For the historic occasion of 90th anniversary of ousting foreign capitals and

setting up a commission for nationalization of feudal property

One. First War Against Investors

Widespread talk that foreigners subverting Mongolia’s economy is nothing new. A palpable example and proven experience of such operation is already at hand, historically either of two super powers neighboring Mongolia had hands-on operations before they had acquired full control over Mongolian politics and economy.

     Early in 20th century, Mongolians restored its sovereignty and proclaimed that vast steppe of Great Warrior Chenghis Khan woke up from its deep sleep. Rest of the world started getting interested in Mongolians that silently slept under the rule of Qing Dynasty for several hundred years. Largely that era was zesty and mesmerizing time shaking the entire world and flames of war burning to subsequently change the political map of the planet, raged. 

       Earlier, people from all over the world came to Mongolia, including Larson, first came as a missioner, them awarded the title of Earl, by Mongolia’s ruler Bogdo Khan, settled in Mongolia, Haslund and other Danish farmers living in Khuvsgul run modern animal husbandry, trading firms from many other jurisdictions operated in Mongolia, foreign-invested Mongolore mined gold and discoveries of Roy Chapman Andrews’ expedition in Gobi resonated the world. One was able to see flags of Emperial Russia and Chinese Republic, as well as those of US and Scandinavians, including Denmark and Sweden, waving the nation’s capital Khuree.

      As reported in “Accounts of agents of Ministry of Trade and Industry abroad in 1914, Petrograd” (Отчеты агентов Министерствa торговли и промышленности за границей за 1914г. Петроград), Mongolia exported 103 019 pounds of camel wool, 78 300 pounds of cashmere, 979 512 pounds of sheep wool in 1912, and 122 123 pounds of camel wool, 43 231 pounds of cashmere and 1 036 629 pounds of wool, of which majority of camel wool headed to England and all sheep wool shipped to US (History of People’s Republic of Mongolia, 1968, p. 566).

     Whilst, Russians purchased not only wool and cashmere, but also live animals. For instance, Russians imported 98 000 cattle in 1913, 67 700 in 1914 and 80 000 in 1915 to then Imperial Russia, as the records indicate. 

     Some non-Russian terminologies that came into Mongolian language including “manivil” (manual hand crank starter) or “100 mil hurd” (100 miles speed) clearly evidence that modern technology first came to Mongolian steppe from completely different side, obviously not from the north. 

     At that time, half of Mongols tended animals while the other half prayed to God; there was no a countrymate yet to born to supply the nation with necessary goods. Nothing prohibits Mongolian nationals to do it, but no Mongol was interested in such a business. Even merchandising was widely censured with national “wisdom” saying “Trader making mistake turns to burglar” or “Spirited burglar better than spiritless trader”. Undeterred by the “wisdom”, people praised the spirited rustlers as “Good buckriders”. Therefore, foreign traders supplied all three out of all three imports, including tea blocks, tobaccos and drill fabric, for Mongolians. They also purchased wool, skin and hides too abundant for a small Mongolian population to make felts, ropes and costumes for all. Obviously, unethical trading and plundering could have existed in the middle of primitive nowhere. Regardless, mutually beneficial businesses were booming.

     Pastoral Mongol nomads singled out all trades except herding. Construction work, a core to urban development, was often nick-named as “mud work” often despised as a job that low-level nations such as Chinese would be engaged in. Due to such ignorance, Mongolians failed get deeply into the secrets of Chinese traders, recognize the nature of trading and demand the fair trade. 

     Later in 1911, when Mongolia proclaimed its independence and formulated it further development policy, dominating idea of following the Russian- European model, not Manchu-Chinese model, might have changed the attitudes of nomads. Right after the independence, several influential rich Mongolians established joint ventures in an attempt to controlling raw materials import and camel caravan transportation businesses. 

          In other words, Mongolia become connected to the world and became a part of quickly evolving world. If converted to modern terminologies, Mongolia was globalizing to its possible extent and made day-to-day attempts to build images of a normal country with external relations. 

         Following People’s Revolution in 1921, Soviets fully controlling Mongolia’s government declared the first war against foreign investment in Mongolia marking the extensive war outset. Let’s see how Soviets incorporated their work in the “history” that they authored to Mongolians. Revolutionary History states, “... in this way, Western Europe and American capital monopolistically suppressed the people, and robbing Mongolia conspiring with greedy Chinese entities”. What a familiar slogan recalling the current slogan fueling hatred on Oyu Tolgoi, Tavan Tolgoi and Boroo Gold?

         Earlier in history, government and civil movements joined their forces for their fight against foreign investors. First, foreigners become unable to wave their national flags in Mongolian sky, then their accounts and transactions banned, and finally owners were kicked off. By 1928, the last western investor abandoned Mongolia. Thereafter, Mongolia had no economy but Soviets as same as “no god but Allah”. Right a day after gaining control, Soviets commenced robbing and grabbing private property of Mongolians, masked under a catchword “confiscating feudal property”. In the event of direct confiscation of Larson’s property, scandals would have risen between Russia and Sweden or Russia and US resulting in creating bottleneck in robbing rich Mongolians. If communists directly nationalized livestock held by Danish farmers, disputes between Soviet Russians and Scandinavians would have encountered barriers in the nationalization of livestock of Mongolians. At minimum, influence from civilized western countries would surge talks on private property and civil oppositions. 

            But, the barrier was already removed by the campaign “Deporting foreign plunders”, with proxy battle by Mongolians, powered by Soviets. Is was the beginning of history of red terror taking an aim on Mongolian people and its economy. As a result, Mongolian ended up with nationalization of almost all private properties, cramping the size of private property and killing of one of every five adults. 

Two. Second War Against Investors

Just a decade before the dusk of 20th century, socialist system collapsed itself. Using this chance, Mongols re-gained their economic and political sovereignty. The biggest achievement of democracy made Mongolia free from seeking consent from other countries what to do and not a country controls country’s economy; that is what I personally. 

    Ample number of foreign investors are coming into Mongolia, a country this has been striving towards becoming a part of the globalizing world and modern-era independent country, during these two decades of democracy (now it is approaching to third decade). And, the influx is fueled by discovery of abundant mineral resources in Mongolia. 

     Tradition inviting someone competent for the work we cannot do dates back early e.g. at least we used to ask neighboring adult to slaughter sheep in return for a cooked sirloin or a shank chump-on. In terms of Mongolia’s energy generating tradition, it is limited to burning dungs and wood, so 20th century mining and energy sector stood up on their feet with investment from Soviet Union, as the historic records reveal. 

    However, it is unavoidable in modern times mining sector to work with world class companies and set the shares and return as same we did with “serlion” and “shank chump-on”. 

        Nowadays, the doctrine familiar to us from a centenary ago that foreign investors bloodsucking Mongolia has restored and is reverberating. Later on, some say they learned from book that investors collapse economy. One reads a book that is what it is written on it, some confesses. Books and contents vary. If they could accidentally read Holy Quran, they will likely tear down Gandan Monastery and Janraisig Statue saying “Book says there is no God but Allah”.

      It is said if you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in. No way of dying from asphyxiation in order to keep flies away; it is needed to keep it open and wait with fly-flap in hand. Anyone come come in through the open door to Mongolia, being attentive is a must, and this is what the state of Mongolia works for.

     Isn’t it an omen portending the repeat of history as it witnesses that enemy of Second Foreign Investor War raging in Mongolia has been western investment, namely US and Canadian investment?? On-going process of “Hating the foreign capitals” always skips two powerful neighbors; this seems to be the proof for omen. I don’t mean skipping is incorrect, just the skipping fuels suspicion.

  Chinese companies account for majority of foreign investors, formally registered and recognized by government according to foreign investment legislations. How many Chinese-invested companies can you name?

      Aside from general blustering that Chinese are coming in and Mongols “dissolved” into a large nation, do you know any opposition movement battling against wholly or partly invested Chinese company? At least, do you know the names of Chinese companies working on Mongolian iron, zinc and oil deposits of strategic significance?

     Have you ever thought of the reason for “protecting” Mongolian economy from western investors, but not from Chinese of Russians?

  Do you know the history that foreign investors are ward-off for being “exploiters” and one country control my country entirely? 

Every time, deeper thought is given on popular topics such as “Economic Hitman” and “Foreigners’ exploitation”, which substitute previous popular topic “Assassination of Zorig”, these questions naturally and inevitably arise. 

21 APRIL 2010

[1] This article was published 8 years prior to the moment that Canadian Boroo Gold (Centerra Gold) company was ousted from Mongolia, so the facts and examples date back to that period.