Mongolia in 2020 recorded no COVID-19 deaths, despite its proximity to China, the original hotbed of the outbreak. Yet GDP and exports decreased and unemployment, poverty, crime, and domestic abuse rose, in large part due to the disease. Facing desertification, climate change, overgrazing, and mining damage to pastureland, herders who could not eke out a living continued to migrate to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, and lived in tents, with no running water and poor sanitation. Elections for the Parliament were held, with the Mongolian People’s Party dominating, but corruption and accusations of money laundering prompted a lack of faith in the government. On the other hand, Mongolia maintained cordial relations with China and Russia, its neighbors, as well as with distant countries.
In 2019, Mongolia sought to recover from a scandal over corruption that reached the highest levels of government. An ineffective Anti-Corruption Agency, as well as poverty and environmental degradation, plagued the economy. In contrast, Mongolia bolstered economic and diplomatic relations with Russia, China, Japan, and the West.