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Refuting Two Historical Myths: A New Interpretation of China-North Korean Relations

  • Shen Zhihua
  • Yafeng Xia
Part of the International Relations and Comparisons in Northeast Asia book series (IRCNA)

Abstract

Two myths about Sino-North Korean relations, both supported, frequently reiterated, and almost never challenged in Chinese official media or academic publications, have spread far and wide in China. First, that North Korea’s1 political system embodies rationality and progressiveness because it is a socialist country; second, that North Korea is China’s fraternal state and has traditional ties of friendship with China that were forged in blood. According to these Chinese myths, China’s first generation of leaders determined that China should provide unconditional support to North Korea, and that “friendship diplomacy” should be the bedrock of Chinese statecraft toward North Korea. For the outside world, the Korean issue is a China problem and China is assumed to have considerable leverage over North Korea. Despite China’s domestic historical myths and this commonly held outside view, China has long been in a great quandary over the Korean issue. One of the main reasons for this dilemma is that North Korea is so sensitive an issue for China that no one dares to tear off the veil. No Chinese dares wander into this troublesome area in Chinese statements or publications: neither political figures, diplomats, nor academics.2 Amid the scarcity of serious Chinese academic studies based on historical facts, random comments on North Korea and Sino-North Korean relations have permeated the Internet in the past several years, contradicting the official Chinese narrative as well as historical facts.

Keywords

Korean Peninsula Chinese Communist Party Socialist Bloc North Korean Regime Historical Myth 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    At least, this is the case in Chinese publications. See, for example, Jilinsheng Shekeyuan (ed.), Zhongchao Guanxi Tongshi [A General History of Sino-Korean Relations] (Changchun: Jilin Renmin Chubanshe, 1996). A search of key words, “Korea” and “China and Korea” in the popular Chinese academic electronic database (www.cnki.net) generated 21,649 publications for a period from 1990 to August 2011. However, most of these publications are on the current situation on Korean peninsula and the Korean War. Those on Sino-Korean relations cover the period from late Ming and Qing to 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded. Very few studies cover the period from the Korean Armistice in 1953 to the end of the Cold War in 1991. A major Chinese journal on the Korean peninsula, Dongbeiya Luntan [Forum on Northeast Asia], carried 81 articles on the Korean peninsula from 2001 to 2002, of which none is on Sino-North Korean relations. From 2003 to 2005, it published 158 articles on the Korean peninsula, of which only five are on Sino-North Korea relations. Their arguments are very similar to Renmin Ribao. This thus reflects the sensitivity of the topic for Chinese scholars. See also, Piao Jianyi, and Ma Junwei (eds.), Zhongguo dui Chaoxian Bandao de Yanjiu [The Study of the Korean peninsula in China] (Beijing: Minzu Chubanshe, 2006).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Carla P. Freeman 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shen Zhihua
  • Yafeng Xia

There are no affiliations available

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