Increasing Dependency: North Korea’s Economic Relations with China
As the economy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea becomes increasingly isolated, it depends more and more on the People’s Republic of China for survival and development. The PRC is North Korea’s closest ally; largest provider of food, fuel, and industrial machinery; and arguably the country most able to wield influence in Pyongyang. For the DPRK, China is the partner of first and last resort. It is the first to provide outside validation of plans and often is both first and last at bat in attempts to mitigate the adverse consequences of North Korean provocations. Whether it be hosting the first foreign visit by young Kim Jong-un or preventing strong sanctions language in a United Nations resolution, Beijing stands at the head of a short line of countries willing to side with, or at least humor, North Korea. The PRC also is the initial and final resort for Pyongyang in dealing with shortages of food, fuel, investment capital, and economic expertise.
Among some of China’s elite, however, there is creeping dissatisfaction with the way that the DPRK is becoming a pariah state that often works at crosspurposes to China’s national interests. This article explores the relationship between the two countries, and its likely development in the coming years.