Representation of China and its relationship to North Korea (DPRK) form an essential element in understanding the dynamics of relations on the Korean peninsula. Over the last two decades China has been portrayed as being a ‘big brother’ to North Korea, an enduring ally and economic partner, but also a begrudging friend, frustrated partner and an implementer and approver of UN sanctions. Scholars, therefore, remain divided on the precise role of China in promoting peace and security in North East Asia. In expanding on the importance of this relationship, academics and commentators have only recently begun to explore the many different security actors within foreign policy in China and their effect on this particular bilateral relationship. Despite the embryonic natures of these debates, authors have presented a convincing argument that the literature on China and North Korea must move beyond assessments of Beijing as a unitary actor in order to capture the complexity of the relationship. This chapter builds on these works by exploring not only the security but also the development aspects of this multiplicity of actors, finding that in its representation China is doubly homogenised by external actors – to the detriment of being able to develop understanding of, and responses to, China’s policies.
Catherine Jones and Sarah Teitt
In recent years, the international community, and particularly the UN, has drawn greater attention to the tension between support and protection for the fragile population of North Korea and the attempts to curtail the development of nuclear weapons, arguing that the security threats posed by the North Korean state and the insecurities confronting North Korean citizens are inextricably linked. Up until 2014, the international community adopted separate processes and policies to address the external and internal security threats in North Korea, imposing UN sanctions to manage the external threat, and providing humanitarian aid to support a struggling population. In 2014, with the publication of a UN report into the human rights of the population in North Korea, attention was refocused on the relationship between the internal and external security environments. This re-invigorated focus raises the question: how can or should the international community, and particularly North Korea’s neighbouring states, manage or mitigate the security threats emanating from the regime in Pyongyang? This introduction presents a new approach to assessing and considering not only how we should and do understand the security challenge presented by North Korea, but also how we might more accurately conceptualise China’s approaches to North Korea. This framing chapter indicates that by approaching this topic from the perspective of the development–security nexus, or the ‘developmental peace’, rather than appearing contradictory, China’s policy and approaches become more consistent – albeit with its own conceptual logic. As a result, this type of approach may be more useful than segregating ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security challenges.
Sarah Teitt and Catherine Jones
The bulk of existing analysis on China’s engagement with North Korea has focussed on the strategic logic of Chinese policy. Beijing’s economic assistance and political support for Pyongyang is explained with respect to their historical ties, North Korea’s role as a ‘buffer’ zone between China and US military stationed in South Korea, or Beijing’s concern over a potential collapse of the North Korean regime that could usher an influx of refugees into China’s north-east region. While all of these issues hold some explanatory weight for China’s policy, they tend to pivot on a defensive logic. This volume, by contrast, has centred on a key premise: China’s developmental peace thesis can offer a more expansive logic for understanding China’s vision for and approach towards realizing peace and security on the Korean peninsula. The chapters in this volume have explored how analysing China’s policy through the prism of developmental peace might provide a richer account of Chinese agency, help to explain the rationale behind China’s engagement, and offer a Chinese-articulated frame of reference for critically evaluating China’s North Korea policy. Within this concluding chapter we highlight the importance and the contribution of this approach, but also seek to show that our contributors have also demonstrated that this approach does not emanate from a single entity, Beijing, but rather it is developed and implemented by a range of actors, adding nuance and variation to the shape and form of China’s engagement with North Korea.