TSOGTTSETSII, Mongolia (AP) -- After years of testy debate, Mongolia broke ground this spring for a railroad that will haul coal across the pebbled Gobi desert to China, but with one costly condition.
Citing national security, the government ordered the rails be laid 1,520 millimeters apart, Mongolia's standard gauge inherited from the Soviets. The width ensures that the rails cannot connect to China's, which are 85 millimeters (about 3 1/2 inches) closer together. So at the border, either the train undercarriages will need to be changed or the coal transferred to trucks, adding costs in delivering the fuel to Mongolia's biggest customer.
When it comes to China, Mongolia will only go so far and no further.
In the world's rush to get rich off China, Mongolia works mightily to ensure that Chinese investment does not become Chinese dominance. It's a balancing act shared by many countries, especially on China's periphery. Mongolia, though, stands out for its vulnerability and determined deflection of Beijing's embrace.