January 13, the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University released its annual international strategy report – Crisis and New Situation: Fudan International Strategy Report 2020.
Professor Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, pointed out in the preface of the report that the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the peacetime world has not been extensive and deep for a hundred years, but the new situation will also quietly sprouble in 2020. The construction of the new pattern will be a long and tortuous exploration process.
The Paper (www.thepaper.cn) “Diplomatician” column recently launched the “World Bureau 2021” series, selecting some articles in Fudan’s annual international strategy report, taking stock of 2020, looking forward to 2021, where the crisis is difficult to end and the new situation has not taken shape.
In 2020, the changes brought about by Sino-US relations and the novel coronavirus have brought profound adjustments and changes to the Korean Peninsula.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula has emerged with new variables and triggered new changes. China’s diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula should also follow the development of the situation, recognize the challenges and opportunities in the change and the new situation, and plan a diplomatic transformation that is beneficial to itself.
I. Korean Peninsula: Multiple shocks and changes
Generally speaking, many new challenges have emerged on the Korean Peninsula.
The first is that the COVID-19 reshapes North Korea’s behavior pattern.
Internal difficulties have increased. Shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19, North Korea declared a lockdown, cut off the border between China and North Korea and Russia, and strengthened the control of the demilitarized zone.
For North Korea, which is heavily economically dependent on foreign aid, the first shock it faces is the cut-off of foreign trade. Moreover, North Korea has experienced rare typhoons and natural disasters, which have seriously affected agriculture. Coupled with the inherent sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States against North Korea, North Korea suffered threefold in 2020, resulting in a shortage of materials, difficult people’s livelihood, and many construction plans.
Diplomatic concerns have intensified. The coronavirus has aggravated North Korea’s diplomatic concerns. North Korea’s medical system is extremely fragile, so it has taken extreme epidemic prevention measures, such as cutting off absolute foreign exchanges, militarizing epidemic prevention, etc.
At the same time, it has also polarized the handling of contact issues, such as shooting South Korean civil servants, handling customs and other foreign-related personnel, strictly prohibiting residents from contacting snow and birds and other “foreign terrorist” incidents.
North-South relations are cut off. North Korea already doubted the role of South Korea in international affairs. Due to the continuous provocation and abuse of the North Korean leader by conservative forces and NGOs in South Korea and the release of anti-North Korean items into North Korea, North Korea has completely cut off contact with South Korea on this basis, and handled matters such as Kaesong Industrial Park and Mount Kumgang tourism on its own. North-South Korea relations Enter the severe winter.
Internal organization is strengthened. The novel coronavirus and feudalism have brought rare opportunities to North Korea. It has held many meetings one after another to sort out many governance methods and structures within the party and at home.
In addition to the establishment of the epidemic prevention headquarters, North Korea has sorted out the primacy of the Labor Party’s governance, and established that power belongs to the supreme leader and governance mechanism. The structure is under the control of the Secretariat and the specific business is handled by the government department, and the Politburo, the army, cabinet, etc. have been adjusted.
Second, Sino-US relations and COVID-19 have hit South Korea hard.
For South Korea, the challenge of Sino-US relations is greater than COVID-19.
Moon Jae-in’s government has a “tail-day effect”. Going to the final stage, diplomatic behavior is unintentional, weak and weak. Maintaining a good situation and not having more trouble is the greatest requirement of Moon Jae-in’s government.
The counterattack of internal conservatives and the struggle within the Democratic Party have caused South Korea’s political trouble. And the congressional election in April (last year) was a big victory, but intensified the competition for the presidential candidate within the Co-Dems.
Coronavirus has hit South Korea’s economy and politics hard. South Korea relies on foreign trade and exports in its industrial form. The COVID-19 epidemic has affected China-South Korea’s trade relations, causing economic downturn, employment difficulties, rising house prices, and a vicious circle of impact on domestic politics, becoming the main focus of conservative attacks.
In terms of the treatment of COVID-19, K-quarantine once made South Korea an international “model student” in the fight against the epidemic, but due to the rise of aggregation infections such as churches, the aura of the South Korean government is no longer aura. The model of relying on a strong epidemic to win the parliamentary election is no longer appealing, which makes the ruling party very worried about the presidential election.
The practice of “riding the wall” in Sino-US relations has embarrassed South Korea’s diplomacy. The impact of Sino-US friendship on South Korea is more obvious.
On the one hand, the “Anmeijing” causes a greater sense of diplomatic tearing, but on the other hand, it causes a greater degree of “China-US”. For this reason, South Korea has set up a “China-US Relations Bureau” in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and set up a special Sino-US research unit in the military and intelligence services to seek to seek to In the competition between the United States, we can better seek benefits and avoid harm.
Moon Jae-in’s government lost the dominance of North-South relations.
Inability and inaction to coordinate North Korea-US relations, as well as the laissez-faire and slow response to internal anti-DPRK actions, have led to North Korea no longer trusting South Korea and cutting off relations, and South Korea no longer has influence over North Korea.
How to rebuild North-South trust, reconstruct influence on North Korea, and gain a voice and dominance on the North Korean issue have become the most urgent and first tasks of South Korea’s internal economic improvement, political stability and diplomatic leadership.
II. Korean Peninsula: New Situation of Glacier Effect
At present, the Korean Peninsula is facing an unprecedented “small ice” period. Under the influence of the novel coronavirus and the competition between China and the United States, all parties are objectively and subjectively trapped in a period of “glacial” freezing temporarily inaction. Under the frozen glacier, due to the internal dynamics of all parties, especially the changes in the political situation of the United States, many new changes are brewing on the Korean Peninsula.
The new U.S. government brings many new challenges to the Korean Peninsula. The Biden administration’s policy on the Korean Peninsula can be summed up in three points.
Diplomacy towards North Korea is more “pully”. Biden’s Korean Peninsula policy team adheres to consensus, values and pragmatism. It cannot abuse the diplomatic resources of the United States as recklessly as Trump.
It needs the consensus of the decision-making team to advance together. The value orientation of human rights, democracy and freedom will make the Biden team more reflect on North Korea issues.
In the face of China’s potential to become the number one competitor, the perception of North Korea (by Biden team) will change from an “imminent threat” to a “game card” that threatens to undermine China’s momentum.
It presents more “tubes” to South Korea. Trump has destroyed the foundation of U.S. policy towards South Korea and hurt the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Biden’s team wants to repair the South Korea-United States alliance more and make the U.S.-South Korea alliance into a more convenient and powerful card to contain China.
China will take more “catch-up”. Biden’s team believes that in assessing past policies towards North Korea, the United States has made less progress for those with greater Chinese participation, while the United States can make greater progress without China or fewer Chinese intervention, so it is necessary to minimize China’s influence and intervention on the Korean Peninsula issue.
This will be the biggest challenge to China’s Korean Peninsula policy and the core of Biden’s team’s policy on the Korean Peninsula.
In the future, on the Korean Peninsula, China and the United States will shift from the situation of competition, more cooperation and less competition in the past to cooperation in competition.
More competition, less cooperation, or even a few cooperation will have the possibility of stagnation. Reflected in the interior of the Korean Peninsula, multiple shocks have shaped a new situation inside the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea is disappointed with the Biden administration, but still has considerable expectations. North Korea will shape the goodwill environment of U.S. policy towards North Korea through a certain degree of patience and waiting.
At the same time, North Korea will be more introverted and pay attention to internal issues, such as the fight against the epidemic, economic restart, and practice internal skills in a favorable environment with weakening external factors, which has led to traditional security issues, such as the temporary loss of focus on the North Korean nuclear issue and deliberately ignored.
North Korea’s response has also evolved from the past “thorny” strategy to the Trump-era “onion” strategy, to the current Tit for Tat “steel ball” strategy. As a result, the North Korean nuclear issue has an embarrassing situation of “all think there is something wrong with it, but there is nothing we can do”.
South Korea has lost its ability to control the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Not only does its proportion and status continue to decline in the North Korean-US game, but also the strategy of riding the wall in the Sino-US competition is also difficult.
On internal issues, the struggle between conservatism and progress has become the focus of society, and there is no available solution to economic problems.
2021 is about to enter the general election year. Inadvertent, weak and weak drifting in dealing with China, the United States, North Korea and North Korea’s nuclear issues.
In terms of North-South relations, South Korea has fallen into a rare stage of zero-exchange, and diplomatic, internal affairs and economic issues with North Korea have appeared in a “tiger, stick, chicken”-like dead circle idling due to North Korea’s position. Status.
Under this glacial effect, all parties are waiting for the ice melting moment when new progress in the prevention and control of COVID-19 and new changes in Sino-US relations have brought more results than expected.