BEIJING, Aug. 21 -- Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in Ulan Bator Thursday for a two-day state visit, the first trip of a Chinese head of state to the landlocked neighbor in 11 years.
The fact that Mongolia is the only country in Xi's itinerary follows a new pattern in China's foreign policy under the new leadership, which has proposed "closeness, sincerity, sharing and inclusiveness" as key features of its neighborhood diplomacy.
After the president's July trip to South Korea, the current one-country visit will mark another step forward for putting the new initiative into practice.
While Mongolia's vast, largely untapped mineral reserves present great potential for cooperation with the world's second-largest economy, the landlocked country is also keen to upgrade its economy and improve trade structure to improve the livelihood of a population of nearly 3 million.
Over the years, China, as a major trading partner and investor, has helped boost Mongolia's economic growth.
Expectations are high that Xi's tour will raise bilateral ties to a new level, which has currently been at their best in history.
Over the past 25 years, the two countries have seen their relations steadily progressing. In 2011, the two countries upgraded their ties to a strategic partnership.
The high economic complementarity between the two neighbors has provided a ballast for their ties. China needs the coal, oil, minerals and livestock from Mongolia, while it can provide infrastructure, finance, technology support for its neighbor's modernization bid.
During Xi's tour, the two sides are expected to discuss further cooperation in the development of mineral resources, infrastructure construction and financial cooperation. The coordinated promotion of the so-called "three-in-one" strategy serves as a cornerstone of their future cooperation.
Sharing a land boundary of 4,710 kilometers, China and Mongolia have 14 border crossings for imports and exports. With Xi's visit, the two countries are highly likely to strike a deal on easier access for Mongolia to cross-border transport via China, thus providing a new growth point for the landlocked economy.
To consolidate bilateral relations is a natural next step for both countries. Their mutual dependence is to ensure broad prospects for mutually-beneficial cooperation.
China's exceptional attention to its neighbors, especially under the new leadership, is a further guarantee of blossoming bilateral relations.
Its dedication to build an "amicable, tranquil and prosperous" neighborhood to support domestic development should eliminate any doubts China's neighbors might have about Beijing's intentions.
"A near neighbor is better than a distant cousin." The Chinese proverb might shed some light on Beijing's increasing emphasis on neighborhood diplomacy. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman recently compared the Mongolia tour to a "visit to relatives," which captured the intimacy between the leaders of the two countries.
Xi is making the current trip at a time when the two nations are celebrating 65 years of their diplomatic ties. Hopes are high that the two countries will sustain and strengthen their friendly cooperation for the future. Xi's tour is likely to give it a push.