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Authors: Chon, Tarin Genevieve
Advisors: Christensen, Thomas
Department: Politics
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: This thesis examines the recent debate in China on Chinese policy on North Korea from 2009 to 2013 in order to understand the future direction of this policy and its implications for current US policy on North Korea. More specifically, we survey this debate by analyzing Chinese responses to two recent “shocks”: North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009 and North Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013. Moreover, we do so from both the public and government perspectives, examining unofficial and official discourse, respectively. The goal of this thesis is three-fold: first, to define the changes or continuities that characterizes these responses; second, to determine the extent of such change or continuity; and third, to discern their primary and secondary causes. Recognizing that that the change being examined in this thesis, from 2009-2013, is short-term, the analysis performed is also meant to be short-term. Nonetheless, in order to provide a more accurate and richer understanding of the changes or continuities observed, we supplement this short-term analysis with a long-term one, resulting in two component tracks: a long-term analysis of change throughout the historical Sino-North Korean relationship and a short-term analysis of recent changes. In conducting the long-term analysis, we identify three major variables that have influenced Chinese views and policy toward North Korea: China’s domestic development and consequent international rise, Sino-US relations, and Sino-South Korean relations. We find that Sino-South Korean relations have resulted in great interdependence and increasingly positive mutual perceptions, in turn influencing Chinese views toward North Korea—though not necessarily policy—by lessening the perceived threat of a unified peninsula under South Korea and by progressively alienating North Korea. We find that Sino-US relations, on the other hand, have had a more-mixed effect on Chinese views toward North Korea: While increasing economic interdependence and political interactions between the two countries have, on balance, led to growing Sino-US cooperation on the Korean Peninsula, China’s rise and the recent US “pivot to Asia” has increased mistrust between the two countries, resulting in less Chinese accommodation of US interests than hoped for. Lastly, we find that China’s rise has had the same mixed effect as that of Sino-US relations: While China’s economic development has distanced it from North Korea, it has also made China more wary of possible threats of containment, enhancing the strategic importance of North Korea and thus contributing to the continuation of the historical status quo rather than its transformation. . In the short-term analysis, we examine primary and secondary sources published in response to North Korean provocations in the years we have mentioned. Consequently, we first establish very clearly that the immediate cause behind changes/continuities in Chinese views and policies is North Korean behavior. However, in order to perform a more rigorous analysis that adequately describes complexities in Chinese perceptions of such behavior, we analyze various causes of the behavior itself and how the Chinese elite and government view these causes. These causes mainly consist of: North Korea’s international security environment, Chinese support for North Korea, and North Korean domestic affairs. US behavior and South Korean behavior, moreover, primarily constitute the aforementioned international security environment, and we analyze it through this lens. In 2009, we find that, although policy remained largely the same, North Korea’s second nuclear test caused many Chinese to question Chinese support for North Korea. In 2013, North Korea’s execution of a third nuclear test drew even more opprobrium than in 2009, as Chinese frustration was further compounded and Chinese sympathies leant more towards the US and South Korea than before, as both countries had extended open hands toward North Korea the year before. In conclusion, however, this thesis finds that, despite these small variations over time, Chinese views and policy have not changed since the re-examination began in 2009. This has implications for the current US policy of “strategic patience”. This thesis argues that the Chinese view the North Korean issue under persisting structural constraints, making China’s North Korea policy resistant to change at a fundamental level. For US policy then, this means the US should no longer rely on China and pursue alternate options to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Extent: 95 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Politics, 1927-2017

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