For decades, the term “buffer state” has been invoked as shorthand for Mongolia’s political raison d’être. The country is wedged between two BRICs, and more than 20 Chinese cities each exceed its entire population.

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

For decades, the term “buffer state” has been invoked as shorthand for Mongolia’s political raison d’être. The country is wedged between two BRICs, and more than 20 Chinese cities each exceed its entire population. If such a hinterland survived the 20th century intact, the phrase implies, it must be because the central planners in Moscow and Beijing permitted it to.

But today, fiercely independent Mongolia has an opportunity to play geopolitics at a scale not seen since its imperial heyday in the 13th century. In recent years, explorers have discovered vast quantities of gold, copper, uranium — and especially coal — beneath the grasslands.

PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION CONTENT
This content is available for Premium Subscribers only.
Already a subscriber? Log in