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Mongolia Has A China Complex

By Yuriy Humber and Michael Kohn - 2013-07-10T08:38:35Z

Photograph by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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A provincial capital 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of the China-Mongolia border, Dalanzadgad once drowsed along on a two-season economy, when herders sheared goats and sold cashmere in the spring and slaughtered animals for meat in autumn. Now it has a taxi service, a shopping mall and a burgeoning merchant class. Disposable diapers, a luxury item three years ago, have become a “daily essential,” says entrepreneur Tegsjargal. She’s opened two shops, built a two-story house and drives a late-model SUV.

And yet Tegsjargal frets about the reliability and motives of the very country that is making her prosperous. The Chinese in general maintain “chauvinistic” attitudes toward Mongolians, she says. Moreover, “you just don't know if there will be an epidemic outbreak or China will shut the border.”

Left: A customer shops at a store in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia.