China has long maintained a keen interest in events on the Korean peninsula, which Beijing considers to fall within the Sinic sphere of interest. The PRC has maintained a decades-long alliance with North Korea, and also achieved a rapprochement with South Korea, with whom China enjoys a burgeoning economic relationship. The PRC’s pursuit of a ‘two Koreas’ policy has tested Beijing’s diplomatic mettle during the past decade. In and of itself, the maintenance of strong ties to both Koreas represents a significant achievement. By reviewing recent developments in Chinese diplomacy towards the peninsula, this article highlights both the achievements and contradictions inherent in Beijing’s two-Korea policy. North Korea has risked China’s wrath by pursuing a nuclear deterrent, and by refusing to enact market reforms. In the case of the South, the government of Lee Myung-bak has strengthened its alliance with the U.S. and also sought to compensate for its growing economic interdependence with China by seeking FTAs with other states, including the U.S. The sinking of the Cheonan in March 2010 presents an opportunity to reflect on China’s efforts to balance its ties with both Koreas.
Field of Research
160607 International Relations 160606 Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific 160603 Comparative Government and Politics