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What's the fastest growing economy in the world?

September 25th, 2012
06:57 PM ET

If Mongolia didn't pop into your mind first, you're probably not alone.

This country of just 2.8 million people is landlocked in the middle of Asia, but it's growing at more than twice the rate of China.

Its staggering rate of more than 17%-a-year growth last year may explain why U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a pilgrimage to Mongolia, along with Vice President Joe Biden and before him George W. Bush.

Not to mention a parade of other Western and Asian powers, including China, along with corporate titans by the planeload.

Mongolia's secret? It sits atop a mountain of mineral wealth: coal, copper, gold and a torrent of global money are all forcing revolutionary changes.

Mongolia has managed the change from traditional nomadic herding culture to major economic political power. And it’s gone from a Soviet-style communism to democracy.

“This is a great opportunity,” President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Monday. “But we have to manage that. We have to share that great opportunity with all our people.”

Inner Mongolians culture clash

Despite this huge wealth, there is growing inequality and worry that it won't be spread around.

There are also concerns about corruption, as so often happens in rapidly emerging economies.

“I see corruption as a mortal enemy for young democracies,” President Elbegdorj said.

He believes the zero-tolerance policies the country is attempting to implement can help shield the country.

It’s neighbor China is a natural trading partner, but Elbegdorj believes the country must build more infrastructure to create gateways between both China and Russia.

And he believes the U.S. and Mongolia have a common strategic interest.

“Our men and women in uniform actually serve together in Iraq; now we're serving in Afghanistan, in other hot spots."

Elbegdorj was recently in Iran for the non-aligned meeting.

He was the first foreign head of state to visit Natanz - Iran's main center for uranium enrichment.

Why did he visit?

“There was open opportunity to any head of state who is participating in the non-alliance movement meeting, and I thought, why I do not use that opportunity? And I went.”

He said Mongolia’s position is that Iran should comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Mongolia tries to stop sale of rare dinosaur fossil

On the subject North Korea - and the possibility of reform under its new young leader, Kim Jong Un- Elbegdorj sounds optimistic. He says his country has established good relations with North Korea.

“I think Mongolia is really uniquely positioned towards North Korea. We have an embassy in North Korea. We have an embassy in Seoul.”

He says foremost for North Korea must be economic reforms, but that Mongolia could help guide that country because of a potentially shared experience in the transition to democracy and a market economy.

But questions still linger about democracy back in Mongolia.

Elbegdorj was instrumental in fighting for democracy, but the country’s previous president, Nyamdorj Enkhbayar, has since been arrested and there are charges against him.

He and other independent observers have complained that this is entirely politically motivated and that he has not been treated according to internationally admissible norms. Some believe the charges are politically motivated.

“Mongolia has a policy, zero tolerance of corruption.” Elbegdorj says. “And I fought for freedoms since the cold winter in 1989, for 23 years. And I regard that corruption is the mortal enemy, but also no one is above the law. That's the essence of democracy. And because of that, we have to be very tough in order to sell our people's historic choice to freedom. And we need to rid of corruption.”

Mongolia's handling of the case will serve as a gauge of progress for Mongolia's young democracy.

Terminus of the Trans-Siberian

CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (18 Responses)





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  2. Marco Hsiao

    [Countries surrounding China are moving to prosperity]

    In 2011, Mongolia has a good development in economy. Expanding trade with China is the main reason; especially the natural resources.

    In the first half year of 2012, Macau could be the fastest growing economy in the world; it has 17% growth rate too; because lots of tourists came to Macau from Mainland China for gambling (now Mainland China has no legal casino). It also prompts businesses on hotels, restaurants, shopping and other tourism activities.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:21 am | Reply
  3. Marco Hsiao

    [It might be changing to a new world center]

    Almost 14 countries surrounding China are moving to prosperity and expanding trade fast (except two). After the upgrading of infrastructure, their progress and trade would grow to be faster. During the US violence murders more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi Muslims and 4500 US soldiers, countries surrounding China are constructing diligently.

    Possibly in 2025 China (Mainland + ROC Taiwan + Hong Kong + Macau) will surpass the US on GDP and military, in 2050, China's GDP and military will be more than double to the US; the gap could be expanded to 5 times then to be stable. The world is facing 500 years change.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:22 am | Reply
  4. Marco Hsiao

    [Countries surrounding China are moving to prosperity]

    In 2011, Mongolia has a good development in economy. Expanding trade with China is the main reason; especially the natural resources.

    In the first half year of 2012, Macau could be the fastest growing economy in the world; it has 17% growth rate too; because lots of tourists came to Macau from Mainland China for gambling (now Mainland China has no legal casino). It also prompts businesses on hotels, restaurants, gold buying, shopping and other tourism activities.

    September 26, 2012 at 9:22 am | Reply
    • mongolian citizen

      yes chinese people choosed the better and peaceful way to conquer other countries through the economic policy..

      October 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  5. craignmongolia

    Yes, Mongolia is the largest growing economy, but there's also something that most people don't know or hear about......
    People don't hear that before the national elections in June every citizen was receiving 21,000 tugrugs ($18) / month. This doesn't sound like a large amount of money, but it really helped a lot of families because it provided extra income for food, clothes or coal. The government gave this to each person until the elections and then it was just long enough to create HUGE inflation. So, yes, Mongolia's growth is somewhere around 17% but the inflation is also around 17% and now citizens are no longer receiving the stimulus so it has caused HUGE problems for middle and lower class families. So, if you are going to advertise Mongolia as the fastest growing economy, then also advertise it as also having a huge inflation rate, as well!!!

    September 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • to craignmongolia

      The real growth was 17%, not including inflation.

      October 16, 2012 at 4:21 am | Reply
  6. Mongol

    As a Mongolian citizen, I believe that former president Enkhbayar Nambaryn should be sentenced if he's found of criminal activities, i.e. corruption. No one should be above the law, including ex-presidents and ex-premiers. You missed a point that many people in Mongolia see this case a step toward more justice and equality.

    September 27, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
    • Baatar

      Well, as a another Mongolian citizen I completely disagree with what you stated. Yes, former premiers AND current premiers should be sentenced if they are corrupt. But, the case with Nambaryn Enkhbayar is a complete joke. Every Mongolian knows it. Maybe Mongolians who live abroad might be brainwashed by the Mongolian media (which is controlled by Mr Elbegdorj), therefore, you might not be aware. But as a Mongolian who lives in Ulaanbaatar, ask anyone, Mr Enkhbayar was the only powerful rival of Mr Elbegdorj. And Enkhbayar CONVENIENTLY gets sentenced right before the 2013 Presidential Elections. Yes, no one should be above the law, including the CURRENT president.

      If you lived in Mongolia, you would know that Mr Elbegdorj is known as the "neckless liar". Please ask anyone. But then again, Mr Elbegdorj uses the state money for his own PR campaign to pay people to write comments like yours. Therefore, now to think of it, I am fairly certain that you are one of his workers. Quite sad, be more original please. Don't quote your little wannabe monarch (Elbegdorj). It is fairly obvious when you start attacking Mr Enkhbayar out of the blue.

      September 29, 2012 at 1:37 am | Reply
  7. amanda

    no one can be above the law that is not because of democracy .. that is why or how we have government above the citizen to guide them through the law... funny thing i noticed on this video he is just reading whatever he supposed to read Ms Amanpour is asking what ever is in the board... i dont see the passion there...

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  9. Nate

    Oh god, this fool should really stop lying and embarrassing Mongolians should as myself. “But we have to manage that. We have to share that great opportunity with all our people.”? Are you joking? Every Mongolian knows that the GIANT Tavan Tolgoi mine is basically in the hands of Elbegdorj. And yet, he has the guts to say that he wants to share with all our people?
    Did you forget Elbegdorj? George Bush visited Mongolia to meet with Mr Enkhbayar and Mr Enkhbayar was the one who send Mongolian soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, not you.
    And don't even get me started on his little corruption speech. If he is so keen to get rid of corruption, then why so far only ONE person has been arrested for corruption – Mr Enkhbayar? What about the others? Mr Batbold, Mr Nyambdorj, Mr Bayar, to name a few. Please, we all know that the case against Mr Enkhbayar is a political game.
    Let's not forget, during Mr Enkhbayar's term as President, Mongolia was ranked at 80 in the world corruption according to Transparency International (That is in 2009, when Mr Enkhbayar lost his seat). However, when this fool crawled his way to power by deceit and cheating, Mongolia is now ranked at 120. (in 2012) Wow, great accomplishment Mr Elbegdorj! way to fight against corruption.
    It really embarrasses me when Elbegdorj goes abroad and gives interviews. I really hope that he will stop turning my country into some sort of dictatorship. (Elbegdorj probably idolizes and emulates Mr Nazarbayev, who was the president of Kazakhstan, what 20 years?) I am just glad I live in the States but feel sorry for my fellow Mongolians in Mongolia.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:13 am | Reply

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  11. Tsogt

    And because of that, we have to be very tough in order to SAVE our people's historic choice to freedom

    November 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Reply
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