Who's Using Whom (and for what)?
Just imagine, for a moment, that you are Chinese. Not only are you Chinese but you also happen to be a very senior diplomat in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; your specific responsibility being North Korea. Imagine further that you have just pulled of the diplomatic coup of your life; in return for China’s continued aid for the DPRK, you have persuaded North Korea to give up its missile and nuclear weapon development, allowing full access to International arms inspectors and negotiated a re-signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Signed agreements safely in hand, you hustle back from Pyongyang on your government plane to receive the plaudits of your peers and masters back in Beijing. Reclining in your executive seat you loosen your tie, remove your shoes and order a drink. Your aides, in awe of your accomplishment, leave you in splendid isolation to revel in your glory. The steward brings you your drink and hastily departs, avoiding eye contact. Your feet, you notice, are suddenly cold.
What, you begin to think, have I done? Sure the official policy is to de-fang North Korea, to make it safe in accordance with the wishes of the International Community, but what about the subtext? What are the implications for China of ‘fixing’ the North Korea issue?
Once China is no longer needed to contain North Korea how will the rest of the world change in its treatment of the PRC? On issue of trade imbalance will the world and the US be as accommodating? Will the US Federal Reserve continue to pull its punches on the valuation of the Yuan? Without the nuclear threat of North Korea what new embargoes and restrictions may Congress –and others - try to pass to protect their domestic manufacturers?
What will be the impact of China’s growth if suddenly the rest of the world felt more confident in insisting or a fairer balance of trade with China? What implications will be there be for internal security? It’s all very well having an economy rushing ahead at breakneck speed, but the greater the velocity at the time of the crash, the more serious the injury to the victim.
How, you ask yourself, could you have been so stupid, so naïve, so utterly foolish? You summon the steward and ask that he bring you a metal bin or bucket. You remove your newly won agreements from your briefcase and start methodically tearing them into small strips. The steward, a broad smile on his face, arrives with the bucket and stands by with the fire extinguisher as you carefully burn every last scrap. The job completed, the steward offers you another drink. You thank him but tell him first he must fill the ash bucket with water and flush the contents down the toilet.
The smiling steward returns bearing your drink, your aides join you, congratulating you on your masterly wisdom. You have the Dearest of Leader's just where you want him, both whimpering cur and rabid guard dog, serving China as all good Koreans should. You start to congratulate yourself.
And then you remember that you are not in fact a Chinese diplomat. Your good mood evaporates; feelings of foolishness begin to return.