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Clinton takes jab at China by linking political openness, prosperity in Mongolia

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia at the president's "yurt" in Ulan Bator, July 9, 2012. Getty

(CBS News) ULAN BATAAR, Mongolia - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Mongolia as a model of democracy during a fleeting visit Monday to the mineral-rich, former socialist nation situated between China and Russia.

The country is the only post-socialist democracy in Asia. The secretary also criticized China's model of economic growth without political liberalization.

Without calling out China by name, Clinton used the platform of an International Women's Forum to speak about the need for Asian countries to expand human rights.

"You can't have economic liberalization without political liberalization," said Clinton. "Countries that want to be open for business but closed to free expression will find that this approach comes at a cost."

Secretary Clinton called Mongolia - which sits on $1.3 trillion in mineral wealth - "an inspiration" for increasing the number of women in political power while also boasting the most rapid economic growth anywhere in the world.

Referencing a controversial speech that she delivered as first lady, the now-secretary reminded attendees that "women's rights are human rights."

The secretary linked political openness and prosperity throughout her visit to Mongolia's capital city of Ulan Bataar, and we can expect the theme to continue during her ongoing tour of Asia. In the coming days, Clinton will make stops in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

America's top diplomat will act as a trade booster throughout her travels in Asia. The secretary's message: America's economic engagement in Asia is just as vital as its security interests.

"Much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia," said Clinton. "It may turn out to be a century in which economies grow, conflicts are avoided and security is strengthened."

Secretary Clinton has crafted the Obama administration's "pivot toward Asia" strategy. The idea is to counter China's influence through increased trade in the region - rather than just increased militarization.

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