Not a love call or blessingIn the “season of forums,” international authorities in history, international politics and economics visited Seoul last week. But the most uncomfortable question was which country Korea should side with between the United States and China. At the World Knowledge Forum held on Oct. 21 on the topic of “G-2 War: Fight for Economic Hegemony,” American and Chinese panels were pulling Korea in two directions.
University of Chicago Prof. John Mearsheimer said it was impossible for China to provide security for Korea and affirmed that if Korea sided with China, its relationship with the United States would come to an end. Hu Angang, director of Tsinghua University’s Center for China Studies, urged Korea to raise its voice for China and the United States to cooperate.
Tsinghua University Prof. Li Xiguang said that Korea should have pro-China policies, and China and Korea have no other choice realistically, historically and culturally. He proposed an alliance of humanities and culture between Korea and China.
Professor Mearsheimer gave a special lecture at the international conference hosted by the National Diplomatic Academy Oct. 23 commemorating the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation. There he went a step further and said that while Korea, the United States and Japan consider China’s economic growth beneficial to their own economies, it would be impossible to check Chinese hegemony if China continues to grow and becomes a Godzilla. The aggressive realist said he hoped to see many problems in the Chinese economy before then.
Director Wang Jisi of Peking University’s center for International and Strategic Studies avoided argument by saying that China would not be America’s rival, but asked Korea to be more neutral in the trilateral relations.
In fact, there are reasons to demand that Korea choose between the United States and China. As the second-largest economy, China’s formidable economic influence is shaking the existing international order led by the United States. On Oct. 19, Professor Hu gave a lecture at Sungkyunkwan University’s Institute of China Studies. He said China has already become the largest trading partner for over 140 countries, including Korea, and presented a report that China’s comprehensive national power surpassed that of the United States in 2014.
It doesn’t seem so ideal to have proponents of the United States and China demanding Korea’s foreign policy focus in the middle of Seoul. While Foreign Minister Yun Byeong-se said China and the United States are courting Korea’s favor, it should not be considered a blessing.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 26, Page 34
*The author is a deputy editor of the JoongAng Sunday.