China has a habit of using academics and scholars to float foreign policy trial balloons. Dingli Shen, a Professor and Executive Dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, recently visited North Korea, something he would not have done unless he spoke for at least a part of the Chinese government. Shen, a physicist and a former Professor of “American Studies,” has also acted as a quasi-governmental mouthpiece on North Korea here and here. Here’s what he’s floating in The Far Eastern Economic Review now:
The development of nuclear weapons is a sovereign right to which the D.P.R.K. is entitled.
Right. No less than sovereign nations like Taiwan or Tibet, then. If North Korea has a sovereign right to build nukes, whose only tactical use is wreaking mass destruction on other nations, then it is Taiwan’s sovereign right to buy Patriot missiles, whose only tactical use would be for protecting Taiwan from ChiCom missiles.
Though outsiders may feel that North Korea should not go nuclear, Pyongyang is not convinced that it should voluntarily put a halt to its program.
And if that’s so, it’s because China has failed to help us convince North Korea. A perfect example of China’s double-dealing was its vote for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, and its subsequent failure to implement or comply with that resolution. Wait. It gets better.
Besides, as long as the D.P.R.K. refrains from exporting its nuclear technology,…
Say what? I may have underestimated the effectiveness of the Great Firewall. One thing this shows us is how hard it can be for nations to agree on goals when they’re operating from different realities.
… it should be able to avoid a military confrontation. In order to persuade the North to dismantle its nuclear program, other countries should adopt a more realist, incremental approach.
Which really means “forget about it.” Shen then justifies North Korea’s nuclear program thusly:
Of course, not everyone agrees with the assertion that North Korea is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear weapons. Yet these opponents usually reach their conclusion based purely on national or regional interests. They fail to understand that a peaceful world can only be achieved when all nations feel equally secure. The U.S. felt insecure when it learned that Nazi Germany was developing a nuclear bomb, prompting the Manhattan Project.
Did he just compare us to Nazi Germany?
From Shen’s bird’s nest of internal contradictions and illogic, it’s simply impossible to tell whether a “correct” Chinese academic’s “official” view is that North Korea should have nukes or not. It’s also absolutely clear what the Chinese really think. If you doubt me, just look what Mr. Shen published three days before North Korea tested its bomb:
Our country has not many choices when it comes to whether or not the DPRK will conduct a nuclear test. This is because the Sino-DPRK security relationship is not a one-way street. It is impossible for China to apply excessive pressure on the DPRK. It is impossible for us to prevent the DPRK from realizing its fundamental interests while not harming our country’s fundamental interests. In the past there was such a balance of interests. It is still true today as “Taiwan independence” [forces] run rampant. Basically, our country’s work of persuasion with the DPRK in the 12 years that the DPRK developed its nuclear program had been a failure. The causes are evident. [Nautilus Institute, Oct. 3, 2006]
In the North Korean dialect, this translates to “the light is green, Mr. Chairman.”
Of course, China doesn’t really care about North Korea’s sovereign rights, or we wouldn’t be seeing the first signs of a Chinese land grab in Korea (the Northeast Asia Project, Mount Paektu, and the Rajin Port lease being just three examples). Really, China just means us harm. It wants a tyrannical North Korea as a buffer zone, and it wants a nuclear North Korea as a threat and a distraction to U.S power in the region. Or, as Shen puts it back on October 3, 2006:
At present, China’s core interests lie not only in developing the economy but also in reunifying the Chinese nation. The main task now is “opposing Taiwan independence” With the final goal of realizing the state’s reunification. In this respect, the DPRK at least puts in check the tens of thousands of US troops in South Korea, thus helping to reduce the US military pressure on the course of reunification and “opposing Taiwan independence.” To a certain extent, the DPRK helps China divide the military threat of the US military forces in the Asia-Pacific region. As an ally, the DPRK also helps our country defend the main gate of China’s Northeast regions. As the DPRK believes that it contributes to China’s national security, it is therefore impossible for China to abandon the DPRK and it is absolutely impossible for China to adopt comprehensive sanctions against it if the DPRK conducted nuclear tests.
China’s malicious double-dealing through years of six-party talks has made this clear to anyone not under ChiCom influence, a definition that probably excludes much of our neutered State Department and our lame-duck Administration. China has paid lip service to the concept of a nuclear-free North Korea while Chris Hill has been performing his own kind of lip service on the Chinese. China’s actions are what speak with clarity, and those actions have kept Kim Jong Il firmly on his throne and preemptively undermined U.N. Sanctions that might have helped deter the North Korean nuclear test:
Once the DPRK carries out a nuclear test, our country only needs to symbolically take part in the sanctions (including import restrictions on its nuclear technology) that the international community will surely impose on the DPRK. But China should block economic sanctions. In the choice between limited sanctions that demonstrate our country is a responsible power and harsh sanctions that forces the DPRK to go to extremes or bring about “regime change,” China can only afford to take the lesser evil approach.
Do you suppose Shen’s tone has ever been markedly different in Pyongyang? Are we supposed to believe the Chinese have ever told the North Koreans otherwise?
The appropriate response to this — aside from adopting a concrete plan of action that pressures China instead of supplicating to it — would be to start waxing ambiguous about the status of Tibet, where those protests continue to spread. Chris Hill and his ilk tend to gush about the “helpful” and “constructive” contributions of the ChiComs. Either this is just another example of Hill’s disingenousness, or he’s too numb to feel that big a knife in his back. Having your spine surgically removed can have some odd effects.
That, in as few words as possible, is why we should be realistic about the fact that the Chinese regime means us ill. That’s why any policy that rests on the slender reed of China’s good faith is folly, and why it’s in our interests to mean its regime ill, too.