Managing relations with China
December 21, 2022
This article was published on The Korea Times on December 8, 2022.
I’m often asked how South Korea should manage relations with China. It’s a complex question. One that often requires deeper answers than can come in an interview or on the sidelines of a conference. Given that complexity, it is perhaps better to think about what are the key issues that should be considered when thinking about managing relations with China rather than what is the best specific policy approach.
The question often arises as part of a discussion about growing U.S.-China tensions. While a focus on policy is understandable, in this context, South Korea’s perception of China’s values and interests, as well as its understanding of the reshaping of the geopolitical order, will be a key factor.
In Seoul’s relationship with Washington, the two countries often emphasize the shared values of democracy, freedom of expression and free market economics. At the same time, the two countries also share a range of interests from the peaceful denuclearization of North Korea to regional stability and an open economic system.
While the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States has caused consternation in South Korea, the U.S. response to South Korean and other concerns has largely been consistent with the values and interests the two share. There are efforts to find a solution and acknowledgment by President Joseph Biden at the recent state visit by French President Emanuel Macron that the law was flawed and never intended to disadvantage allies of the United States ― a response that fits more broadly into the shared structure in which they operate.
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