ULAN BATOR, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- When leaders gathered at the Russian port city of Vladivostok for the annual Eastern Economic Forum this week, it provided a platform for regional countries, including China and Mongolia, to map out their future cooperation.
As close neighbors, China and Mongolia have long respected each other and endeavored to deepen cooperation across the board.
In a historic visit to Mongolia by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, the two Asian countries upgraded their ties to a "comprehensive strategic partnership." Since then, bilateral cooperation has embarked on a faster track.
As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his trip to Mongolia in August, China and Mongolia are friendly neighbors connected by mountains and rivers, and that strengthening the all-round cooperation and deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership are the right choices for the two.
The Chinese side reaffirmed its respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Mongolia, and expressed the readiness to help Mongolia translate its resources into development advantages, improve its self-development capabilities, achieve economic diversification and improve the Mongolian people's livelihoods in jointly building the Belt and Road.
Wang said that China-Mongolia political mutual trust has grown stronger, expressing the hope that the relationship between the two countries will develop in a rapid and healthy way.
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh also spoke highly of Mongolia-China relations.
He said that the current smooth development of bilateral relations has become a role model for friendly neighbors, and the cooperation between the two countries has great potential and broad prospects.
In recent years, China and Mongolia have witnessed remarkable achievements in economic and trade cooperation thanks to their joint efforts.
China has for years been Mongolia's largest trading partner and largest export destination. Their trade stood at 324 million dollars in 2002 and rose to 6.7 billion dollars in 2017, accounting for 63 percent of Mongolia's total trade.
According to statistics released by the Mongolian Customs General Administration in August, among the 60 countries to which Mongolia exported its goods and services in the first seven months of 2018, China was the recipient of over 86 percent of the total.
During Xi's visit to Mongolia in 2014, the two countries proposed to elevate bilateral trade volume to 10 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.
As the global economy is facing headwinds of rising protectionism and unilateralism, China and Mongolia announced in August that they are launching a joint feasibility study on a free trade agreement in order to achieve the 10-billion-dollar trade target as early as possible.
In this regard, Mongolia called for more export of animal husbandry products and mineral products to China. Wang said the Chinese side will consider the request and will continue to provide support to Mongolia in cross-border transportation and access to the sea.
China has made great contributions to the development of infrastructure in Mongolia by supporting the construction of important projects, such as a waste water processing plant in Ulan Bator, which improved the capital city's environment.
Also, a China-funded project to renovate the Mongolian capital's shantytowns has entered the initiation phase, and is expected to start construction next year.
More than 800,000 residents, over half of Ulan Bator's population, live in the shantytowns, relying on burning raw coal and other flammable materials such as plastics and old tires to stay warm and cook meals during the six-month-long winter season.
It is estimated that 80 percent of air pollution in Ulan Bator is caused by stoves in the shantytowns. So the renovation project is significant for reducing air pollution in Ulan Bator and improving the quality of life for all residents.
Moreover, bilateral cooperation in the education sector has increased in recent years. A total of 21 schools and kindergartens will be built in Mongolia with aid from China by 2020, Mongolia's Education Minister Tsedenbal Tsogzolmaa said.
China and Mongolia are also partnering with Russia to push forward trilateral cooperation.
Based on a proposal made by Xi in 2014, the three neighboring countries signed a development plan in June 2016 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to build an economic corridor that will boost transport links and economic cooperation among them.
At a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao, the presidents of China, Mongolia and Russia agreed to accelerate the construction of the China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor and strengthen trilateral cooperation.
The corridor, an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is in line with the economic interests of the three countries. It will generate new opportunities for China-Mongolia cooperation, Wang Yi said.
According to China's National Development and Reform Commission, the three countries will cooperate in seven areas in order to build the trilateral economic corridor. Under the plan, the three neighbors aim to improve transport facilities by expanding land, air and sea connections.
They agreed to expand trade along the border and widen the services trade, and eye more cooperation in education, science and technology, culture, tourism, medical care and intellectual property.
Moreover, Mongolian leaders have long expressed their wish to align Mongolia's development plans with China's development policies.
One way to align the development policies between the two countries is to dock Mongolia's Prairie Road development plan, a trans-border transportation project, with the BRI, Khurelsukh told Xinhua in an interview in April.
China and Mongolia are friendly neighbors sharing a long border, Dashdorj Bayarkhuu, a professor at the Mongolian Diplomatic Academy, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"Landlocked Mongolia can gain a lot from the Belt and Road Initiative and the trilateral economic corridor, which will bring benefits to the Mongolian economy and all Mongolian citizens," Bayarkhuu said.