Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Chinese People's Understanding of the Korean Unification Issue

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Chinese People's Understanding of the Korean Unification Issue

Article excerpt

Abstract

A divided Korean peninsula has troubled Chinese diplomacy and has negative effects on Chinese national interest. The main factors such as the well-established historical relations between China and the Korean peninsula, the close geopolitics relations, and the Korean peninsula with the Sino-U.S. interaction influences the Chinese people's view of the Korean unification issue.

From national interest perspective, China hopes to see Korean unification that would be in favor of China, at least it will not bring negative influence. China also desires for a unified Korea that is neutral or friendly towards China, and for the withdrawal of the U.S. armed forces from the Korean peninsula. Otherwise, China wants to maintain the status quo and present situation. Although this is not supported by the Koreans, China will fully support reconciliation and cooperation, political dialogue, economic and cultural exchanges between North and South Korea. It is believed to contribute to keeping good relations between them, leading to a peaceful process of unification in the end.

Keywords: Chinese people, Korean peninsula, Korean unification

1. Introduction

From this preliminary investigation, it is difficult to find Chinese views on the Korean unification issue from scholars, netizens, books, articles, etc. In most of the cases found by this study, scholars talk about the relationship between China and two Koreas, generally mentioning several aspects, such as the historical origin, geopolitics relations, Sino-U.S. relations, and so on. Of crucial importance for this paper is to uncover the Chinese people's view on the Korean unification issue, not the Chinese government's view.

In the past, the Korean people, suffering from the pain of division of the Korean peninsula, have been eager to pursue reunification. As the 61th anniversary of the Korean War is commemorated, the issues of peace, stability, and reunification of the Korean peninsula once again have become a hot topic. In discussing the Korean unification issue, China has been an unavoidable external factor at all times. In fact, the Chinese government has been concerned about the issue and has declared its respect of the Korean people's desire for peaceful Korean reunification. By the same token, it has supported implementation of the peaceful process of unification by Koreans themselves. This position was made clear right after China and South Korea normalized relations in 1992.

The Chinese position was made clear during the June 2000 China-South Korea summit in the Chinese Foreign Ministry's declaration (Lianhe Zaobao, June 14, 2000): "China, as a neighbor of the Korean peninsula, on the premise of no intervention from outside, constantly supports the two parts of Korea to improve their relations and cultivate trust by means of dialogue and contact until they finally achieve autonomous and peaceful unification." This view has often been reiterated when Chinese leaders meet with North and South Korean leaders.

Nevertheless, Chinese support for Korean unification seems to be doubted by many South Korean scholars and much of the public. Some American scholars predict that if North Korea suddenly collapses, China would act to control the process, dispatching troops crossing the Yalu River and Tumen River to build a security buffer zone to insulate it from the chaos and refugees. Many are of the opinion that the Chinese do not desire Korean unification, and rather want to keep a permanent division and maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula. This viewpoint was widely accepted by South Korean scholars, the media, and the public. Is this an accurate view of the Chinese intentions? In order to answer this question, the paper intends to analyze the Chinese people's view on the Korean unification issue.

2. Chinese people's view on Korean issues

Before analyzing Chinese intentions on the Korean unification issue, it is necessary to understand the Chinese people's point of view. …

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