What would China do if North Korea goes to war?

Posted on April 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM


china:north koreaWith recent threats against South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, North Korea is set on projecting a new incalculable and determined image. But what does this means for the booming economies around them, namely China? Ultimately, China will do whatever is necessary to prevent hostilities from breaking out because it has to protect the interest of its client state, North Korea but also, the interest of it's own reputation as a rational superpower. 

If China were to try and do nothing it would open the door to the Korean Peninsula being dominated by the United States. That idea would be extremely unacceptable for the Chinese, not only from a geopolitical point of view, but also from the perspective of a regional power, as China is North Korea's only specific ally. However, intervening too aggressively on behalf of North Korea is not in the interest of the Chinese government either. If Beijing were to help North Korea in a case of open fire, it could potentially ruin China's image of a peaceful and honest rise. It could also cause conflict between China and the U.S. because the White House has been pressuring China to calm down Kim Jong-un.

Ruediger Frank, Professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna offers a sort of meditation on the subject: "Beijing could try to balance its relationships with other international players by criticizing North Korea's behaviour-- because they have to-- but not too harshly. It would have to strike a subtle balance.  So far, China has been relatively successful in its balancing act with Pyongyang."

Beijing is in a precarious position with all of the tensions between North Korea and the rest of Asia but, it has been balancing it's political prowess with it's economic cliental with grace. China, unlike the rest of the world, understands that Kim Jong-un is only trying to send a message: "We're dangerous and we're still a threat, so don't forget about us". So China needs to keep stay true to it's own governmentality and ignore the overreaction of the Western media and world. Frank echoes this by saying that "the tensions on the Peninsula have to a large degree been hyped by the media-- helped largely by Pyongyang itself, which has a habit of releasing crazily worded statements. After all, it is a PR campaign and Western media is a willing instrument."


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