Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

China's Harmonious Diplomacy and


									                                                                    International Conference on
                                           A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

 China's Harmonious Diplomacy and Sino-South Korean

                      Relations:How Harmonious?

                                     Jaeho Hwang


       China's overall strength is growing every year, and the international
community is increasingly inclining toward recognizing China as a nation leading
the global order. Over the past several years, the vision of a “harmonious world”
has cemented its place at the core of China's foreign strategy. Likewise, China's
foreign policies in its own region are now based on the idea of a "harmonious Asia."
China's Asia strategy can be said to be one of “resembling harmony with Asian
states” (Hexie Yazhou). Conceptually, harmonious Asia is an Asian variant of the
harmonious world. Harmonious world is divided into four domains including
harmonious world, harmonious Asia-Pacific, harmonious regional bloc – that is,
Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia – as well as
harmonious bilateral relationships. Harmonious Sino-ROK relations is a subtopic to
China’s harmonious Northeast Asia. However, recent Cheonan Incident raised a
question of “how harmonious is the relationship between China and South Korea?”
What will happen to the Strategic Cooperative Partnership declared by the leaders
of both countries? Is it only an empty slogan? Apparently, these two nations are not
complete strategic partners yet. China still views Sino-ROK relations under the
bigger framework under its bilateral relations with the DPRK and the US. Sino-ROK
relations has not harmonized yet. In order to create a harmonious Northeast Asia, it
is crucial for China to initiate policies that can harmonize the bilateral relations with
South Korea, which demonstrates its efforts to treat South Korea truly as its
strategic cooperative partner.

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei


        The essential hot topic during President Obama's Asia trip in November
2009 was the rise of China. As evidenced by the frequent reference to the
expression, G2, we are now witnessing the advent of a U.S.-China bipolar era. This
also signifies the sharing of a mutual concern for states around the world, in how to
respond to a rising China that is now shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. It may be
that some states may not agree with this logic. In fact, China itself denies the use of
such expression of “G2.” However, for China’s neighbors, such as South Korea, the
rise of China is not a matter of but a reality of when. Climate change is becoming a
hot agenda for the international community, and that issue has already unraveled in
South Korea’s security environment. We now think about questions of what sort of
air we breathe and in what kind of climate we must live in, so the rise of China has
come to dominate our way of thinking.

        The reason behind our perception of China as G2 is not derived from its
economic, military, and cultural power. Economically, China still lags behind the U.S.
and even its military strength is evaluated to be about 20 years behind the U.S. in
terms of its state-of-the-art technology. Culturally, China is establishing Confucius
Institutes but is far from reaching the global recognition as the U.S. Despite these
shortfalls, China is now considered an equal partner to the U.S. due to its
diplomacy. Obama administration has returned to soft power diplomacy while China
has developed its soft power during the last eight years of Bush administration and
obtaining widespread support from it. Hu Jintao’s approach of a harmonious world
has benefited from the U.S.’s hardline diplomacy. Now with Obama administration
in the picture, rather fierce competition has begun between these two nations.

       In this paper, China’s diplomacy nearly considered to be a G2, will be
examined in detail separated into harmonious world and harmonious Asia. In
addition, we will analyze how such harmonious diplomacy influence its relations
with South Korea.


      In this section, China’s regional and foreign policies will be observed in terms
of Harmonious World and Harmonious Asia and will be discussed in detail.

                                                                      International Conference on
                                             A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

A Harmonious World (Hexie Shijie)

       Within China, discussions on strategy befitting that of the status accorded by
the international society emerged in the mid 1990s. As reflected in the following
concepts of “responsible state” (Zeren Daguo) succeeding the 15th Congress of the
Chinese Communist Party of 1997, “peaceful rise” (Heping Jieqi) was raised during
Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) held in 2003, and the unveiling of “harmonious world”
(Hexie Shijie) by Chinese president Hu Jintao during both the Asia-Africa Summit in
April 2005 and the 60th United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September of the
same year, the concept of a 'harmonious world' has become the crux of China's
diplomatic strategy.

       Conceptually, a harmonious world seeks to present a traditional Chinese
thought of “He”, or harmony, as a universal view of global order. A harmonious
society is the base of a harmonious world, and conversely, a harmonious world in
turn guarantees a harmonious society. Furthermore, a harmonious world signifies
both an ideology of foreign policy as well as the translation of the effort “to seek a
common ground while preserving differences” (Qiutong Cunyi). More specifically, a
harmonious world focuses on economic co-prosperity, security cooperation, and
cultural coexistence. 7 Hence, harmonious world, which envelopes fields such as
economy, trade, diplomacy, and culture has as its base the dependence on the
spectrum of soft power. The concept of harmonious world is continually being
molded to China's rise in the international society.

       The motivational factors behind such a push for the concept first stemmed
from China's realization that a passive stance in the global sphere would not only
be counterproductive for its national interests but possibly even instigate
international isolation. 8 China pursued more flexibility from its old module of
“Keeping a low profile” 9 (Taoguang Yanghui) and actively involve itself in the
current international system. Second, since the idea of peaceful rise did not
extinguish the anxious voices of the Chinese threat camp and thus called for a
strategic change of sorts, China was convinced that the new concept would
somewhat wipe out the negative images associated with China and its rise. Third,
China thought that a firm multilateral stance would be useful to check the

  Wang Gonglong, “The Harmonious World: A New Idea for World Order,” Xiandai Guoji
Guanxi (Contemporary International Relations), 2007 (3) (in Chinese), pp. 56-62.
  G. John Ikenberry, “The rise of China and the future of the West,” Foreign Affairs, 87 (1)
(2008), pp. 23-37.
  This interpretation has much more close to what Chinese government’s original intention of
using this phrase.

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei

U.S.-centric unilateralism. Lastly, this also meant presenting to the international
society China's own values and visions for the construction of a new international
order accordant to its global status.

      In sum, Chinese scholars such as Liu Jiangyong of Qinghua University
evaluate that it was for a significant time that the construction and consolidation of
harmonious world played the elementary base for Chinese diplomatic strategy. 10

Harmonious Asia (Hexie Yazhou)

        Background leading up to China’s pursuit of Harmonious Asia includes
internal economic progress within China as well as regime stability all require
stability in terms of the adjacent regional security environment. Asia and
Asia-Pacific represent China's stepping-stone for its path leading to the
international society (Lizhu Yatai, Mianxiang Shijie), in addition to the area wherein
China's political, economic, and security interests are heavily concentrated. 11 Albeit
China is slowly taking on the shape of a powerful state, it does not yet have the
equivalent global reach as that of the U.S. Hence, China is planning to take gradual
steps in its rise and herein Asia becomes an optimal region at least in the short to
mid-term for China to exercise and experiment its influence and international
management skills upon.

     The region of Asia signified an essential strategic channel for China and its
employment of a diplomatic-security policy of “going out” (zou chuqu) in regards to
the international society. 12 Through such efforts, a stable relationship with Asian
countries becomes extremely important, as harmonization takes on the crux of
China’s foreign policy stratagem. In this respect, China's Asian strategy can be said
to be one of “resembling harmony with Asian states” (Hexie Yazhou). Conceptually,
Harmonious Asia is an Asian variant of Harmonious World. Harmonious World is
divided into four contexts including Harmonious World, Harmonious Asia-Pacific,
Harmonious regional bloc (that is, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia,

   “No Change in Proceeding Down Course of Peaceful Development - Section on Evaluation
of China’s New Ideology in Foreign Policy, contained in the Report on 17th Congress of the
Chinese Communist Party,” (in Chinese), (accessed
on 1 Sep 2008).
   Tang Shiping, “China’s Ideal Security Environment,” Hu Angang ed., Zhonguo Dazhanlue
(The grand strategy of China), (Zhejiang People’s Publishing Company, 2002) (in Chinese), p.
   Going Out strategy, its most used and understandable implications by Chinese, refers to
economy-oriented policy adopted by both central and local government to help local business
explore and expand their overseas markets.

                                                                       International Conference on
                                              A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

South Asia), as well as Harmonious bilateral relationships.

       Within this, Harmonious regional blocs are the pillars of China’s Asia strategy.
China’s harmonious Asia involves and integrates a bunch of sub-regional
objectives and approaches with distinct priority and focus.

      Northeast Asia is of vital importance to China’s Asia Strategy, 13 where China
faces the challenges of the problems left over from the Cold War, maintaining
sub-regional peace and stability, and constructing more effective economic and
security mechanisms. Therefore, China believes that it should join other relevant
actors in their efforts to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue, assuage disputes
over territorial land and waters, and promote sub-regional economic cooperation
with China, Japan and South Korea at its core, so as to build up the basic
framework for Northeast Asian security cooperation.

       Beijing has for a long time regarded Southeast Asia as a major platform for
bolstering its bilateral and multilateral relations with other actors, where its primary
goal is to consolidate and strengthen cooperation with Southeast Asia. 14 China has
already and will keep solidifying its strategic partnership with ASEAN and actively
implement the pacts and agreements between them, achieving mutual benefit
through common development based on seeking consensus while reserving

      South Asia is another significant platform for new progress of sub-regional
cooperation for China. 15 Since China became a SAARC observer in 2006, China
has been committed to strengthening its relationship with this sub-region. In the

   Jiang Zhaijiu, “China's Participation in the Six-party Talks: Role as a Mediator and it's
Prospect,” Dangdai Yatai (Contemporary Asia-Pacific Studies), 2007 (2) (in Chinese), pp.
30-35; Liru, “China's Role on The Security Issue of Korea Peninsula,” Xiandai Guoji Guanxi
(Contemporary International Relations), 2006 (9) (in Chinese), pp. 42-47; Kong Keyu, “China's
National Interests, Role&Prospects on The North Korea Nuclear Issue,” Guoji Guancha
(International Review), 2008 (5) (in Chinese), pp. 59-65.
   Wen jiabao’s speech of "Join Hands to Create A Better Future for China-ASEAN Relations"
at the summit marking the 15th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue,
Oct. 30, 2006,; See also Xu Shanbao,
“The Development of China-ASEAN Relations in the Past 40 Years and Its Inspiration: From a
Perspective of 'Common Interests',” Dongnanya Yanjiu (Southeast Asian Studies), 2007 (3) (in
Chinese), pp. 54-59; Li Qingsi, “The Relationship between China and ASEAN: an Successful
Model of Good Neighborhood Diplomacy,” Guoji Luntan (International Forum), 2004 (2) (in
Chinese), pp.30-34.
   Xue Yong, “The Triangular Relation Among China, India, Pakistan and China's South Asia
Policy,” Nanya Yanjiu Jikan ( South Asian Studies Quarterly), 2007 (1) (in Chinese), pp. 36-41;
Zhao Gancheng, “Analysis on China's Strategy towards India,” Nanya Yanjiu (South Asian
Studies), 2008 (1) (in Chinese), pp.3-8; Zhang Guihong, “China and South Asian Regionalism:
A Case Study of the SAARC,” Nanya Yanjiu (South Asian Studies), 2008 (2) (in Chinese),

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei

future, the trilateral relationship among China, India and Pakistan is to be further

         Central Asia has evolved as an important neighboring area to the West of
China.    China has worked jointly with all relevant parties to steadily extend their
cooperation from border security to politics, comprehensive security, economy,
culture and other realms. China will continue to develop its cooperation with Central
Asia on the basis of bilateral relations, and in turn, within the sub-regional
cooperation framework to promote bilateral relations, and strive to balance the
interaction and interests of all relevant states inside and outside this sub-region.

       In this regard, China’s major strategic target for the neighborhood is to
maintain sub-regional peace, participate in the process to solve hotspot issue there,
ensure energy security, enhance economic and trade links, and develop its
relations with relevant states and organizations in a balanced and all-round way.

Three Tracks for Harmonious Asia

       To expatiate on strategy, China’s “harmonious Asia” proceeds along three
tracks: First, economic cooperation to make neighbors prosperous.17 China is not
only approaching the regional Asian states as bilateral partners, but also using the
multilateral channel to develop and intensify economic relations. For example, the
proportion of external trade and investments to China from Asian countries are
extremely high. Also, China is planning an FTA with ASEAN starting in 2010,
similarly at the joint research and negotiation stage with Australia, India, and South
Korea. Moreover, China is also strengthening cooperation with sub-regions such as
the Mekong river area.

      The second component of “harmonious Asia” is installing partnerships to
coexist peacefully with neighbors. 18 China is bolstering bilateral relations with

   Liu Fenghua, “China in Central Asia:Policy Evolution,” E'Luosi Zhongya Dong'ou Yanjiu
(Russian Central Asian and East European Studies), 2007 (6) (in Chinese), pp. 63-72; Shi Ze,
“The Overall Development of China & Central Asia Relations,” Guoji Wenti Yanjiu (International
Studies), 2006 (1) (in Chinese), pp.14-18; Zhao Huasheng, “Theory and Practices of China's
Diplomacy towards Central Asia ,” Guoji Wenti Yanjiu (International Studies), 2007 (4) (in
Chinese), pp. 19-25.
   Wang Guanghou, “From 'An Amicable Neighborhood' to 'An Amicable, Secure And
Prosperous Neighborhood' — Analyzing the transition of China's Neighborhood Foreign
Policy,” Waijiao Pinglun (Foreign Affairs Review), 2007 (3) (in Chinese), pp. 38-43; Lu Jianren,
“Several Thoughts on Promoting Trade and Economic Relations between China and
Neighboring Countries,” Dangdai Yatai (Contemporary Asia-pacific Studies), 2004 (9) (in
Chinese), pp. 3-12; Liu Changli, “Sino-Japan Cooperation and the Development of East Asia
Economy,” Riben Yanjiu (Japan Studies), 2008 (1) (in Chinese), pp.38-42.
   Cao Yunhua and Xu Shanbao, “China's Good Neighbor Policy and China-ASEAN

                                                                       International Conference on
                                              A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

important states through partnerships. Though there are many expressions to
describe the partnership endeavor by China, the definitional challenge still remains.
However, partnerships usually exist regardless of ideology - a relationship
unencumbered by fundamental misunderstandings, not hobbled by mutual
animosity, with two states making cooperative efforts to share mutual benefits
through practical steps towards achieving those very ends while deepening ties. If
initially, the relationships were struck with mainly powerful states such as the U.S.
and Russia, beginning in late 1990s, countries like India and South Korea were
also targeted.

       The third component of harmonious Asia is multilateral security reassuring
neighbors.19 Initially, China was of the mind-set that multilateral organizations were
counter to its own national interests, but with the 16th Congress of the Chinese
Communist Party in 2002, such a mind-set became more optimistic. Not only is
China participating actively in venues such as APEC, ASEAN+3, ASEAN+1, ARF,
and EAS, it is leading discussions within SCO and the Six-party talks. Furthermore,
China is deploying peace-keeping forces in conflict areas and proceeding to
undergo joint military exercises with other states.

       To sum up, the phrase “harmonious world” effectively reflects the universal
value and reality as China’s diplomatic strategy. One could state that China's Asia
strategy has been quite fruitful, as China has been able to gain amicable relations
with the regional states.


       Despite the gains, there linger future challenges to China's implementation
of the Asia strategy. Regional states are still keeping China in check, while China
confronts some challenges that it will shoulder along such pursuit. The challenges
can be classified into four different aspects as follow.

What if U.S. reinforces smart power?

Relations,” Dangdai Yatai (Contemporary Asia-pacific Studies), 2004 (2) (in Chinese),
pp.52-59; Xiao Gang, “Multilateralism and High Political Cooperation in East Asia,” Dongnanya
Yanjiu (Southeast Asian Studies), 2005 (5) (in Chinese), pp.4-10.
   Liu Xuecheng, “Asia-Pacific Security Structure in Process and China's Asia Diplomacy,”
Dangdai Yatai (Journal of Contemporary Asia-Pacific Studies), 2008 (6) (in Chinese), pp.83-94;
Men Honghua, “The Rise of China and the Transformation of East Asia's Security Order,” Guoji
Guancha (International Review), 2008 (2) (in Chinese), pp. 16-25.

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei

        Foremost, if the U.S. succeeds in implementing its own Asia strategy in a
more comprehensive and effective way, to what extent will it impact China’s Asia
strategy? In fact, the recent surge in China's status in Asia has in part been
attributed to the general passivity of the U.S, which has been preoccupied with the
war on terror as well as the situation in Iraq. After the visit by President Bush to
Japan, South Korea, China, and Mongolia in November 2005, however, the U.S.
seems to be in the process of reformulating its once unattended Asia strategy.

        Currently, the U.S. is pursuing an offshore balancing strategy. 20 Hedging
against China's rise, Washington is recruiting friendly states from the Asian region
to form an alliance to gain the strategic upper-hand against China. Specifically, the
U.S. is helping Japan's normalization plan, encouraging India's rise as part of
consolidating its status as a major player in the Asian sphere, and cultivating states
that will not easily bandwagon with China (as is the case with Indonesia and
Vietnam), all with the intention to fashion democratic security provider states like
South Korea and Australia. 21 In other words, the U.S. is not forcing these states to
succumb to its power, but rather encouraging each state's power so that they may
keep China in check. The effectiveness of such a strategy will determine the threat
level to China's own strategy.

       Next, if the U.S. reinforces its smart power, China's harmonious Asia may be
vulnerable to even more destructive impacts thereof. The foreign policy slogans of
the U.S. resonates a stark contrast between “us” and “them.” For example, the
notion of the “arc of instability” gave off a hostile connotation, while the concept of
“transformational diplomacy” held a strong sentiment to fundamentally change a
target. Though the latter concept has shifted its focus from a force-based to
diplomacy-based notion, in theory, the idea still yields the intention of “change.”
However, much the U.S. would like to see an adequate change occur in rising
states toward the spectrum involving freedom, democracy, and human rights, could
change occur within a nation like China? 22 Smart power refers to the capability to
carry out a coherent strategy combining those factors that fall under hard power
such as military force and economic sanctions, as well as those variables under the
essential element of appeal that is soft power.

   Christopher Layne, “China's challenge to US hegemony,” Current History, January
   Daniel Twining, “America’s Grand Design in Asia,” The Washington Quarterly, 20
(3), 2007.
   Wang Weinan, “Rethinking the U.S. ‘Transformational Diplomacy’,” Xiandai Guoji
Guanxi (Contemporary International Relations), 2007 (4) (in Chinese), p. 39.

                                                                     International Conference on
                                            A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

      Just as the CSIS Commission on Smart Power suggests, if the U.S. pursues
a strategy of, 1) restoring alliances, partnerships, along with the multilateral
network; 2) leading the area of global public health system; 3) investing in public
diplomacy; 4) actively participating in the global market; and 5) leading issues
regarding energy and environmental security, 23 the competition for the hearts and
minds of states between the appeal from smart power brandished by the U.S. and
a harmonious Asia proclaimed by China will be fierce. The question then comes to
whether and how the Obama administration would enhance America’s engagement
with Asia as a whole when the rampant financial crisis and those hot spots in the
Middle East and Afghanistan have largely preoccupied its policy agenda of the
administration in the near future.

What if Japan invents its own diplomacy?

       There has been no case as of yet, of two strong powers being
shoulder-to-shoulder with one another in the sphere of East Asia. While China was
at the helm up until the first Sino-Japanese War, Japan grabbed the seat after the
Second World War. It is not surprising that two states wanting to become equals
would compete over the supremacy over a certain area. However, if Japan were to
counteract China's harmonious Asia strategy with that inclusive of the following
factors, China will need to be even more vigilant.

        What if Japan were to practice a more attractive strand of diplomacy? The
concept of “value diplomacy” was a new idea brought in to Japan's foreign policy
after Shinzo Abe's election in September 2006. In November that same year,
Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, argued for supporting the creation of an “arc
of freedom and prosperity.” During Abe's visit to Europe in January 2007, the
suggestion of creating a Europe-Asia democratic coalition amongst like-minded
states came to the spotlight. Seven months later in August during Abe's visit to
India, the intent to solidify alliances with other Asian states through the sharing of
those universal values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law and
thus establish a “value-oriented diplomacy” was declared.

      Though the moves by Japan could be understood in a favorable light in that
Japan considers soft power in its implementation of foreign policy, the moves also
signal a more ominous motivation for Japan to stay at least as the number two

  Richard L. Armitage and Joseph S. Nye Jr., A Smarter, More Secure America, Report of the
CSIS Commission on Smart Power, (CSIS, November 6, 2007).

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei

power, by gaining leverage in its competition with China and obtaining its private
space in the global system, as well as containing the possibility of a bilateral order
including the U.S. and China. However, Japan's “value-oriented diplomacy” has lost
much of its tract. Not only did Fukuda focus only on the Asia region, but the three
powers of U.S., Australia, and India for reasons of both internal and external nature,
became rather passive participants.

       The fundamental dilemma is that Japan has no seat in its own
conceptualization of its foreign policy. What if Japan were to invent its own
indigenous brand? How about a more appealing act of diplomacy? The idea of an
'arc of freedom and prosperity' simply brings to mind the “arc of instability” of the
U.S. In fact, Abe's value diplomacy harks back to those values long proclaimed by
the U.S. Also, Japan has not been as active as that of the U.S. in terms of
espousing democracy and human rights in its diplomacy. The unresolved issues
involving history serves to only undermine what conviction value diplomacy heralds.
In that case, what about applying Fukuda’s “synergy diplomacy?” The policy
undertaken by Fukuda until now has been a balanced one wherein a trouble-free
relationship has been established and managed with the Asian states. However,
“synergy diplomacy” connotes a technical characteristic of emphasizing Asia above
that of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Even the emergence of Hatoyama administration a
year ago, raised the expectation of its neighboring countries for possible East Asian
Community but this came to an abrupt halt, even before it could prove anything. If
Japan successfully kneads its own brand by complementing the proposed values
with great appeal in terms of diplomacy, not only will this attract more regional
states but also become a strong competitor to China's Harmonious Asia strategy.

                                                                      International Conference on
                                             A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

What if China has difficulty harmonizing regional states?

       Within China's harmonious Asia principle, the notion of economic
interdependence takes on great importance. China compromised on issues when
negotiating an FTA with regional states, even submitting to a trade imbalance.
However, could China be as resilient if the economic situation faults or factors
make for a tough position from which to absorb continual trade imbalances?
Moreover, China exhibits dormant factors that could come into conflict with regional
states. These range from historical disputes such as Goguryo, territorial disputes
including Diaoyudao/Senkaku and Nansha/Sparatly Islands. Regional security
issues such as the North Korean nuclear development, other potential flash points
like human rights, nationalistic sentiments on Taiwan and Tibet and China's
growing military modernization. Whatever the case, it would be inevitable to face up
to the situation and seek a resolution, but how China goes about doing so will
determine the success of its 'harmonious Asia' strategy - if China turns to
nationalism single-handedly or a method of pressuring or taking advantage of
regional states in the name of national interests, backlash from those very states
will make for a difficult implementation of China's Harmonious Asia strategy.

What if China does not take sufficient responsibility?

       Another potential challenge to China's strategy is if China does not show to
take on much responsibility. In September of 2005, since the statement made by
the then U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, “responsible
stakeholder” have been gained increasing attention on China’s foreign policy
agenda. Nevertheless, despite the calls embracing the role, there are also those
skeptical of the motivations behind such a statement by the U.S. as well as of
China's own understanding of depth and scope of responsibility, in insisting that
China should consider responsibility only up to the point that it does not land China
into a sacrificial position. If China does not adhere to a role befitting its status, there
will be voices questioning China's willingness to take on such a role entailing
responsibility in the international sphere. The concern is growing over the gap of
higher expectation by international society on China’s responsibility and the desire
within China of striking a balance between its domestic development and overseas
responsibility. If this gap is left without properly handled, the distrust is more likely to
accumulate and China's Asia strategy will crumble.

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei


        In the reality, both countries have made great development since
establishing diplomatic relations with one another starting in 1992. But this was
limited to non-security areas. In this chapter, the subtopic to China’s harmonious
Asia, harmonious Northeast Asia, especially harmonious Sino-ROK relations will
be discussed. How harmonious is the relationship between China and South Korea?
In order to examine this, we first provide the overview of the development process
between these two nations, followed by exploring potential problems or issues.

Bilateral Relations: Developments and Achievements

         Bilateral relations between China and South Korea took a new aspect upon
the recognition that there was significant overlap in their cultural intimacy,
geographical proximity, economic interdependence, and security assessment on
the Korean Peninsula and East Asia. Based on this understanding, the two
countries have been upgrading their relationship stage by stage over the years.
Starting from a “friendship and cooperative relationship” in 1992, the diplomatic tie
between China and South Korea became a “collaborative partnership for the 21st
century” in 1998, and a “comprehensive cooperative partnership” in 2003. Then, in
May 2008, President Lee Myung-bak and President Hu Jintao met in Beijing to
officially announce the forging of a “strategic cooperative partnership” between the
two states. This is the highest level of relationship the two countries have reached
thus far in their ongoing five-year cycle of adjustment and redefinition.

       The establishment of this strategic partnership occurred just three months
after President Lee Myung-bak's assumption of office in February, despite the fact
that relations between China and the ROK had stalled somewhat during the
months following his election due to his persistent emphasis on strengthening
US-ROK relations. Indeed, in the six-month period between February and August,
no less than three summit meetings took place between the two parties. President
Lee's visit to China in May and attendance at the Beijing Olympics opening
ceremony in August effectively removed the dark cloud hovering over the two
countries' diplomatic relations (Bo-yun): it erased the suspicion, triggered by the
Lee Myung-bak administration's initial policy emphasis on US-ROK relations, that
South Korea was intending to neglect China.

        President Hu Jintao's subsequent visit to Seoul on August 25 was a journey

                                                                   International Conference on
                                          A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

under blue skies (Jian-ri) as it were, for the two nations. The Chinese head of state
and his Korean counterpart had agreed to promote their strategic cooperative
partnership across all fronts. President Hu Jintao, in particular, stated that China
will continually support “the efforts of South Korea and North Korea to promote the
reconciliation and cooperation process, improve relations, and ultimately achieve
peaceful reunification.” The two sides also agreed to work together toward
increasing bilateral trade to US$200 billion by 2010, and “find ways to actively
advance the China-ROK FTA process in a mutually beneficial way.” The joint
statement issued by the two heads of state went on to say that China and South
Korea will “strengthen communication and cooperation under the framework of the
Six-Party Talks, promote the implementation of the second phase actions in a
comprehensive and balanced manner at an early date, and make constructive
efforts for the comprehensive implementation of the September 19 Joint Statement.”
The two sides, the statement noted, will continue to coordinate and cooperate in
such multilateral forums as ASEAN+3, China-ROK-Japan, EAS, ARF, APEC, ACD,
and ASEM, as well as strengthen cooperation in the prevention and eradication of
WMD proliferation, international terrorism, drugs, financial and economic crimes,
high-tech crimes, and piracy. To make specific arrangements for their strategic
partnership and faithfully implement its various terms, China and South Korea also
agreed to make full use of bilateral mechanisms, including inter-foreign ministry

       Thereafter, the two countries instituted a number of measures appropriate to
their newly established strategic cooperative partnership. One notable instance is
the US$26 billion won-yuan currency swap deal signed on December 12, 2008. If
the earlier US$4 billion currency swap that took place under the auspices of the
Chiang Mai Initiative is taken into account, the scale of won-yuan currency swap
amounts to US$30 billion.

      Military cooperation – an area that had been relatively slow in developing –
took on renewed vitality as well. Besides the high level and working level changes,
in recent years, naval hotline now connected ROK's 2nd Fleet Command with
China's North Sea Fleet Command; the air force hotline connects the ROK's 2nd
Master Control and Reporting Center with the Air Force Command in China's Jinan
Military Region. Between April 20 and 23 in 2009, the Korean navy dispatched the
Dokdo (12,000 tons), which is currently the largest transport ship in Asia, and the
Gang Gam-chan (4,500 tons), its latest destroyer, to the international fleet review in

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei

Conflict between Two Nations

       The most fundamental conflict lies with North Korea policy. China seeks to
denuclearize Korean Peninsula as well as maintain peace and stability in the
Peninsula and Northeast Asia and, at the same time, searching for a solution to the
North Korean nuclear problem through the Six Party Talks. Instead of rushing into
resolving the nuclear problem, however, China places higher priority on the stability
of Korean peninsula. In the meantime, China feels the strain of mounting burden in
the region created by repeated tension coming from North Korea. Nevertheless,
China’s North Korean policy will seek to maintain the status quo of a divided
peninsula in an attempt to broaden its sphere of influence and interests in relation
to North and South Korea. Main issues at hand surrounding North Korea are
China’s ambiguous attitude towards reunification process initiated by South Korea
and human rights issues, including forced repatriations of North Korean escapees
back to North Korea.

        In addition, there are other issues surrounding these two nations since
establishing its diplomatic relations including trade surprise problem, history
distortion issue like the history of Goguryeo, negative and hostile attitude towards
the Chinese, and potential territorial disputes like Gando.

        Despite these difficulties, both countries have maintained the attitude of
minimizing or disclaiming of any potential problems. Sino-ROK Strategic
Cooperative Partnership was forged during the Lee Myung-bak administration
rather than during Roh Moo-hyun administration, when the bilateral relations
between these two countries were better. But this might have been an optical
illusion. As illustrated from Cheonan Case in March, it revealed the Sino-ROK
relations is not as harmonious as believed. In late April when President Lee visited
China for the opening ceremony of Shanghai Expo, or when Premier Wen Jiabao
visited Jeju Island for the third ROK-China-Japan Trilateral Summit, top Chinese
officials expressed their grievances towards Cheonan victims. But it was nothing
more than that. In fact, China has announced that the Cheonan investigation must
be carried out in an objective and scientific manner, unchanged with time. When
Kim Jong Il visited China, three days after President Lee’s visit, China’s Korean
Peninsula policy became even more apparent. Kim’s visit to China occurred out of
mutual necessity and this has shown to the international community with a clear
message that situations in Korean peninsula should no longer be shaped by the
U.S. and South Korea.

                                                                   International Conference on
                                          A Rising Chinese Hegemony & Challenges to the Region

        At the time of writing this article, China is insisting on ambiguous form of
agreement, supporting the adoption of U.N. Security Council presidential statement,
rather than sanctions resolution against North Korea, without mentioning of North
Korea or words depicting attack. South Korea’s omni-directional diplomacy towards
China to earn the support of China has turned out to be an ineffective, one-sided

       At this moment, the current address of bilateral relations between these two
nations must be examined. Who is China to South Korea? Whatever happened to
the Strategic Cooperative Partnership declared by the leaders of both countries?
Was it only an empty slogan? Are they really strategic cooperative partners?
Although this partnership signified that South Korea had a strategic value to China,
it has a stronger connotation of the direction that these two countries should head
towards than depicting its current state. In actuality, it is closer to economic
cooperative partnership and still remaining as the previous comprehensive
cooperative partnership before being upgraded to the strategic cooperative
partnership. In order to truly reach the strategic level, there needs to be
development in the areas of the national security and defense.

      Furthermore, there is a growing concern in the emergent regional order for
South Korea. Although China is claimed to fall short in its capacity to be G2, it is
nonetheless a challenge and concern for South Korea. How China will develop and
change in the future will influence the foreign policy of South Korea. The question
of whether international community should accept or prevent the rise of China is no
longer relevant. Every nation is contemplating on how to best respond to the rise of
China. It has become inevitable for each nation to consider the position of China in
its policy decision-making process, or decide whether to bandwagon with China or
not. How will the upcoming U.S.-China relations looks like quantitatively and
qualitatively? What kind of leadership will China have? Will the U.S. continue to
keep its promise on alliance? The most important question is what kind of role
China will play in the reunification process of Korea. These questions must be
addressed in the middle to long term China policy of South Korea.


      A country's international standing and reputation are generally determined
by its vision, capability, and how is it perceived by other countries. China wishes to
be recognized as a powerful nation on a global level. Beijing Olympics were a

July 19-20, 2010, Taipei, Taiwan
Grand Formosa Regent Taipei

symbolic event reflecting this very ambition. China's overall strength is growing
every year, and the international community increasingly inclines to deem China as
a nation leading the global order. Over the past several years, the vision of a
“harmonious world” has cemented its place at the core of China's foreign strategy;
likewise, China's foreign policies in its own region are now based on the idea of a
“harmonious Asia.”

      Today, China is headed toward a superpower. The Beijing Olympics set a
new record by including athletes from 205 nations worldwide; the number of the
heads of state attending the opening and closing ceremonies also set a new record.
Another distinctive feature was the parade of nations during the two ceremonies:
the various countries entered not by alphabetical order, but by the number of
strokes in the first character of their names in simplified Chinese. The World Expo
2010 in Shanghai will serve as another momentous opportunity for China.

       However, establishment as a great power entails great responsibility as well.
There will be increasing pressure from the international community as various
countries look toward China to play a leading role. China's harmonious world policy
describes not only its desire to harmonize with the world, but also its ambition to
harmonize the world. And the same holds true for the harmonious Asia policy.
Indeed, when it comes to China's harmonious diplomacy, Asia is at once a success
case and its Achilles heel.

        The two nations are not complete strategic partners yet. China still views
Sino-ROK relations under the bigger framework with its bilateral relations with the
DPRK and the U.S. Cheonan incident was a primary example that illustrates this
point. Harmonious China-Korea relations have not harmonized yet. In order for
China to create harmonious Northeast Asia, it is crucial for China to develop
policies that can harmonize the bilateral relations with South Korea, which show
efforts to treat South Korea as its strategic, cooperative partner.


To top