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Kong, Tat Yan (2021) 'How China Views North Korea's Readiness to Reform and Its Influence on China's North Korea Policy in the Post-Cold War Era.' The Pacific Review, 34 (1). pp. 85-112.

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China’s policy of restraint (avoidance of crippling economic sanctions) towards North Korean provocation is typically explained in terms of geopolitical concern with North Korean regime stability. The strategic and diplomatic costs of restraint would suggest the presence of non-geopolitical influences behind China’s approach. Ideational explanations emphasise the persistence of shared socialist identity as well as the traditional Sino-centric worldview as shaping influences. There is much less detailed analysis of how China views North Korea’s political economic evolution and how this view has changed over time to produce fluctuations in the bilateral relationship. In order to capture China’s motivations more fully, I introduce two additional variables, namely China’s view of the state of its own reform path (which provides the domestic context shaping policy towards North Korea), and the extent of North Korea’s readiness to prioritise economic reform. I will then use these variables to explain two contrasting phases which represented the worst (1992–1999) and best (2009–2012) of times in the bilateral relationship in the post-Cold War era. These variables also help us to understand the potentials and limitations of the upturn in bilateral relations which has occurred since 2018.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: China–North Korea relations, ‘economy first’, mono transition, monolithic leadership system, ‘parallel advance’, socialist identity
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 14701332
Copyright Statement: © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Pacific Review on 15 Aug 2019, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2019 14:56
Funders: Other

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