China’s Quagmire

By Baohui Zhang

Baohui Zhang is Professor of Political Science and Director of Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. He is the author of China's Assertive Nuclear Posture: State Security in An Anarchic International Order (Routledge, 2015).

The recent North Korean nuclear test and the subsequent disguised long-range missile test have seriously cornered China. The world community, especially the United States and South Korea, have urged China to take decisive actions to “punish” Pyongyang’s flagrant challenges to international norms and rules. Beijing, however, is reluctant to impose unilateral sanctions against Kim Jong-un’s regime. China says that it only supports multilateral measures initiated by the UN Security Council.

Beijing’s reluctance has not only triggered debates on its claim as a “responsible rising power” but also soured relations with Seoul and Washington, which argue that only China can effectively stop Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition. Indeed, China provides economic aids, in the form of fuel and food, to North Korea, and they are vital for sustaining its economy and society.

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