COVID-19 Vaccination in MongoliaEfforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia can be described in the oxymoron “small but mighty.” This tiny nation is typically overshadowed by its neighboring states, Russia and China. However, in the event of a pandemic, the position as a small country enclosed by the borders of the world’s two largest vaccine manufacturers can be extremely valuable. Mongolia has benefited greatly from its close ties with its neighbors, powerful forces determined to aid their partners through vaccine diplomacy. As a result of these vaccination efforts, Mongolia hopes to be free of COVID-19 sometime around the Mongolian summer of 2021.

Helpful Partnerships

Mongolia has a sufficient number of vaccines to properly ensure protection within the adult population, primarily due to its advantageous location between China and Russia. The relationship between Mongolia and China dates back to the 1940s when the countries signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance. As for Mongolia and Russia, both nations signed the Russo-Mongolian Agreement back in 1912, which gives both countries major commercial advantages. Through these foreign policy agreements, toward the end of April 2021, Mongolia had 1.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and 20,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccines from Russia.

Additionally, on March 24, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $1.2 million to assist the Mongolian government in its COVID-19 response, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia. USAID is committed to assisting efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia by strengthening the country’s disease-fighting capabilities. USAID also supports other critical areas such as “infection prevention and control, preparing laboratory systems for large-scale testing” and public communication on personal preventative measures. Due to aid from Russia, China, the United States and other foreign assistance, as of May 6, 2021, Mongolia has administered more than 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

The worldwide pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance of a nation’s foreign policy and what is made possible through efforts of foreign and domestic relations. Mongolia is reaping the benefits of vaccination diplomacy by relying on its well-established foreign policy framework. Mongolia’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative includes COVAX, an international effort aimed at ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the world.

Specifically, Mongolia’s foreign minister, Battsetseg Batmunkh, has maintained excellent relationships with Mongolia’s allies. For instance, the U.S. and Mongolia have been in regular contact on how the United States, as a key ally, can help Mongolia tackle COVID-19. Additionally, On February 24, 2021, Batmunkh expressed deep gratitude to the foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, for China’s generous assistance in providing resources to Mongolia to fight COVID-19. Batmunkh also adds that the China-Mongolia relationship sets a good example of how nations around the world can empower one another in the face of adversity.

The Mongolian government is so optimistic about the country’s vaccination rollout that Mongolia is promising citizens a summer free from COVID-19. With a fully vaccinated population of 53.4% as of June 1, 2021, Mongolia is without a doubt at the forefront of the worldwide effort to safeguard communities against COVID-19.

Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

In recent years, China’s role in Africa, particularly its economic role, has expanded significantly.

China is currently the continent’s largest trade partner. China and African nations exchange roughly $160 billion worth of goods every year, and one million Chinese have moved to Africa in the past decade.

China says that more than half of its foreign aid goes to Africa; between 2010 and 2012, China provided Africa with more than $14 billion in foreign aid. Additionally, China funded the building of the $200 million Africa Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as “a symbol of deepening relations.”

China also provides economic guidance in Africa. In a November 2014 conference, officials from China and the African Union met in Ethiopia to discuss how Africa can learn from Chinese industrialization practices. A joint-commissioned comparative study on Special Economic Zones in China was presented at the conference, with the goal of improving Special Economic Zones in Africa.

Many, including Ethiopian president, Dr. Mulatu Teshome, see China’s leadership role in Africa as a good thing: “Benchmarking China’s best practices in industrialization is essential, in that that it is almost unthinkable to realize the African dream of becoming an industrialized, united and prosperous continent by 2063 only through Africa’s own technology generation.”

It would appear that China is uniquely suited to provide development leadership in Africa. Much of China’s success in reducing poverty amongst its own people stemmed from agricultural and rural development. Similarly, rural poor account for over 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans living below the poverty line. According to a World Bank study, roughly three-quarters of China’s overall poverty reduction between 1981 and 2001 came from gains to the rural poor.

Some, however, have accused China of “resource colonialism,” asserting that China is using Africa’s mineral wealth to spur its own economic growth — a charge that foreign minister Wang Yi has adamantly denied.

“In China’s exchanges and cooperation with Africa, we want to see mutual benefit and win-win results. I want to make clear one point, that is, China will never follow the track of western colonists and all cooperation with Africa will never come at the expense of the ecology, environment or long-term interests of Africa,” Wang asserted.

Others wonder whether China’s political role in Africa is expanding along with its economic role. China insists that its support is unconditional, and that it has no designs on interfering in the political affairs of African nations. “Politically, we always speak up for African countries and uphold justice. Economically, we help African countries to enhance development to achieve prosperity,” said Wang.

A recent article in the Economist argued that, while China’s win-win rhetoric is largely empty, China appears to have no designs on building its political influence on the African continent. “Some thought, after a decade of high-octane engagement, that China would dominate Africa. Instead it is likely to be just one more foreign investor jostling for advantage.”

– Parker Carroll

Sources: The Economist, The Guardian, International Fund for Agricultural Development
Photo: PxHere