Jul. 16 – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested that those who doubted Mongolia’s excellent example of freedom and democracy should visit the country while visiting Mongolia on her Asian tour dedicated to broadening the U.S. renewed focus on the region.
She praised Mongolia for its transition from one-party communist rule to a pluralistic political system while addressing the fourth meeting of the Community of Democracies Governing Council and the International Women’s Leadership Forum in Ulaanbaatar.
“Advancing democracy, as all of us who are here at this Governing Council meeting know, is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing as well. … And although every country’s democratic journey is unique, there are universal principles we share and that’s what I think brings us together – to support each and to help emerging democracies succeed.”
Clinton held bilateral meetings with Mongolian President Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Batbold.
Talking with Elbegdorj, Clinton extolled Mongolia as an excellent example of how freedom and democracy were not exclusively Western concepts. To those who doubted, she said, “Let them come to Mongolia.”
Mongolian democratic credentials were tarnished in April when the government arrested former President Nambaryn Enkhbayar on corruption allegations; he was held for a month until formally charged and released on bail in May.
Hillary Clinton did not refer to the arrest, choosing to praise parliamentary elections last month in which nine women were elected to the 76-member Parliament Great Khural, three times the number in the previous legislature.
The U.S. Obama Administration has taken a special interest in Mongolia, largely because of its position next to China. Presedent Elbegdorj visited the White House last year, and Vice President Joe Biden went to Mongolia last year, as well.
Speaking at a woman’s event in Mongolia she said limiting freedom “kills innovation and discourages entrepreneurship,” and ultimately undermines economic expansion.
Clinton did not mention China by name, but it was clearly the target of her remarks.
“You can’t have economic liberalization without political liberalization eventually,” she said. “It’s true that clamping down on political expression or maintaining a tight grip on what people read, say or see can create an illusion of security. But illusions fade — because people’s yearning for liberty doesn’t.”
“We need to make the 21st Century a time in which people across Asia not only become more wealthy,” she said. “They must also become more free.”
The Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper blasted U.S. “arrogance” in commenting on human rights and democracy in Asia, while Chinese microblogging sites have blocked Clinton’s remarks, according to a Hong Kong group that monitors Chinese media.
Some Mongolian observers say it is not a coincidence that Clinton made her remarks about limiting freedom in China in Mongolia, which has the fastest growth rate in the world, making it a magnet for foreign investment.
The New York Times reminds that Washington is backing an American company, Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, to win a contract to mine a massive coal deposit at Tavan Tolgoi. The other main competitor is the Shenhua Energy, a state-owned Chinese enterprise.
However, some American experts ask for more.
“The U.S. has been active, but it needs to be more active because we don’t see many good examples in this part of the world. So it is important for the U.S. to provide that type of reinforcement,” Stephen Noerper who served with the U.S. State Department, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, as well as a visiting professor to the National University of Mongolia said to reporters.
“So what, in the end, is the United States specifically doing to support democracy in Asia? I can’t really point to much that’s substantial or concrete,” wrote Christian Caryl, a senior fellow at the London-based Legatum Institute, in a recent piece in Foreign Policy magazine. “Talk is cheap.”