Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Welcome back to my office here on the campus of Yonsei University and congratulations for making it to the end of our course. Some of you may know the German political philosopher Karl Schmidt. Schmidt came up with a theory of politics in general based on the principle distinction between friend and enemy. I don’t know in general about Schmidt’s approach to politics, but I think it’s useful if we think in terms of the China, Korea relationship with the Schmidtian distinction in mind. If you think about it, China is attempting to be friends with both Koreas. From a North Korean perspective, arguably, China is their only friend.
Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds And in international relations, the highest form, the purest form of friendship is, of course, a treaty alliance. And as you’ve learned, North Korea is China’s only treaty ally to this day. But also with South Korea, we’re seeing a blooming friendship between two countries and two peoples. And most remarkably, in the recent years, we’ve seen that develop under the new leadership in Beijing and Seoul. So that’s really the question that we want to pose and explore this week. Is whether China’s strategy of being friends with both Koreas is viable as we move into the 21st century. They devised it in the post Cold War era, but can it work in the years and even decades ahead?
Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds There are new leaders now in Beijing, in Pyongyang, and in Seoul. Xi Jinping, if all goes as planned, should run China, the world’s most populous nation, until 2022. Park Geun-hye will be up in 2018. Kim Jong-Un is in his early 30s, and if he follows in his father or grandfather’s footsteps, as planned by the North Korean regime, he could have decades in power. So we’re at a critical moment and we have a lot to learn from looking at these three leaders. This week, we’re going to explore a bit of their family histories. They all come from extraordinary families.
Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds And hopefully by looking a bit into their past, we might get some clues as to their future, as to where these three leaders might want to take the relationship between China and the two Koreas moving into the future. We’ll also talk about the elephant in the room in any conversation about North Korea, the nuclear weapons programme. We’ll try to understand how it is that a small, poor country would have committed so many resources and ultimately succeeded in acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. We’ll try to understand the North Korean nuclear dilemma from a Chinese perspective, which I think may give you a different angle of analysis.
Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds And we’ll also look in diplomatic terms and political terms at the role that Beijing wants to play in any kind of possible solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. One word of caution in all of this, though, because now, we’re moving into not just the present, but even thinking about the future. And here I want us to pause for a moment and try this week to think like historians. Historians should be the last people to predict what’s going to come next. The one thing we learn, maybe the only thing we learn, from studying the past in detail, is the unpredictable complexity of human affairs.
Skip to 3 minutes and 27 seconds And so as we anticipate or prophesize what may be coming in years and decades to come, let’s do it with a historian’s humility in the face of the sheer complexity of things.
China's peninsula paradox
Is friendship with both Koreas, the strategy that emerged out of the post-Cold War, viable heading further into the 21st century? What to expect of Xi Jinping’s China, Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, and Park Geun-hye’s South Korea? Thinking historically will not give us definitive answers, but might yield a few clues at least.
© John Delury