China will sign a series of energy and infrastructure deals with Mongolia as part of President Xi Jinping's two-day state visit to the neighbouring country this week, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Jianchao said yesterday that the trip would also yield support for Mongolia's plans to boost cross-border transport through China. The trip, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, comes as China tries to expand its influence in Central Asia by promoting its idea of a Silk Road Economic Belt, an initiative designed to expand economic cooperation in the region.
It also comes as China continues to look beyond its borders to meet its growing economy's increasing demand for energy and resources.
Mongolia is also fostering ties with nations such as India and Japan to meet its infrastructure needs. It signed a free-trade deal with Japan last month and is also working to improve logistics links with other nations through China and Russia.
"We are aware of the demand in Mongolia to step up cross-border transport through Chinese territory. We will work hard to help the Mongolians in this regard," Liu said.
"We believe this will benefit economic and trade cooperation between Mongolia and other nations."
The last time a Chinese president visited Mongolia was a 2003 trip by Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao.
Dialogue between China and Mongolia has expanded in recent months. In May, Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj went to China for a regional security summit, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Mongolia in June, paving the way for Xi's visit. Vice-President Li Yuanchao also visited the country in April.
Erdenebulgan Oyun, Mongolia's deputy minister for mining, said Mongolia aimed to sign a gas project and supply accord with China during Xi's trip.
The agreement would cover the construction of two coal-to-gas plants, with 95 per cent of the output being piped to China. Liu said the two countries would also sign deals on coal mining and infrastructure, but did not give details.
Li Lifan , an expert on Central Asian affairs at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Mongolia might seek Beijing's support to join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and upgrade its status from observer to full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security bloc that includes China, Russia and several Central Asian countries.
Li said a cross-border transport agreement would facilitate the delivery of coal and other materials from Mongolia to China, and further on to other nations such as Japan.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg