Zhang Chi: South Korea's perception of the strategic game between China and the United States, its response and the trend of China-South Korea relations
2022-06-24: [Article Link] Chinese-American game.
[Type] South Korea is both an ally of the United States and an important partner of China, and it is under increasing pressure to “selection” against the backdrop of the growing strategic game between China and the United States. There is a heated debate in South Korea over the development and response to the Chinese-American game, the pro-American balance theory, the Chinese walk-in theory, the independent autonomy doctrine, the status quo doctrine and the idea of “beyond diplomacy”. At the beginning of his term in office, based on the United States and China, his country maintained a vague strategy and avoided standing between the two countries; but, at the end of the term, it was influenced by a number of internal and external factors, and his Government’s tendency to follow the United States was reinforced by its insistence on the balance between China and the United States. Following the presidency of Yoon Suk-yeol from the conservative camp, and influenced by its uncertainty about policy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, increased internal conservativeness and the Russian-Ukraine conflict, Korea’s convergence towards the United States is likely to become even more apparent, but the momentum and possibilities for maintaining stable development of relations between China and Korea remain, based on the close economic ties between the two countries, the strength of the progressive camp within the national parliament and the pragmatic diplomatic tradition that South Korea has long pursued. Central American Games, Central Korean Relations, Korean Policy towards China
[Introduction by author] Zhang Jian, Associate Professor, School of Government Administration, Shanghai School of Political Science and Law, and Executive Deputy Director, Centre for Political and Social Security Studies, Shanghai Institute for Global Security Governance, D822.31.26
* This is the phased outcome of the National Fund for Social Science Youth Project, “Korea Research on China's Cognitive Trails and China's Relations Development Strategies” (20CGJ033).
The world is going through a 100-year-old transformation in which the strategic game between the US and China is one of the most important elements. Since the Trump administration, America’s pursuit of strategic competition against China has brought unprecedented risks and challenges to the development of bilateral relations, and has exposed many third-party countries to difficult strategic choices that South Korea is typical of. South Korea is both an ally of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region and an important neighbour and strategic partner of China, with a distinct “amnest” in foreign policy. The Chinese-American strategic game triggered a widespread sense of crisis in South Korea, as well as an intense debate about competition. Compiling South Korea’s understanding of and response to the Chinese-American game would not only be positive for managing South Korea’s external strategy, but would also contribute to a transformational upgrading of relations between the two countries at an important time in the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the South-South Korean border. I. Perception of and response to the strategic game between China and the United States in the Republic of Korea
Korea has long had ties with the US and China. During the cold war, Korea remained firmly on the side of the US camp. For a considerable period of time, Korea referred to the People's Republic of China as the “Chinese Communist Party” rather than “China”, a clear manifestation of the far-reaching impact of ideological opposition on Korea's perception of China. However, along with the collapse of the bipolar pattern and the strengthening of its own State, South Korea’s perception of US-China relations has begun to change: on the one hand, South Korea has become increasingly aware of the important role that China can play in the economy, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and other issues related to its core interests; on the other hand, it has tried to express more claims of autonomy within the Korean-American alliance. As a result, Kim Hyun-soo’s government has intensified its engagement with China and Russia, while consolidating its traditional relations with Japan. The Kim Dae-jung government has proposed “four-Power coordinated diplomacy” to strengthen the Korean-American alliance, upgrade Korean-Japanese relations, develop Korean-Chinese relations, and improve Korean-Russian relations. The Lu Moo-hyun government has set out to be “the balancer” in North-East Asia, advocating “the inclusion of China while strengthening the US-Korean alliance.” The Lee Myung-bak and Park-seok-hye governments have advocated “U.S. and China” in an effort to maintain balance between the US and China and to play a constructive role between the two countries. In general, in the first 10 years after the end of the cold war, since China-United States relations were dominated by contacts and cooperation, topics involving Chinese-United States competition, although occasionally mentioned in South Korea, did not become the focus of attention for society as a whole. Following the onset of the world financial crisis in 2008, a profound change in the East Asian order began, and the power shift resulting from the relative decline in United States power and the rapid rise of Chinese power, which led the United States to gradually replace cooperation with competition as the dominant orientation for China's policies, gave Korea a clear sense of the pressure of large-scale competition. The Korean academic community is generally of the view that since China became the second largest economy in the world in 2010, there has been a substantial shift in Chinese-American relations from cooperation over competition to competition over cooperation, on the basis of which two different approaches have been made to the trend of the Chinese-American game: one is the “new Cold War”, influenced by Western conservatives who believe that the US and China are sliding into institutional competition, emphasizing the irreconcilability of the two countries in areas such as ideology and State institutions, and pessimistic about the future of the geopolitical landscape in East Asia; and the other is the recognition of the possibility of a “new cold war”, but considers that there is a “regulated competition” between China and the United States and that the two countries will eventually move towards “peaceful coexistence”. Although the second opinion prevailed among Korean scholars, the impact of the “new cold war” doctrine was not negligible. A survey conducted by Kstat, the Korean polling agency, in June 2020, showed that, while most interviewees predicted that world wars were unlikely to break out, the proportion of Central American conflicts that could provoke world wars had reached 40 per cent, and that many of the experts interviewed believed that if Chinese-American competition did not limit itself to the economy but spread to the whole field, it was highly likely that it would turn into a “second cold war”. While it is true that, since 2010, the strategic game between China and the United States has become the focus of attention in all parts of Korea, with much discussion surrounding the causes, implications and effects of competition between the two countries taking place, the most intense and central issue in the debate is the response of the Republic of Korea to the Mid-American game. The first option is the “pro-American balance theory,” which is to balance and curb China’s rise in line with America’s strategy, in keeping with the priority of the US-Korean alliance. This view is promoted primarily by conservative scholars and the conservative media in South Korea, who believe that while China and China maintain economic ties of cooperation, the two countries have a huge gap in strength, strengthening their alliance with the US, and external checks and balances on China are the country’s only option. However, there are some differences among the supporters of the “pro-American balance theory” in balancing China's strength: a relatively hard-line group views China as one of the potential threats and advocates the constant strengthening of the US-Korean alliance and the spread of its security functions beyond the peninsula. Others suggested “soft checks and balances” against China to avoid military conflict and to counter China's growing influence on the peninsula only by strengthening its alliance with the United States. The “pro-American balance theory” has not only some influence in Korean academic and strategic circles, but also has a profound impact on society as a whole, particularly since Sad’s accession to Korea. The second option, “China’s Chaos,” is to think about South Korea’s strategic solution, mainly in the light of the experience of East Asia’s history. The famous Korean scholar, David Kang, believes that there is a hierarchical international order with China at its core in East Asia’s history, which is more peaceful and stable than the West’s Westphalia. He therefore suggested that China should be addressed with a “inclusion” strategy that would recognize, accept, and ride China’s rise. That view affected some Korean scholars who viewed China’s rise in a more pragmatic way, suggesting that South Korea take a ride to China’s development. Professor Lee Sang-wan, Research Institute of the Far East at Qingnan University, spoke out about the Korean government's deployment of Sade as a strategic miscalculation, advocated for further upgrading of inter-Korean relations to a similar level of “all-weather strategic partnership” in the Middle East and Pakistan, and argued for Korea's active participation in “one-way” construction to share the dividends. What needs to be seen, however, is that at present the “China free-rider” approach is very limited in South Korea. Even scholars who argue for a Chinese ride insist on not touching the US-Korean alliance. The third is the doctrine of independence, which emphasizes the need for South Korea to rely on its own strength to overcome the Chinese-American competition. The path consists of the following three articles: first, the doctrine of nuclear weapons, which believes that the North Korean nuclear threat should be addressed through nuclear possession and to ensure its own security. South Korea’s pro-nuclearists, most of whom are politicians, opinion leaders, and some bureaucrats, are high, but in fact unrealistic. Second, “permanent neutrality,” arguing that South Korea should become a permanent neutral state, above and beyond the competition of major powers. When the peninsula returned, there were calls for neutrality, both in the south and in the north, especially in the belief that the country should declare neutrality after the reunification of the North and the South. The intensification of the Chinese-American game led some Korean scholars to worry about the return of the peninsula to the pattern of the North-South triangle during the Cold War, reiterating their call for the withdrawal of American forces and the neutrality of the peninsula. However, the “permanent neutrality doctrine” is difficult to implement in the short term because of the contradiction between permanent neutrality and the United States-Korean alliance, and because the premise of neutrality is North-South reunification. The third is the “Middle Power doctrine”, which regards South Korea as a veritable “Middle Power”, and should pursue a diplomatic strategy consistent with that identity, using respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful coexistence and multilateralism as diplomatic principles, acting as a bridge between China and the United States, mitigating the effects of competition among the major Powers and ensuring that they are not forced into a dilemma. The fourth option, the “state-of-the-art” approach, advocates the continuation of Korea's established diplomatic architecture of the “America-Americanism”: on the one hand, by consolidating the Korean-American alliance, by holding China militarily hostage, and on the other hand, by continuing to strengthen economic cooperation with China. The “state of the present” is essentially a hedge strategy for small and medium-sized countries, both to maintain contacts with large countries in pursuit of their interests and to take preventive measures to reduce or avoid risks from large countries. The status quo doctrine emphasizes the need to maximize the benefits of Korea by adopting a policy of pluralism and flexibility, or following the United States or joining China for a greater strategic swing space for the country, depending on the nature and field of the subject. However, at a time of relative moderation in the Middle-American game, South Korea has greater room for manoeuvre in Central America and the United States and is able to “be at home” by maintaining the status quo; but as the intensity of the game increases, Korea's strategic choice space shrinks, and attempts to maintain the status quo become even more difficult. The fifth option, “Better than diplomacy,” was proposed by Mr. Wen, former Special Assistant to President Chon. He inherited the diplomatic idea of Lu Wuzheng, “North-East Asian Balancer,” arguing that South Korea should move away from the “non-American or Chinese” logic and build a new international order that transcends the camp logic, through a coalition of like-minded states and multilateral cooperation. “Beyond diplomacy” and “Middle Power” diplomacy have similarities, arguing that South Korea should play its role as a balancer and coordinator among the big Powers, but “Beyond diplomacy” sees the dilemma of “Middle Power” acting independently, arguing that regional Powers such as Japan, India, Australia and Canada should be united, based on universal values, with the United Nations at the centre of security, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the centre of the economy, to make a common call for a new multilateral order and to guide China and the United States towards that order. However, Wenzheng also acknowledged that “beyond diplomacy” was constrained by such factors as the limited diplomatic influence of the Republic of Korea, the fact that domestic views had yet to be consolidated and the possibility that major Powers might oppose it. The existence of the five above-mentioned programmes reflects the fact that South Korea, in its approach to the issue of strategic games between China and the United States, should focus on the two main factions: “following the big countries” and “strategic ownership”. The first two programmes are “following the big countries”, while the last three are “strategic autonomy.” In terms of impact, the “pro-American balance theory”, the “state of affairs” and the “medium power doctrine” are more influential in Korean society, while the rest are relatively small. However, unlike the direct answer to the Chinese-American competition to the “pro-American balance” and “maintaining the status quo”, the “middle-power doctrine” is more of a part of Korea's overall external strategic vision. From the policy practices of successive Korean governments since the post-financial crisis era, whether the conservative camps Lee Myung-bak, Park Eun-hye, or the progressive camps are written, their approach to the Chinese-American game is largely dominated by a “pro-American balance” and “maintenance of the status quo”. While it is true that the emphasis on the two might differ from one camp to the other, the general strategy is to maintain the foundation of the US-Korean alliance while avoiding the release of clear side signals. II. The Government's strategy and dilemma in dealing with the Chinese-American game
At the beginning of his term, he said: “South Korea values and will consolidate its relationship with the United States as a key axis of alliance and diplomacy and security; the importance of inter-Korean relations is growing, and we must actively take advantage of China’s positive influence on North Korea. On the eve of Trump's visit to Korea in November 2017, Mr. Wang officially stated that “the US-Korean alliance is essential to South Korea's security and must continue to attach importance to its traditional position on US diplomacy; but it is also very important that China-Korean relations include not only economic cooperation, but also strategic cooperation in achieving a peaceful solution to the Korean nuclear issue. Thus, in the early days of his tenure, Man followed the idea of “maintaining the status quo” in his perception of the Chinese-American game, placing the relationship between China and the United States on an almost equal footing, maintaining strategic ambiguity between China and the United States, avoiding “opting sides” and striving to promote South Korea's interests in the process of harmonious development of relations between the United States and South Korea. First, to present a “three zeros” in response to Sad’s issue, and to take the initiative to restore relations between China and Korea. The late days of Park’s administration’s pursuit of SAD’s deployment in South Korea have caused serious damage to relations between China and Korea, and have caused South Korea’s external balance to slip significantly to the US side. However, instead of providing substantial support and assistance to South Korea, the Trump government forced South Korea to pay higher military fees in the United States, which cast doubt on the commitment of many Koreans to the United States and the sustainability of the Korean-American alliance. In this context, the Government of China suspended the Sade deployment process under the pretext of congressional approval and environmental assessment, and in October 2017 issued a so-called “three-way” commitment “not to consider the additional deployment of Sade, not to participate in the United States-led anti-guided system, not to develop the United States-Japan-Korean military alliance”, culminating in the President's visit to China in December of that year. Under the auspices of the Chinese Government, high-level exchanges between the two countries have gradually resumed, economic and trade cooperation and human exchanges have continued to deepen, the volume of bilateral trade has stagnated and returned to its pre-Sad windwave level, and private exchanges, such as travel to Korea, have begun to return to normal. In addition, the Government of China has strengthened its cooperation in non-traditional security areas of long-standing interest to both countries, such as fisheries disputes, environmental protection and public health, and has achieved a number of results, including the signing of the Centre for Environmental Cooperation between China and Korea, which has further contributed to the revival of bilateral relations. Second, there is a degree of responsiveness to US demands on issues such as trade investment, military spending, etc., to prevent the US-Korean alliance from faltering. Wen, while extending an olive branch to China, also unlocks the unbreakable signal of the US-Korean alliance. Just 51 days after taking office, he visited Washington, D.C., creating a record for South Korea’s president’s quickest visit to the US. He met with Trump, promising to invest $12.8 billion in the US over five years and to purchase a total of $22.4 billion in products from the US. While Trump adheres to the principle of “United States priority” and exerts pressure on Korea on issues such as economics and trade, United States forces in Korea, and the reaction of South Korean society, the government has managed to meet the demand of the United States within a room of compromise: the Korean-American Free Trade Agreement (FTAA) has been amended to facilitate the entry of American cars, medicines and agricultural products into the Korean market; and the tenth and eleventh US-American defence fee-sharing agreements have been concluded with the United States, raising the annual cost of about $830 million to $924 million and $1.04 billion. While the above-mentioned measures are intended to gain United States support for his country's policy towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, there are also considerations of benevolence and avoidance of being regarded by the United States as “neighbourhood”. Third, to promote the interface between the “two new policies” and the “one-way” initiative, the “Indo-Pacific Strategy,” and to seek a balance among the major powers while cooperating. The vision of the Government’s external economic cooperation includes, among other things, the “new North policy” of the “new North” map of the Korean peninsula, the “new South policy” of which the two last two, the so-called “two new policies” target, respectively, the Eurasian countries in the north of the peninsula and the South-East and South-East Asian countries in the south of the peninsula. Since China and the Republic of Korea had a “one-way” basis for the “Eurasian Initiative” during the Park Eun-hye era, soon after the Chinese took office, the idea was to connect the “two new policies” with the “one-way” approach. In April 2018, the North Korean Economic Cooperation Commission issued a policy paper on the strategic interface between Korea's “New North Policy” “New South Policy” and China's “one-way” approach, which provided further concrete recommendations on areas of cooperation, projects, etc. In parallel with the strategic interface between China and the United States, in November 2019, following two phases of rejection of exclusion and careful engagement, Man launched a briefing with the United States entitled “The efforts of Korea and the United States to enhance cooperation between the “New South Policy” and the “Indian Strategy”, formalizing a cooperation agreement to engage with the United States in the three main areas of economic, social governance and security. However, in promoting the “two new policies” to the “one-way” and “the Indo-Pacific strategy”, the Government paid particular attention to evading the sensitive nerves of China and the United States. For example, in the context of the Indian-Territories strategy, the area of security cooperation is mainly centred on non-traditional security, with a more negative attitude towards participation in the Quad mechanism, etc., so as to avoid stimulating China. However, with the stalemate in the negotiating process between the US and the US and China and the deterioration in relations between the US and China, China’s perception of the Chinese-American game has changed slightly in the post-Kun era. While the principle of continuing to “maintain the status quo” has not changed, the colour of “pro-American balance” has increased: on the one hand, Man has begun to highlight the Korean-American value nexus in the past. “The Korean-American alliance has gone beyond a security alliance to become a value alliance, sharing universal values of democracy, human rights, and equality. On the other hand, the government has released messages that seek to strengthen US-Korean economic ties and reduce its dependence on China. The Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises of Korea, Park Min, expressed the need for the Korean-American Union to be upgraded to an economic union, and the report of the Ministry of Industry and Commercial Resources to the Members of Parliament (Member of Parliament) entitled "Changes in the structure of trade between China and China as a result of the China-China trade dispute", also called for “reduction of Korea's export dependence through the diversification of export markets and the withdrawal of key facilities from Korea”. At the policy level, China’s government has strengthened the US-Korean alliance’s collaboration on China’s issues. Soon after his arrival in power in Biden, he made a high-profile visit to the US, demonstrating a determination and a gesture to further consolidate and upgrade the alliance, which has led to the expansion of US-China cooperation into strategic areas of competition in Taiwan, Asia and the Pacific, the economy, science and technology, and the international order. First, the increasing intensity of the Chinese-American game limits the space for strategic choice in South Korea. Some observers in the past have argued that a “medium-Power” like South Korea can play a stabilizing role in the Chinese-American game by balancing, following, preventing, and approaching, and maintaining the dual hierarchy of the “ammonium.” However, James Kim, a researcher at the Korean Institute for Policy Studies at Saisan, uses the basic bargaining theory as a tool, and the analysis points out that medium-sized countries play a small role in influencing the relative stability of the regional order during the transition period, and that medium-sized countries are not as decisive as large countries in reconciling the implications of the various options. He gave the example of Sadrwind, which proved that his country did not have as much choice as it thought on many major strategic issues, and that the spread of strategic preferences in large countries would constrain his country's choices. If the controversy between the US and China is huge, South Korea will have to make a clear choice. Many Korean strategic experts also believe that, if the Chinese-American competition is ultimately difficult to reconcile, South Korea must be on the US side of the US-Korean alliance as a primary consideration. After entering 2019, the Trump government’s battles against China intensified, and the “Indian strategy” eventually took shape. The opening of Chinese-American competition in all areas of security, economy, technology, etc. has increased the urgency of South Korea’s margin of choice. Second, America’s pressure and convergence on South Korea has increased its pressure on South Korea’s balanced diplomacy. During the Trump era, the US used South Korea’s opportunities to take advantage of the Peninsula and trade friction between Japan and Korea to increase pressure on Korea. After the failure of the second “Technology” and the pressing desire for more active action by the United States to resolve the impasse, and the outbreak of a trade dispute between Japan and Korea, which forced South Korea to seek mediation from the United States, Trump was ambivalent on both issues, refusing not only to make any concessions on nuclear abandonment, but also saying that Japan and Korea should resolve the dispute through diplomatic means on their own. The statements of the United States have exacerbated South Korea's fear of “discarded” mentality, and since the second half of 2019 there has been a more marked change in South Korea's attitude towards the Indo-Pacific strategy, moving from “touch-and-touch” to “harmonized cooperation”. When Biden came to power, not only did he change his past pressure policy, emphasizing Korean-American ties to democratic values, but he also terminated the Korean-American Missile Guide and offered to release his rights to South Korea. His series of outreach policies did indeed have some effect, with many strategic circles in Korea actively echoing the need to build Korea's diplomatic position, centred on democratic values and institutions. Once again, the tendency to trap the DPRK’s policy has catalyzed South Korea’s “choice side.” The reticence of US-DPRK relations after the second “Technists,” and the failure of the document to reconcile itself with China’s many times, not only triggered a reaction from conservative forces to the DPRK’s policy, but also caused North-South relations to cool down with the country’s confidence in China’s government. In June 2020, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea blew up the North-South Joint Liaison Office in 2022, under the pretext that the Chinese government had allowed conservative groups to distribute anti-DPRK leaflets in the border areas. After entering the country’s 2022 year-long missile tests, even on March 24, the new “Mars-17” intercontinental ballistic missile was being tested, and the country’s government’s flexible space for policy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was increasingly reduced. After Biden took office, the United States and Korea decided to abolish the Trump-era working group on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and replace it with a dialogue at the level of a directorate, with a higher and smoother level of consultation between the two countries and a convergence of views on the policy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The continued improvement in relations between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea stands in stark contrast to the “high march” in relations between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Some Koreans believe that China's preference for inter-Korean dialogue and improved relations between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the United States is merely diplomatic. The real intention is to manage relations between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, with maximum delay in resolving the nuclear issue in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Finally, China’s decline in domestic support has also led to a reversal of South Korea’s position with regard to China’s negative sentiments. An important recipe for China’s balance between China and the US during the pre-regime period is its super-high public-optimal support rate. Wen's support rate was close to 90 per cent at the beginning of his term in office, but, as a result of the failed real estate policy, the review system reforms and the recurrent domestic epidemic, his support rate went down, hovering at only around 40 per cent at the beginning of 2022. The decline in popular support has clearly constrained the implementation of China’s internal and external policies. At the same time, South Korea’s popularity of China has been at a low level since Sadhu, and South Korean civil sentiment has become more negative since the outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic. A poll by the Pew Center in the spring of 2021 showed that South Koreans had a 77 per cent sense of unhappiness with China, and that 75 per cent of Korean respondents believed that South Korea should establish closer economic ties with the United States of America, compared with only 17 per cent supporting China. During the Beijing Winter Olympics, there was a rapid spread in South Korea of popular negative sentiments over China caused by the “Korean dress dispute” and the “short-track fast-sliding dispute”, which undoubtedly had a certain impact on the Chinese government's perception of China. China’s cooperation with China has increased in the last two years as a result of the easing of the balance between China and the United States in the post-Kong era. First, the joint statement issued by the United States and South Korea summit on 21 May 2021 made the first reference to Taiwan, emphasizing the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and touching on China’s core interests. Two days later, Choe Chung Jian, the first official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea, also stated that peace and stability in Taiwan directly affected the national interests of the Republic of Korea and related to the “new South policy” and the issue of free navigation. The question of Taiwan has been a very sensitive issue in South-South relations in the past, with no similar pronouncements from successive Korean governments over the past 30 years. The emergence of such statements is an important sign of South Korea’s policy shift. Secondly, while South Korea has been taking a cautious approach to the Indo-Pacific Strategy, particularly with regard to Quad, the attitude of the Korean government has been fine-tuned since the replacement of Kanjing and Minister for Foreign Affairs by Zheng Yi Song in March 2021, saying: “If it is transparent, open, inclusive and in compliance with international norms, we can actively cooperate with any regional cooperation mechanism, including the United States of America, Japan and Australia. The references in the joint Korean-American statement of May to promoting the “new South policy” and the “Indian strategy”, to promoting human rights and the rule of law, to protecting free navigation, and to promoting vaccine cooperation largely contradicted many of the demands of the “Indian strategy” on South Korea. Even Evans Revere, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, claimed that the statement contained what Quad or Quad Plus wanted to do. Thirdly, after Biden came to power, the Korean-American Missile Guide was terminated, allowing South Korea to develop missiles with a range of 800 km or more, which served both to bring South Korea together and to counterbalance the two birds of one stone in China. Some media have even called for opportunities to develop supersonic missiles that can contain neighboring countries, such as China and Russia. Fourthly, South Korea’s high-tech cooperation with the US is increasingly close. In December 2020, two of Korea's communications giants, KT and SK, joined the United States “Clean Network Project”; in May 2021, some Korean companies joined the “United States Semiconductor Alliance”. The areas of cooperation between the two countries mentioned in the joint statement of Korea and the United States are the following generation of batteries, hydrogen energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and 6G, open wireless access networks (Open RAN) and quantum technology, all of which are technical areas where the United States is focusing on China. Robert Manning, a senior researcher at the United States Atlantic Council, argued that Korea's commitment to investment in technology in the United States and to high-tech cooperation, such as 5G, demonstrated its bias towards the United States in geoeconomics. In summary, Wen has been in power for five years, and his vision of the Chinese-American game has gone through a process ranging from strategic ambiguity to balance with pro-Americanism, and the breadth and depth of cooperation with the United States is increasing. While it is true that, throughout the term of office, efforts to maintain the “middle-American balance” remain the main tone of government policy, the increased cooperation with the United States suggests that South Korea is facing growing external “side-selection” pressure and a growing climate of internal conservatism. With the help of both internal and external forces, the next Korean government to replace Wen, who is in power in Cong, will further highlight the priority of its policy vis-à-vis the United States and China, as well as the coherence and mutual collaboration between the United States and China policies. III. Sino-Korean relations following the inauguration of Yoon Suk-yeol's government
In March 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol, the candidate for the largest opposition national power party in Korea, defeated the ruling party co-DP candidate, Li Jing Ming, in the presidential election and was elected to the new presidency. He officially took office on 10 May. Yoon Suk-yeol came from a conservative camp whose vision of the strategic game between China and the United States was quite different from that of Man: During the election campaign, he had sent a more visible signal of convergence towards the United States, such as advocating the expansion of the Korean-American alliance’s cooperation from military to economic, scientific and technological fields, supply chains, public health, spreading the scope of the alliance’s cooperation from the peninsula to the region and even globally, and actively promoting cooperation between the United States and Japan and joining Quad. Prior to the election, Yoon Suk-yeol further elaborated his foreign policy vision by publishing an article in the United States Foreign Affairs magazine entitled " Korea must take a bold step forward ". With regard to the Chinese-American game, he criticized Man's policy of strategic ambiguity and denounced this unopportunity as “a false assumption that Korea has been tilting towards China and alienating its long-standing ally, the United States”. Accordingly, Yoon Suk-yeol believes that South Korea should establish a comprehensive strategic alliance with the United States and cannot yield to China's economic retaliation at the expense of its own security interests. At the same time, Yoon himself and his diplomatic team have expressed their desire to strengthen bargaining leverage with China through the consolidation of the Korean-American alliance, and his diplomatic staff, Kim Sung-Han, in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) before the elections, said that South Korea would be respected by China only if the Korean-American alliance were to develop steadily and play a key role. Of course, Yoon Suk-yeol is not totally inverse to the United States without taking into account the importance of inter-Korean relations, and he also expressed his willingness to strengthen inter-Korean cooperation in his conversation with President Xi Jinping after his election. But in contrast to the view that the Chinese-American game was “maintenance of the status quo and pro-American balance” held in the late Chinese administration, Yoon Suk-yeol’s government’s perception of the Chinese-American game may be based on a “pro-American balance” as its primary focus, taking into account the maintenance of the status quo in the “America”. First, the uncertainty surrounding Yoon Suk-yeol’s government’s policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could have an impact on relations between China and Korea. Yoon Suk-yeol, in his big disagreement over the policy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, argued on television during the presidential election: “The war can be stopped only by ensuring pre-emptive strike power. In his inaugural speech, Yoon Suk-yeol also made the suspension of nuclear weapons development and complete denuclearization a prerequisite for the resumption of North-South dialogue. This places considerable uncertainty on Yoon Suk-yeol’s government’s policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Both countries have long advocated the denuclearization of the peninsula and the peaceful resolution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear issue. Once the government of Yoon Suk-yeol has significantly adjusted its policy towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and has taken a tough stance and action against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, it is bound to increase tensions on the peninsula and weaken the basis for cooperation between China and the Republic of Korea on the Korean nuclear issue, with some negative impact on relations between China and the Republic of Korea. Second, the increase in the conservative atmosphere in Korea and whether Yoon Suk-yeol will be able to implement his campaign political views after taking office will also add variables to China-Korea relations. While the success of this conservative camp is directly linked to the failure of a series of internal affairs measures in Manchuria, a key factor is the growing climate of conservativeness in the country in recent years. According to the Pew Center polls, from 2018 to 2021, South Koreans'negative perception of China rose for the fourth consecutive year, as did their calls for a review of China's relations and a deepening of the US-Korean alliance. Yoon Suk-yeol argued during the election campaign that he would no longer follow the Chinese government's “three no” promises and seek to join Quad, among his team's diplomatic staff there are “Americans” such as Zhao Taijun and Kim Sung-Han, while the “China Tong” camp is weak. As a result, the extent to which Yoon Suk-yeol will implement his electoral agenda in China's policy towards China after taking office will be an important indicator in shaping the direction of relations between China and Korea. Thirdly, the spillover effects of the Russian-Ukraine conflict will put China’s relations at a new test. On the one hand, the US, using the Russian-Ukraine conflict as an opportunity to create an ideologically calculated climate of confrontation between the two camps, stimulates the Cold War mentality inherited from the peninsula, and widens the influence of value factors on South Korean diplomacy. In his inaugural speech, Yoon Suk-yeol referred to “freedom” 35 times and vowed to defend democracy and the market economy, which became the central key words of his internal and external policies. Given the great differences in the political system and ideology of China and Korea, a return to value diplomacy, to some extent, would magnify the differences between the two countries and promote Korea's strategic attachment to the United States. On the other hand, given that the US has suggested that China will be subject to economic sanctions if it deals with Russia or provides assistance. Once the US takes the opportunity to lift sub-sanctions against China, South Korea will be required to participate actively, which will put China’s relations under great pressure. While it is true that after Yoon Suk-yeol came to power, there may be some uncertainty in the relations between China and Korea, it is important to see that the factors that sustain the stability of relations between the two countries remain: one is that close economic interdependence remains the unbreakable quail of inter-Korean relations. Despite the fact that China and South Korea now have stronger competitive relations in world markets than in the past, and also with the intention of reducing their economic dependence on China, it is undeniable that in 2021 China and South Korea had trade in excess of $300 billion, with a surplus of about $25 billion, and that South Korea's trade dependence on China reached 24 per cent, which would result in unaffordable losses, such as a reduction in jobs, if imposed in the short term. In addition, China and Korea still have great potential for economic cooperation, particularly as a result of the second phase of the negotiations on FTA and the entry into force of RCEP, and the initiative of the two countries to promote a shift in economic cooperation from quantitative to qualitative growth, the continued optimization of the overall business environment and the creation of more business opportunities for enterprises in the two countries, which determines that it is extremely difficult to “decolate” relations in the short term. Second, the dominant position of progressive political parties in the Korean parliament will provide a measure of checks and balances on conservative government’s foreign policy. Given the election results, Yoon Suk-yeol’s turnout is only 0.73% different from that of Li, who is also a traditional figure of the National Power Party, his victory does not mean that conservative camp’s policy proposals are endorsed by the majority of Koreans. More importantly, when Yoon Suk-yeol takes office, he will face a situation within Congress in which he or she is “into Ono” and where the semi-optimal position of the Co-Democracy will place considerable constraints on the implementation of Yoon Suk-yeol's policies within and outside the Government. In dealing with Sino-American relations, the basic approach of the ADP is to coordinate the development of US-Korean and Sino-Korean relations and to build a “creative soft diplomacy strategy” between the US and China. Particularly on sensitive issues related to inter-Korean relations, such as Sad, the Democratic Co-DP opposes the excessive “kidnapping” by the United States-Korean Alliance, which has resulted in the loss of security and economic interests of China-Korean relations and Korea. Thus, unless the comparative power of political parties in the parliamentary elections is reversed in two years'time, the dominance of progressive political parties will, to some extent, prevent Korea's foreign policy from being over-inverted to the United States. Third, South Korea’s long-held pragmatic diplomatic tradition will also serve as a “divide” for inter-Korean relations. South Korea is deeply influenced by Confucian culture, and one of the important features of Korean Confucian ethics is pragmatism, which makes Korean stereotypes practical and national psychological inertia. As a result, South Korea’s foreign policy has always been characterized by a clear sense of pragmatism: whether conservative or progressive regimes take power, successive South Korean governments have been convinced that China and Korea are doing more harm than good for both sides. Despite the fact that Yoon Suk-yeol has a stronger attitude towards China than the Chinese government, his campaign platform has a plan for dialogue with China and recognizes the common interests and objectives of China and Korea in economic and trade issues, as well as in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At the same time, from past experience, some of the statements made by candidates during the campaign to win votes do not mean that they will be put into effect when they take office. So, while Yoon Suk-yeol will strengthen the Korean-American alliance when he takes office, it will also be based on a tradition of pragmatic diplomacy to avoid a marked setback in relations between China and Korea. With this in mind, Yoon Suk-yeol, after taking office, will no longer be “strategicly vague” in dealing with the Chinese-American game, which seeks balance between China and the United States, but may show a greater tendency towards “strategic clarity” in the United States. But, after all, Chinese-Korean relations are closely linked and new, hard-line policy towards China is not in South Korea’s interest, and Yoon Suk-yeol’s government policy towards China may be adjusted to a practical relationship based on mutualism. IV. CONCLUSION
Against the backdrop of the increasingly intense Chinese-American game, there has been a sharp debate in South Korea about strategic choices between the two countries. Over the past five years, despite the efforts of the Chinese government to maintain strategic ambiguity and balance between China and the United States, it is undeniable that South Korea is facing increasing pressure from “side stations” and a growing tendency to follow the US. After the presidency of Yoon Suk-yeol from the conservative camp, China and Korea may experience “readjustment” or even “restart” in the future, given the uncertainty about their policy towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the increased climate of internal conservatism in Korea and the spillover effects of the Russian-Ukraine conflict. However, as the two countries are close to each other, highly interdependent economically, diplomatically pragmatic, the Korean Progressive Front still holds the congressional edge, and it is difficult in the short term to end the competition for strategic choices within the country with Korea’s overall collapse to the United States. Therefore, on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of a relationship, the two countries should, on the one hand, strive to deepen the new growth of cooperation between the two sides in the fields of high-tech industries, public health, third-party markets and local government exchanges, and promote cooperation in all fields that is far from being achieved. On the other hand, they should actively engage in public diplomacy and actively promote frank exchanges and genuine reconciliation between the peoples of the two countries, especially youth groups, on sensitive and contentious issues, thus building future-oriented relations between the two countries and contributing to the tireless momentum for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula and in North-East Asia. Chinese-American game.
This post is edited as follows:
Poster: Thoughts of Love (http://www.aisixiang.com), column: Academies of Heaven > International Relations > Regional Issues
Link to this paper: http://www.aisixiang.com/data/134885.html
Source: International Studies, 2022, 5 issues
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