaders plan to discuss a free-trade pact between the two countries, and US investment in Mongolia’s mineral deposits, including rare earths.
This reminds people that China has kept its options open for using rare earths as a weapon in the US-launched trade war against China. Now, is the US turning to Mongolia to break the stalemate in rare-earth minerals?
China has never interfered in US-Mongolia cooperation. This is not in line with Chinese diplomatic theory. But the US wants to block China’s high-tech development and yet turns to China’s neighboring countries to seek resources essential to producing high-tech products. Washington needs to think more carefully.
It does not seem realistic for the US to form a rare-earths alliance against China. First, if Mongolia really plans to extract rare-earth elements, the country will need help from China’s technology and professional personnel. Second, China leads the world in mineral extracting devices. But since the Trump administration regards China as a rival, it is hard for the US to rope in China’s neighboring countries to oppose China in mineral extracting devices and technology.
China has been offering financial and other aid to Mongolia, and China is Mongolia’s most important trading partner. China has also been adopting policies that will help Mongolia develop, and China is technologically capable of it. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is also essential to promoting Mongolia’s growth.
If Mongolia wants to extract rare earths, it will need China’s devices and technology, as well as China’s support in the country’s infrastructure construction, including railroads and electricity. Besides, even if Mongolia successfully extracts rare earths, as a landlocked country, it will need highways or railways to transport rare earths outside the country. China is working on connecting Mongolia with the Pacific.
US’ policy on China shows a trend of going to the extremes. The US has been promoting an all-round decoupling from China. Washington hopes to rope in and manipulate Asia-Pacific countries to satisfy its needs. But Asia-Pacific countries are not puppets. These countries’ economic development is somewhat connected to China’s economy, and China’s development will not turn them into Washington’s pawns.
Washington should understand that China does not oppose the US developing relations with China’s neighboring countries, as long as such relations benefit regional cooperation and joint development instead of targeting China. If the US wants to besiege China in the region, it cannot benefit from the region as well because it can never shut China out from Asia-Pacific’s development.
China’s development of its surrounding areas has provided fundamental strength for neighboring countries’ development. Washington should understand that simply training some military personnel or providing military aid cannot make China’s neighboring countries develop. China has helped these countries’ infrastructure, including power plants, railways and highways, and they serve not only Chinese companies. The infrastructure also helps US and other countries’ investment, logistics and electricity in the region. China has set an example for the US.