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China & North Korea

Updated on December 21, 2010

The Batman & Robin of Asia

The Batman & Robin of Asia

It appears that North Korea is further endearing its self to China via utilizing the method of “Capitalist like” ecomomic ventures with the PRC. In the powerful Washington Post, article “Overtures to China may signal opening of North Korea's economy” we find a clearly defined path moving towards a PRC controlled economic empowerment plan in which “Kim is also attempting to accelerate Chinese investment and has ordered the creation of a State Development Bank. Officials from the new bank told a South Korean professor last week that they intend to allow the construction of foreign-owned factories in major North Korean cities. This would allow Chinese firms, many of which are running short of low-cost factory workers, access to North Korea's pool of low-wage laborers”(1)

The timing for the North Korean shift in policy may be considered wise; as the DPRK leadership appears to be quite simply fighting for its nation’s survival. Not even China is comfortable with a nuclear armed North Korea, and as for the rest of the world “U.N. sanctions are reportedly limiting the North's ability to profit from weapons sales. State trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes and illicit drugs appears to be dwindling. In addition, large-scale food aid from South Korea has been stopped until Pyongyang agrees to junk its nuclear weapons.”(2)

Some may argue that the relationship between the PRC and the DPRK is much too long standing and symbiotic in nature for the PRC to allow the DPRK to crumble. “China has supported North Korea ever since Chinese fighters flooded onto the Korean peninsula to fight for their comrades in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1950. Since the Korean War divided the peninsula between the North and South, China has lent political and economic backing to North Korea's leaders: Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong-Il. In recent years, China has been one of the authoritarian regime's few allies.” (3) And although Beijing was required to “discipline” their counterparts in Pyongyang due to their “July 2006 and May 2009 nuclear missile test” (4) one point of view maybe to consider that the admonishment was strictly for “show” as China strives to take center stage in world events.

Again the probability of a DPRK collapse may be viewed as minimal; in fact “Beijing probably anticipates that the U.S. response to more robust security programs in the region would include an accelerated missile defense program for U.S. friends and allies. Such an enhanced missile defense capability would undermine the effectiveness of Beijing’s missile deployment threat opposite the Taiwan coast, aimed at keeping Taiwan from acting on its independence aspirations. North Korea is thus linked to China’s primary core interest of assuring its “territorial integrity,” which in Beijing’s definition includes Taiwan. Beijing also realizes that the U.S. focus on the North Korean military threat generates a hook that keeps U.S. forces tied down on the Korean peninsula and looking north toward the DPRK rather than looking south and showing more concern over possible hostilities across the Taiwan Strait. (5)

The aforementioned statement speaks to the fact the PRC remains focused on ensuring their national security interests. In closing my personal perspective views the China and North Korea relationship as the PRC portraying the role of a powerful “emperor” with the DPRK as its loyal and capable “general”.


(1) The Washington Post, Overtures to China may signal opening of North Korea's economy By Blaine Harden Friday, April 2, 2010;

(2) The Washington Post, Overtures to China may signal opening of North Korea's economy By Blaine Harden Friday, April 2, 2010;





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    • Kevin Fenning profile image

      Kevin Fenning 7 years ago from Philadelphia PA

      roti & sueroy333,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my for the leadership change...Kim JongII passing the mantle of power to one of his sons seems pretty natural. However the third son as opposed to the eldest son poses questions that are yet to be answered...

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 7 years ago from Indiana

      Interesting article. Thanks!

    • rotl profile image

      rotl 7 years ago from Florida

      Good article... Interesting title. I wonder if you have any thoughts on the leadership change in North Korea?