Giving Lip Service with an Attitude: North Korea's China Debate   [open pdf - 169KB]

"China's influence in North Korea is grossly misrepresented and exaggerated. In the past five years, Beijing's economic assistance to Pyongyang and the latter's economic dependence on China in terms of food, fuel, fertilizers, and monetary remittances declined in both absolute and relative terms. China's military-technical assistance is sporadic and of questionable value. The DPRK-PRC mutual defense alliance is hollow and on paper only. Controversial cross-border contacts aggravate tensions and increase uncertainty in the overall stressful bilateral relationship. North Korean elite perceptions and popular images of China grow increasingly ambiguous and negative. Strategic interaction on international security issues is self-interested, with very few common interests and shared approaches. Despite calendar exchanges of standard reverences, political relations are frosty. Revolutionary traditions have faded away, and personal loyalties and leadership bonds have already dissolved. The North Korean breed of resurgent neo-traditionalist and isolationist nationalism is hardly compatible with the hegemonic ideology of the revisionist Chinese pseudo-Marxist internationalism. Pragmatism and rational calculation of national interests prevail in both capitals. The United States should not count on China's perceived ability 'to deliver the DPRK'--it hardly can. Although Beijing may be able to bring Pyongyang to 'the party' occasionally, it definitely cannot make North Korea dance to its music, let alone to the tunes emanating from Washington. North Korea would rather spoil the multinational party than give the spoils to its Chinese 'benefactor' or American 'villain,' if its concerns are not satisfied 'in a just and appropriate manner.'"

Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
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