If the wave of destabilization hits Mongolia

(To Andrea Gaspardo)
18/12/22

Those of us with good memories will remember that the present year 2022 opened with protests that devastated Almaty, the main city of Kazakhstan. Now as the year is drawing to a close, another country in that geographical area is experiencing its moment of socio-political crisis, even if characterized by a different genesis; we are talking about Mongolia.

A country unknown to most, squeezed between Russia and China, Mongolia represents the classic example of how history can reserve both a glorious past and a hopeless future for the same people.

Since its independence in 1911 from the Sino-Manchu dynasty of the Ch'ing, modern Mongolia has always been an underdeveloped and sparsely populated country (today it has just under 3 and a half million inhabitants spread over an area of ​​1.564.116 km2) strictly dependent on the Soviet Union before and on Russia today for its energy and geopolitical security.

During the XNUMXs and XNUMXs relations with the Chinese neighbor improved enormously, but the economic boom of the "Yellow Dragon" meant that Mongolia slipped inexorably into the arms of Beijing.

It is important to highlight the fact that as much as 86% of Ulan Bator's exports are absorbed by Beijing, which is also the first partner on the import side. This makes Mongolia a de facto "colony", albeit unofficially, of China.

The main export product for the Mongolian state is coal, which in fact constitutes half of the volume of the aforementioned exports. According to some local media reports, the giant responsible for the extraction and sale of coal, the state-controlled Erdenes Tavantolgoy (ETT JSC), has been involved in a fraud in recent years which resulted in the disappearance of 6,5 million tons of coal with a total value of 12,9 billion dollars. The tons of coal mysteriously "disappeared" were then sold in China following a series of illegal passages that literally lined the pockets of numerous Mongolian and Chinese officials. Furthermore, considering the fact that in the first 9 months of 2022 the total value of coal exports from Mongolia reached the figure of 4,5 billion dollars, it is easy to understand how the scam has reached epic proportions for such a small and relatively poor man.

The news soon spread like wildfire and, starting on December 4, the people took to the streets and began to protest. The next day, protesters tried to break into government buildings, only to be held back by the police. Failing to do so, they blocked the main arterial roads of the capital with bonfires made from the fires of Christmas trees. The authorities have tried to organize a dialogue table with the protesters by promising transparency and the reform of the aforementioned Erdenes Tavantologoy company, whose accounting books will be subjected to an audit process by international observers. However, the promises of the authorities have not appeased the demonstrators, who to this day continue to patrol the squares demanding that the names of those responsible be published and severely punished as happened in neighboring China, where the corrupt officials implicated in the scandal were quickly identified, tried and executed.

It is still early to predict what is happening in the country where Genghis Khan was born; nevertheless it is also necessary to continue to monitor the upheavals that are also taking place in this remote corner of Asia.

Frame: Al Jazeera English

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