Painful Lessons, Reversing Practices, and Ongoing Limitations: China Facing North Korea since 2003

  • Shi Yinhong
Part of the International Relations and Comparisons in Northeast Asia book series (IRCNA)


Since 2002, the North Korean nuclear issue has remained extremely complex, preoccupying the major powers in Northeast Asia—the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, as well as China. Among the complicating factors are concerns about China’s behavior, which has defied simple, stereotypical, and static explanations. Indeed, more than ten years after China’s remarkable engagement in international efforts to try to denuclearize North Korea—efforts that played such a vital role in stabilizing the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia—almost no one within or outside China regards its protracted endeavor over the problem as something entirely positive or inspiring. This is remarkable, and even somewhat surprising, in the context of China’s dramatic rise as a great power and in consideration of the relatively great length of time China has had to experiment, revise, and develop its policies based on practice and learning. If one focuses on the strategic perspective and the relationship between means and ends, as well as on the relationship between costs and effectiveness, one can hardly give the quality of China’s related policy a high assessment.


Korean Peninsula Security Council Chinese Communist Party Nuclear Test Nuclear Program 
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  1. 7.
    See Shi Yinhong, “New Games in the Tightly Fixed Structures: North Korea’s Volatile Desperation and China’s Cornered Strategy,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis (2011), 353–368.Google Scholar
  2. 45.
    That attack by firing dozens of shells killed two South Korean soldiers and set off an exchange of fire “in one of the most serious clashes between the two sides in decades.” Quoted from Mark McDonald, “‘Crisis Status’ in South Korea after North Shells Island,” New York Times, November 23, 2010, As to China’s response to the event and the related complications in China-US and China-DPRK relations, see also Shi Yinhong, “New Games in Tightly Fixed Structures: North Korea’s Volatile Desperation and China’s Cornered Strategy,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 23 (2011), 361–362.Google Scholar
  3. 49.
    See Shi Yinhong, “Lun Ruhe Renshi he Duidai Chaoxian Heweiji,” Shibai Zixunwang, Takungpao (Hong Kong), January 15, 2003. This is the first publicized voice from a Chinese observer to point out and emphasize China’s vital interests in the denuclearization of North Korea, and even more importantly, to advocate employing China’s economic leverage when necessary to oppose against Pyongyang’s nuclear program.Google Scholar

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© Carla P. Freeman 2015

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  • Shi Yinhong

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