China is a key player on the Korean peninsula: it is not only North Korea’s sole ally, but has also become South Korea’s most important trading partner. Yet, the relationship it has with both Korean states is fraught with tension. Beijing’s hold over Pyongyang has been weakening under the rule of Kim Jong-Un, and Seoul’s alliance with Washington seems to be at odds with Chinese interests.
To understand the relationships China has with both Koreas, we sat down with Professor John Delury. We talked about China’s place in the world and its evolution under the leadership of Xi Jinping, its relationship with South Korea during the Moon administration and with Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea, and about the role the United States plays in these relations.
John Delury is Professor of Chinese Studies at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies, in Seoul. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies in History at Yale University. He wrote, together with Orville Schell, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century, which was published in 2013. Professor Delury’s works have appeared in various publications including Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Asian Survey.
If we look at the Kim Jong-Un – Xi Xinping era […] the first, what was it, six years were extraordinary for how bad that relationship got, for how bad those two leaders let it get, and in my view, most of the agency there was Kim Jong-Un. It was mostly Kim Jong-Un who was refusing to abide by the kind of lowest expectation of how a Korean leader is supposed to treat the Chinese leader.
This episode was produced in cooperation and with the support of the East Asian Studies Center at The Ohio State University and its Title VI National Resource Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The interview was recorded on March 10th, 2021 remotely in Seoul and Columbus, OH.