Mongolian-Chinese relations historically have suffered because of China's claims to "lost territory" and Mongolia's fear of China's expansion because of overpopulation. Since 1984 improvement in Mongolian relations with China has lagged behind the more rapid advances in Sino-Soviet relations. An early indication of lessening of tensions, however, came in July 1984 when Ulaanbaatar sent to Beijing a delegation led by its deputy foreign minister, the first such visit in several years. The Mongolian representative met with China's minister of foreign affairs to discuss developing bilateral economic, cultural, trade, and technical relations. Also, the officials signed a document verifying the first joint inspection of the MongolianChinese border. The warming atmosphere continued with the signing of an agreement on civil aviation in December 1985, followed by the resumption of direct Beijing-Ulaanbaatar air service in June 1986. A five-year agreement increasing levels of trade was signed in April 1986.
Batmonh gave official sanction to improvements in MongolianChinese relations in his address to the May 1986 Nineteenth Congress. Displaying caution and restraint, Batmonh declared that Mongolia was pursuing consistently its "scrupulous policy" of normalizing relations with China, with the qualification that the relationship should be based on equality and "non-interference in another's internal affairs." This evident uncertainty concerning national security was reflected in Mongolian press statements, just prior to Gorbachev's July 1986 address that announced Soviet troop withdrawals were under consideration. The press stressed that the disposition of Soviet troops stationed in Mongolia was an internal matter between Mongolia and the Soviet Union, and that it was not a subject for discussion during any Sino-Soviet consultations. An article appearing in the press shortly after Gorbachev's speech captured the Mongolian sentiment that "no country which borders on China feels secure."
Batmonh's initiatives were followed by an August 1986 visit to Mongolia of a vice foreign minister described as the highestranking Chinese official to visit Mongolia in twenty years. This important meeting resulted in the signing of a consular agreement, the first since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries in 1949. This agreement was followed in 1987 by several key visits and events: a high-level delegation from China's legislative body, the National People's Congress, visited Mongolia in June; this visit was reciprocated in September 1988 by a delegation from the People's Great Hural, the first since 1960; a scientific and technical cooperative program for the 1987 to 1988 period was ratified in July; and a major Mongolian friendship delegation visited China in September 1987--reciprocated by a Chinese friendship delegation that went to Mongolia in July 1988.
Other important points of discussion at the August 1986 meeting reportedly were "certain international issues of common concern." Japanese press reports indicated that the Mongolians had rejected a Chinese request at the meeting that all Soviet troops be withdrawn from Mongolia. In China's view, the presence of Soviet troops in Mongolia was a key "obstacle" to normalization of relations between China and the Soviet Union. China, maintaining that only a total troop withdrawal would be satisfactory, refused to back down from this position. From the Chinese perspective, Mongolia once had been under China's domination; it was therefore particularly galling that Soviet troops were now massed in that area and were directed against China.
In 1988 security concerns and Mongolia's image as an independent country were especially visible in its foreign policy vis-à-vis China. The Mongolian minister of foreign affairs remarked in November that significant progress had been made in Mongolian-Chinese relations, but he stressed that any further Soviet withdrawals from Mongolia were a matter for deliberation by the Mongolian government. Mongolia's message was that this was not a unilateral Soviet issue. Following Gorbachev's UN address in December, Mongolia announced that Soviet troop withdrawals had been set in accordance with an agreement reached between Mongolia and the Soviet Union and had resulted from "the positive shift that had occurred in Asia and on the international arena as a whole." Bilateral cooperation between Mongolia and China on security issues had advanced to the point that on November 28, 1988, a treaty on a border control system was signed in Beijing. The Chinese side described the purpose of the treaty as being to maintain stability in the border areas.
The stationing of Soviet troops on Mongolia's border with China remained a major impediment both to improved Sino-Soviet relations and to Mongolian-Chinese relations. Nevertheless, by early 1989 Soviet assurances that Mongolian security would not be compromised, complemented by Mongolia's new relationship with the United States and enhanced international status, apparently allowed Mongolia's leaders to accept additional Soviet efforts to remove the Chinese "obstacle" of border troops. Sino-Soviet consultations, in preparation for the May 1989 summit between Gorbachev and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping resulted in the retention of Soviet troops in Mongolia--a requirement, no doubt of Mongolia--although a 75 percent force reduction was to occur at some unspecified time in the future. Whether this action would satisfy China fully was still unclear in mid-1989. What was clear was that Mongolia's status would change significantly, with a much reduced level of protection from the Soviet Union. In addition, with increasing Chinese influence and involvement in Mongolia, Soviet motivation for providing larger aid and assistance packages might be diminished.
Foreign observers assumed that the agenda of the May 1989 Sino-Soviet summit was a key subject for discussion during Minister of Foreign Affairs Tserenpiliin Gombosuren's eight-day visit to Beijing, beginning in late March. With Sino-Soviet relations showing significant improvement, and the normalization of Mongolian-Chinese relations being in practice a by-product of these developments, the expansion of Mongolian-Chinese relations might be expected to accelerate. The Beijing meeting of foreign ministers, the first in twenty-seven years, resulted in agreement to establish a joint commission on cooperation in economy, trade, and science and technology; on allowing visa-free travel between the two countries; and on restoring a Mongolian consulate general in China's Nei Monggol Autonomous Region (Inner Mongolia).
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