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Restoration of Korea-China relations should begin with economic cooperation

Restoration of Korea-China relations should begin with economic cooperation

Posted December. 16, 2017 08:32,   

Updated December. 16, 2017 09:34


The Chinese government’s rude attitude toward Korean President Moon Jae-in during his 4-day state visit lays bare the real China. Upon arrival in China, Moon was not met with any of the seven members of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, and Premier Li Keqiang even postponed a planned luncheon to the late afternoon on Friday. As if this is not enough, two Korean photojournalists covering Moon’s visit were assaulted by Chinese guards, giving rise to flaming controversies.

In fact, many experts expected that China, with its open economy and improved standards of life, would naturally grow to share the universal values of the international community such as human rights, democracy and freedom of speech. Yet, it has turned out to be just a wild dream. The Wall Street Journal also took notice of this by citing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to Beijing. Mr. Trudeau suggested a progressive free trade deal, which addresses the environment and labor standards to the Chinese leadership, but was met by an indifferent response. To counter the “Washington Consensus,” a set of free market economic ideas adopted by the United States, China is apparently pushing for the “Beijing Consensus,” its own state-led economic development model, for authoritarian countries.

Also in the diplomatic arena, China is utilizing its huge shadow funds and overseas Chinese networks to expand its influence to the rest of the world. What the country is relying on is neither the “hard power,” including military or economic capabilities, nor the “soft power” such as cultural charms or values. Beijing is using a so-called “sharp power” through which it, with clever manipulation and pressure, lures, buys and forces others to follow its way. The world came to understand the seriousness of Beijing’s diplomatic tactic most recently in Australia. An Australian senator with close ties to China has recently stepped down amid accusations of collusive ties with a businessman related to the Communist Party of China. The controversy also led to the introduction of new security laws including a complete ban on foreigners donating to Australian political parties.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has successfully elevated himself to the level of the founder of modern China Mao Zedong, has been certainly not hesitant to exert his power. His country has built artificial islands well within waters in the disputed South China Sea claimed by neighbors including Vietnam, and even was revealed through the U.S. satellite photographs to have installed an underground tunnel, a radar system and other military facilities in secret. Beijing’s mistreatment of the Korean leader was also merely a part of its overconfident approach. We should have known that the real China could be childish enough to use even an attitude and manner towards a foreign leader as a way of pressure. We should have defended our national dignity no matter how large the neighboring country is.

President Moon said in his lecture at Peking University in Beijing Friday that he deeply agreed to the vision of his Chinese counterpart “rule of law and rule of morality based on democracy.” But what he actually wanted to stress would probably be the next part: “China can shine when mingled with its neighboring countries, not when it is alone.” Yet, shouldn’t we now stop having vain hopes for Beijing? As Moon said, China may be destined to share the same future with South Korea with geographical proximity, but it will by no means become our “true partner” sharing the same values and goals.