Why Is Mongolia So Weak Now?

Mongolia, once a dominant force in Asia under the leadership of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, has declined from its former glory and now struggles with poverty and lack of influence. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Mongolia is weak now due to its vulnerable economy, small population, reliance on foreign aid, and loss of territory over the centuries.

In this comprehensive article, we will analyze the reasons why present-day Mongolia lacks the power and prosperity it once had during the peak of the Mongol Empire in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The Fragile Mongolian Economy

Mongolia, a landlocked country in East Asia, is currently facing economic challenges that have weakened its overall strength. Several factors contribute to this fragility, including overreliance on mining, lack of economic diversification, and inflation and debt issues.

Overreliance on Mining

One of the main reasons for Mongolia’s current weakness is its heavy dependence on mining. The country is rich in natural resources, particularly coal, copper, and gold. However, this overreliance on mining leaves the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices.

When global demand for these resources decreases, Mongolia’s economy suffers, leading to job losses and reduced government revenue.

A report by the World Bank indicates that the mining sector accounts for a significant portion of Mongolia’s GDP, with mining exports making up around 90% of total exports. This heavy reliance on a single sector makes the economy susceptible to external shocks and limits its ability to withstand economic downturns.

Lack of Economic Diversification

Another factor contributing to Mongolia’s current weakness is the lack of economic diversification. The country has yet to develop other industries that could help mitigate the impact of fluctuations in the mining sector.

This lack of diversification leaves the economy highly vulnerable and dependent on the success of the mining industry.

Efforts to diversify the economy have been made in recent years, with the government implementing policies to promote sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and renewable energy. However, these efforts are still in their early stages and have not yet been able to offset the reliance on mining.

Inflation and Debt Issues

Mongolia’s economy has also been affected by inflation and debt issues. In recent years, the country has experienced high inflation rates, which erode the purchasing power of its citizens and increase the cost of living.

This has put pressure on the government to implement measures to control inflation and stabilize prices.

Additionally, Mongolia has accumulated significant levels of debt, both domestic and external, which puts a strain on its economy. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio has been on the rise, reaching alarming levels.

This makes it challenging for the government to manage its finances effectively and invest in infrastructure development and social welfare programs.

Addressing these inflation and debt issues is crucial for Mongolia to strengthen its economy and reduce its vulnerability to external shocks.

Small, Spread Out Population

Mongolia’s weakness can be attributed, in part, to its small and spread out population. With a land area of approximately 1.56 million square kilometers, Mongolia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. This low population density poses several challenges for the country.

Low Population Density

One of the main challenges of having a low population density is the limited workforce available for economic development. With only around 3.3 million people, Mongolia faces difficulties in attracting investments and businesses due to the lack of a large labor pool.

This can hinder the country’s ability to achieve sustained economic growth and development.

The low population density also affects the provision of public services and infrastructure. With fewer people spread out over a vast area, it becomes more challenging to provide essential services such as healthcare, education, and transportation.

Remote and rural areas often face shortages of healthcare facilities and schools, making it difficult for the population to access basic services.

Furthermore, the low population density makes it harder to develop a robust social and cultural environment. Communities may be small and isolated, limiting opportunities for social interaction and the exchange of ideas.

This can have an impact on the overall development and well-being of the population.

Urbanization Challenges

Another aspect of Mongolia’s small, spread out population is the challenge of urbanization. While the capital city of Ulaanbaatar has experienced rapid urban growth, it has also faced numerous challenges associated with urbanization.

As people from rural areas move to the city in search of better opportunities, Ulaanbaatar has struggled to provide adequate housing, infrastructure, and services. This has led to a proliferation of informal settlements, or ger districts, where living conditions are often substandard.

The lack of proper urban planning and infrastructure has also resulted in issues such as traffic congestion and pollution.

Efforts have been made to address these challenges, with the government implementing urban development programs and initiatives. However, the process of urbanization remains a complex and ongoing issue for Mongolia.

Reliance on Foreign Aid

Mongolia’s current weakness can be attributed to its heavy reliance on foreign aid. Over the years, the country has received significant financial support from various international organizations and donor countries.

While foreign aid can provide short-term relief and assistance, relying too heavily on it can have long-term negative consequences for a nation’s economy and development.

The Downside of Aid Dependency

One of the major downsides of relying on foreign aid is the potential loss of control over the country’s own economic policies and decision-making. When a significant portion of a country’s budget comes from foreign aid, it often comes with conditions and strings attached.

This can limit the government’s ability to implement policies that are in the best interest of the country and its people.

Moreover, foreign aid can create a culture of dependency, where the government and the people become accustomed to receiving assistance from outside sources. This can hinder the development of domestic industries and entrepreneurship, as there is less incentive to innovate and create sustainable solutions.

The Need for Economic Diversification

Mongolia’s heavy reliance on foreign aid also highlights the need for economic diversification. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on the mining sector, particularly coal, copper, and gold. While these industries have brought some economic benefits, they are also vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices.

To reduce dependency on foreign aid, Mongolia should focus on diversifying its economy by investing in other sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and renewable energy. This would not only create more job opportunities but also make the country less vulnerable to external shocks.

Building Self-sufficiency and Resilience

To break free from the cycle of aid dependency, Mongolia needs to prioritize building self-sufficiency and resilience. This includes investing in education and skills development, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, and improving governance and transparency.

By empowering its own people and creating an environment that fosters self-reliance, Mongolia can gradually reduce its reliance on foreign aid and pave the way for sustainable economic growth and development.

It is important to note that foreign aid can still play a crucial role in supporting countries in times of crisis or natural disasters. However, it should be viewed as a temporary solution rather than a long-term strategy for development.

For more information on foreign aid and its impact on developing countries, you can visit the website of the United Nations Development Programme: www.undp.org

Loss of Territory and Regional Influence Over Time

Mongolia’s current state of weakness can be attributed to a combination of historical events that led to the loss of territory and regional influence over time. These events significantly impacted the country’s political, economic, and social development.

The Dissolution of the Mongol Empire

One of the key factors contributing to Mongolia’s weakened state is the dissolution of the once mighty Mongol Empire. At its peak in the 13th century, the Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous empire in history, stretching from Eastern Europe to Asia.

However, after the death of Genghis Khan, the empire gradually fragmented and was eventually divided into several smaller Khanates. This fragmentation weakened Mongolia’s central authority and led to territorial disputes and power struggles.

The loss of territory and the subsequent division of the empire greatly diminished Mongolia’s regional influence. The once dominant Mongol Empire was reduced to a collection of smaller, less influential entities.

This loss of unity and power had long-lasting effects on Mongolia’s geopolitical standing.

Manchu Rule and Loss of Autonomy

Another significant factor in Mongolia’s weakened state is the period of Manchu rule. In the 17th century, Mongolia came under the control of the Qing Dynasty of China. The Manchus imposed their authority over Mongolia, effectively eroding its autonomy and reducing its regional influence.

During this time, Mongolia experienced cultural assimilation and economic exploitation. The Manchus implemented policies that suppressed Mongolian culture and restricted the nomadic way of life, which had been the traditional livelihood of the Mongolian people.

This cultural suppression and economic exploitation further weakened Mongolia’s sense of identity and autonomy.

The Fall of Communism

The fall of communism in the late 20th century also played a significant role in Mongolia’s current state of weakness. Prior to the fall of communism, Mongolia was heavily influenced by the Soviet Union and followed a socialist economic model.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia underwent a rapid transition to a market economy. This transition was challenging and resulted in a period of economic instability, social unrest, and political uncertainty.

The sudden shift from a planned economy to a market-driven system led to a decline in state control and a loss of economic stability.

Furthermore, the end of communism also removed the ideological support and military backing that Mongolia had received from the Soviet Union. This left Mongolia vulnerable and without a strong external ally to rely on for support.


In closing, Mongolia’s present-day weakness stems from centuries of territorial losses, foreign domination, and economic vulnerability since the fall of the Mongol Empire built by Genghis Khan. With wise leadership, investments in sustainable development, and strategic partnerships, perhaps Mongolia can regain some regional influence, but it is unlikely to reach the peak power of its imperial past.

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