Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

China's Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Unified Korea: South Korea's Strategic Approaches

Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

China's Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Unified Korea: South Korea's Strategic Approaches

Article excerpt


North Korea has been serving as a geopolitically vital buffer zone to China against Japan and the U.S.; so, China does not endorse a unified Korea. China wants to keep the status quo by supporting impoverished North Korea with food and fuel aid. There are, however, some indications of changes in China's attitude toward North Korea. This is because of never-ceding demands of food and fuel while ignoring the advice of adopting the Chinese-style economic reform. The in-depth cost-benefit analysis of a unified Korea from China's perspective demonstrates: China's expected benefit from business cooperation and investments with a unified Korea would be far greater than its incremental cost from the increased military deployment along the border after unification. Some Asian Studies experts even claim that Beijing might allow North Korea to collapse if a unified Korea under Seoul would be more favorably disposed toward Beijing. To this end, Korea must gain the endorsement of China's powerful military leaders who have become more outspoken and influential on foreign policy. Many wealthy overseas Chinese businessmen who have been heavily investing in Mainland China have already established strong and confidential relationships with powerful military generals in China. South Korea should use the overseas Chinese leaders' influence to persuade the military leadership in order to endorse the unification of Korea. When South Korea succeeds in bringing in the overseas Chinese businessmen to join its cause by providing them with economic benefits they cannot refuse, they would become the true harbingers of the unification, which in turn would expedite Korea's unification.

Key Words: Unified Korea, South Korea, North Korea, U.S., China, South China Sea, Hillary Clinton, Military Alliance, Overseas Chinese, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Military Spending, Silk Road, Chinese Military Leaders, and Territorial Disputes, Buffer Zone, Resource Security.

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)


Many conventional papers written by Chinese and Korean Studies experts have approached Korea's unification from a perspective of foreign relations or national security. By breaking away from this traditional approach, this paper examines it from an economic perspective. North Korea has been a geopolitically important buffer state and a unique ally to China since its unification in 1949. Since then, China has been supporting impoverished North Korea with a series of aids for its subsistence. This paper analyzes whether a barrage of Chinese aid of food, fuel and monetary support to North Korea has a greater economic benefit to China than those from a unified Korea. It also appraises what would be the incremental burden and benefit to China caused by the unification of Korea. Finally, the paper recommends the strategic approach South Korea should adopt to expedite unification under the rapidly changing circumstances in East Asia.


The late charismatic Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping is known to have left a legendary foreign policy dictum, "hide capacity, bide time," (..., tao guang yan hui). This was considered a prudent survival strategy for China. The policy dictated keeping a low profile to avoid attracting unnecessary hostility from other Super Powers during the period following the end of the Cold War. Deng Xiaoping devised this strategy by borrowing a page from ancient Chinese history! an old Chinese epic novel called Romance of the Three Kingdoms,1 which is about a prolonged bloody war among warlords for a unified China in the late second century. In the novel, the strategy was successfully implemented by the weaker Liu Bei (...) against his mighty archenemy Cao Cao ...) in order to buy time for his own preparation against Cao Cao. Like Liu Bei, Deng foresaw a need for a preparatory period for China to grow to be an economically and militarily strong state while avoiding any confrontation with the U. …

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