A topic I have been fascinated with recently is trying to figure out what China’s long-term goal is concerning North Korea.
I can tell you China would probably say North Korea is a sovereign nation, and that they would never interfere with their internal affairs. It’s a pretty safe guess because that’s China’s stance on just about every international issue.
However the last flare up on the Korean peninsula gave us a few interesting glimpses of where China really stands in all of this.
One thing that was left out of the Western Media’s coverage was that up to the day of the shelling, China was running pro-DPRK propaganda in the People’s Daily regarding the Korean War, or as it is called in Chinese, the War to Resist American Aggression.
China never publicly stated that North Korea was in the wrong for the shelling of a civilian target. They also never accepted that the DPRK had sunk the South Korean warship a few months earlier. China calls this a neutral position, which is a euphemism for ignoring reality.
After the shelling the world looked to Beijing for some kind of solution to the North Korea problem. On the People’s Daily’s message boards there were Chinese nationalists calling for China’s support of a full out Northern attack on the South, and a few calling for war with America. My wife and I even spent a little time wondering what would happen if war did break out on the peninsula.
We talked with some other foreigners and wondered if China would really risk its financial gains from South Korea, just to keep from sharing a border with such a close American ally. We thought maybe the Generals in the North had broken free from Pyongyang and had attacked the South on their own. Everyone was speculating, but when it comes to North Korea, nobody ever really knows.
China again claimed it had only limited influence in the North and downplayed its connection. They stood back and waited to see what would happen. Two weeks later South Korea held war drills that the North threatened nuclear retaliation over, but nothing happened.
Western media wondered out loud why the North had backed down. Maybe it had been a stunt to bolster Kim Jong Un’s reputation, perhaps another grasp for respect, or even a desperate effort for more aid; only the French media found the real story. Hours before the South’s drill, China inked a 2 billion dollar trade deal with Pyongyang (clearly in exchange for good behavior). So again the North was rewarded for its military aggression.
Afterwards, China chastised South Korea for “Playing near a dangerous cliff,” and even went so far as to “Applaud North Korea’s Restraint.”
I’m not sure what conclusions we can draw from all of this just yet, but it seems that on the Korean Peninsula, China’s actions are emboldening the DPRK’s dangerous leaders.