China’s Korean Policy Under Xi Jinping

Calling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority,” American officials are emphasizing the critical role of China in pressuring Pyongyang to denuclearize. President Donald Trump, who long criticized China for “having done little to help,” now praises Chinese leader Xi Jinping. But has China’s North Korea policy actually changed that dramatically?

Wang Jianwei photoThat’s the fundamental question Professor Jianwei Wang of the University of Macao will take up in a brown bag seminar presentation sponsored by the East-West Center Research Program Thursday, May 18, 2017. The seminar will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Burns Hall room 3012.

Wang, who is currently a POSCO visiting fellow at the East-West Center, will examine the extent to which Xi Jinping’s Korean policy differs from the policies of his predecessors. In particular, he will look at Xi’s approach to balance relations with North Korea and South Korea, how his Korean policy influences Sino-American relations, and the prospects of more consequential cooperation between the United States and China on North Korea?

Jianwei Wang is a professor in the Department of Government and Public Administration and director of the Institute of Global and Public Affairs at the University of Macao. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. His teaching and research focus on Sino-American relations, Chinese foreign policy, and East Asian international relations. He has published extensively in these areas.

For further information, contact Cynthia Nakachi ( in the East-West Center Program Office.

Sino-North Korean Relations

Kevin Gray speaks on Sino-North Korean relationsThe East-West Center Research Program will sponsor a lunch-time brown-bag discussion by POSCO Visiting Fellow
Kevin Gray Tuesday, August 23, 2016. Gray’s topic is “Sino-North Korean Relations and China’s Northeastern Development Strategy.” The program will take place from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in Burns Hall room 3012.

Sino-North Korean relations may seem puzzling in that while China seeks to increase its influence in global economic and political governance, it nevertheless continues to pursue a strategy of engagement with North Korea despite increasingly stringent UN-mandated sanctions.

Analyses of China’s policy often neglect the ongoing multi-faceted transformation of the Chinese state since the late 1970s along with the profound rescaling of political authority in China, the diversification of public and private actors involved in relations with North Korea, and the multiple and often contradictory goals that those actors pursue. Also neglected is the question how the rescaling and decentralization of political and economic governance has exacerbated China’s uneven development and has raised issues of potential social unrest in China’s northeast.

China’s regional development projects, which have emphasized North Korea’s role as “geographical fix” to the relatively isolated provinces of the northeast have become an increasingly important vector in Sino-North Korean relations.

Gray will argue that in comparison to China’s ideological commitment to the country or its perceived utility in China’s increasingly tense standoff with the United States and its allies in Northeast Asia, more attention needs to be paid to regional development efforts in shaping the substance of China’s relations with North Korea. At the same time, he contends, relations between the two countries have become increasingly amorphous and ridden with contradictions and are, as a result, irreducible to any single geopolitical logic.

About Kevin Gray

Kevin Gray is a reader in international relations at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, in the United Kingdom. He researches North Korean development, Chinese-North Korean relations, and East Asian political economy more broadly. He is the author of Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalisation (Routledge, 2008), Labour and Development in East Asia: Social Forces and Passive Revolution (Routledge, 2015); People Power in an Era of Global Crisis: Rebellion, Resistance, and Liberation, with Barry K. Gills (Routledge, 2012); and Rising Powers and the Future of Global Governance, with Craig N. Murphy (Routledge, 2013).

Evolving Chinese Policy toward the Korean Peninsula

Quansheng ZhaoThe East-West Center Research Program will present a discussion of Chinese policy toward the two Koreas by Professor Quansheng Zhao of American University on Thursday,
November 12, 2015, at 12:00 noon in Burns Hall 3012.

Zhao, who is currently a POSCO visiting fellow at the East-West Center, will discuss three approaches that can be identified in Beijing’s view toward conflict in the Korean peninsula:

  • A history-embedded approach: Chinese foreign policy has traditionally been influenced by historical legacies, not only over the past couple of centuries, but also in the more recent experience in the Cold War.
  • A national-interest driven approach: China has gradually shifted to emphasize economic modernization since Deng Xiaoping’s open and reform policy. Foreign policy priority has shifted to national interests instead of ideology.
  • A co-management approach: Entering the twenty-first century, China’s foreign policy has to correspond with its increasing status in global politics. The U.S. factor has become even more prominent in China’s strategic calculation toward the Korean peninsula. This requires Beijing to adopt a co-management policy with Washington, as well as other regional players. The Six Party Talks in the recent decade has presented a vivid example of co-management, where both Beijing and Washington exercise leadership roles ensuring the stability of the Korea peninsula.

The presentation will also offer the author’s assessment of Beijing’s Korea policy, with records of both successes and failures, and its future directions.

Quansheng Zhao is professor of international relations and chair of the Asian Studies Program Research Council at American University in Washington, D.C. A specialist in international relations and comparative politics focusing on East Asia, Zhao is the author of Interpreting Chinese Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press) and Japanese Policymaking (Oxford University Press/Praeger). His most recent edited books are: Managing the China Challenge: Perspectives from the Globe (2009) and Japanese Foreign Policy and Sino-Japanese Relations (2015). From 1993 to 2009, he was a research associate at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research of Harvard University, and from 1999 to 2008, he was division director of comparative and regional studies at American University. Zhao received his B.A. from Peking University and M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

A New Look at Korea’s Chinese Decade

19th-century PusanThe Center for Korean Studies fall 2015 colloquium series begins on Monday, September 28, with a reexamination of international rivalries in Korea in the late nineteenth century. Historian Wayne Patterson will deliver an illustrated presentation titled “A New Look at Korea’s Chinese Decade: Maritime Customs in the 1880s.” His talk begins at 4:00 p.m. in the Center conference room.

When discussing Korea’s so-called Chinese Decade, that is, roughly the dozen or so years prior to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, attention in the past has focused mostly on the heavy-handed activities of Yuan Shikai in Seoul. Less well known is that part of this Chinese effort to bind Korea more closely to China involved the absorption of Korea’s newly formed Maritime Customs Service.

Maritime Customs agent William N. Lovatt

W.N. Lovatt

Using the recently discovered correspondence of William N. Lovatt, the first commissioner of customs in Pusan (1883–1886), Patterson will discuss some heretofore unknown aspects of this attempted takeover by China. Lovatt was an Englishman who had served in the British army and, after leaving the army, joined the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service. When the Korean Customs Service was established he took up the post in Pusan. Lovatt’s papers enable Patterson to add rich detail to our knowledge of events during that period from a perspective away from the usual focus on Seoul and Yuan Shikai’s assertions of Chinese influence on the government of Korea.

Wayne PattersonWayne Patterson is professor of history at St. Norbert College. He is the author of In the Service of His Korean Majesty: William Nelson Lovatt, the Pusan Customs, and Sino-Korean Relations, 1876–1888 (Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2012) and of two books on the history of Koreans in Hawai‘i—The Korean Frontier in America: Immigrants to Hawaii, 1896–1910 (1988) and The Ilse: First-Generation Korean Immigrants in Hawai‘i, 1903–1973 (2000), published by the University of Hawai‘i Press.

The Center for Korean Studies is located at 1881 East-West Road on the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa campus. Center events are free and open to all. Presentation of this colloquium is supported by the Doo Wook and Helen Nahm Choy Fund. For further information, including information on access for the handicapped, telephone (808) 956-7041.

The China-Taiwan Relationship and Its Bearing on Korea

photo of Young-gil SongThe Center for Korean Studies spring colloquium series will present a discussion of China-Korea relations by Young-gil Song on Thursday, April 2, 2015, at 4:00 p.m. in the Center auditorium. Song served at the mayor of Inch’ŏn from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, he was a three-term member of the Republic of Korea National Assembly, where he served on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee and the Finance and Economy Committee. He also was a well-known democracy movement student activist in the early 1980s.

Song is currently a visiting scholar at Tsinghua University of China and is conducting research on the relationship between China and Taiwan. His colloquium talk is titled “The Relationship between China and Taiwan and Its Implications for the Inter-Korean Relationship.”

Center for Korean Studies colloquia are free and open to the public. The Center is located at 1881 East-West Road on the UH Mānoa campus. Paid parking ($6.00) is available in the parking lot mauka of the CKS building and elsewhere on campus. For more information about parking, consult the campus parking office Web page. For further information about the colloquium, including arrangements for access for the handicapped, telephone the Center at (808) 956-7041.