As North Korea’s most important supporter on the international stage, China’s handling of relations with Pyongyang plays an important role in determining the future development of the country and stability of the Korean peninsula. This relationship, forged during the Korean War, is closely watched and scrutinized, despite its opaque nature. As Chinese President Xi Jinping has distanced himself from Pyongyang, the Chinese media appears to be hosting an increasingly open debate over the relationship and China’s policy options. Within China, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a principle stakeholder in Beijing’s policy decision-making, and thus is an important barometer for understanding the evolution and direction of China’s policy. PLA officials have penned some of the more interesting, and forceful, articles in the media, which in turn has fueled speculation from Western analysts about a potential shift in China’s approach to the North.
Does Chinese military commentary represent accurate and authoritative views on policy toward North Korea? Are there certain military officials or publications that we should watch closely? Do these commentaries by Chinese military officials actually influence China’s policy toward North Korea?