[OUTLOOK]Time to pursue qualitative tiesRecently in China, crimes against Koreans are growing. Not just in number but also the scale is getting bigger. Moreover, friction between Korea and China is increasing over kimchi and garlic imported from China, and the illegal fishing by Chinese vessels in the Yellow Sea.
Compared to the fast-paced development of economic and political cooperation between the two nations, these issues might sound insignificant. However, if you consider the problems to be mere accidents, contingencies or mistakes or negligence by some officials, they could grow into emotional difficulties that may damage the friendship between the two nations in the long run.
In order to resolve the friction, it is necessary to create a new set of procedures for the authorities of both Korea and China to use in serious situations that could help them to understand each other. China has recently emphasized the practice of “reconciliation,” meaning a balance and harmony of nature, people and society, when it pursued various national policies. It is Chinese President Hu Jintao’s ambitious state management strategy to realize political stability, economic development and social balance simultaneously by paying attention to growing financial gaps (among classes, regions and communities), social discord and environmental problems which had been overshadowed by the glorious achievements of reform and market opening.
Korea-China relations also need a new diagnosis and prescription now. We desperately need policy adjustment for the so-called “sustainable development” of bilateral relations. Instead of simply admiring the speed of development of the relationship between the two countries, it is about time that we manage the friendship and work to strengthen it.
Then what should we do to enhance the relations? Above all, a long-term blueprint must be prepared through a comprehensive review of the relations of the two countries. Without distinguishing between states, businesses and individuals, we should have a long-term vision transcending short-term accomplishments and interests. While we establish a step-by-step plan for developing relations and consider the days after national unification, the government must at the same time have flexibly strategies and policies. This is a process of reviewing the past track of Korea-China relations and setting a direction for the future. We cannot achieve a healthy development of relations by looking ahead alone.
From Korea’s point of view, we need to double our efforts to correctly understand China and the Chinese. Of course, Korea has a fairly comprehensive understanding of China considering the short history of friendly ties. However, in reality there remain many shortcomings if we take into account the ever-expanding bilateral relations.
Half of the foreign students in China are Koreans, but this presence alone is not a solution. A systematic education and management of specialists for each field is desperately needed. A rosy judgement made out of complacency while lacking an accurate understanding of the political, economic and social changes in China will only produce misguided policies and ultimately lead to a loss of national interest.
Moreover, the principles and procedures to resolve various pending issues in Korea-China relations need to be better systemized. While Beijing often emphasizes the grand principle of “mutual reciprocity, mutual benefit,” this is not enough for smoothly settling real issues such as trade friction, North Korean defectors and the history of Goguryeo. In addition, the lack of principles and procedures could induce unnecessary emotional confrontations in the course of discussing various sensitive issues and is likely to aggravate problems.
In fact, the lack of a legal and systematic basis that doesn’t keep up with the explosive growth of exchanges between Korea and China, and the thoughtless mistakes of Seoul and Beijing are largely responsible for many of the troubles occurring between the two countries. Nonetheless, problems often deviate from the essence and grow into emotional confrontations between Koreans and Chinese.
Korea-China relations have passed a phase of quantitative growth and have arrived at a transitional period of pursuing qualitative gains. Depending on how wisely we overcome the chronic issues and interim problems between the two countries, the future of the Korea-China relations will be greatly different in the 21st century. Both Seoul and Beijing shouldn’t indulge in past accomplishments, but work together to prepare an improved system for a new qualitative leap forward.
* The writer is a professor of Chinese politics at Hanyang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Moon Heung-ho