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Asian Perspective 36 (2012), 191-193 Introduction: South Korea-China Relations Jae Ho Chung Post-Cold War complexities are such that sea changes after the implosion of the Soviet Union have generated new conflicts and reinvigorated old disputes. The end ofideology meant the resurrection around the globe of more traditional and geostrategic dilemmas that had been largely dormant during the Cold War. At the same time, the demise of the Cold War led to new ties and partnerships between former adversaries such as South Korea and China. South Korea-China relations have long been lauded as a model for cultivating interdependence between former adversaries. China is currently South Korea’s top trading partner, while South Korea is China’s third-most-important trading partner (excluding Taiwan). Beijing is a crucial diplomatic force to be reckoned with, especially regarding the North Korean issue. South Korea and China established a “strategic cooperative partnership” in May 2008, the goal of which is to expand the domain of Sino-South Korean cooperation from the bilateral to the regional and even the global level. The wealthier and stronger China becomes, the larger the perceptual disparity may grow between China and its regional neighbors, including South Korea. Will China continue to be a “mod­ est giant,” refraining from being audacious and imposing? Will Beijing continue to stick to the long-standing principle of “remaining affinitive despite differences” (he er butongY! Fears do exist and may increase over time: What if China should revert to the past practices of domination and dogmatism once it has risen to the apex? Such worries are particularly prominent in South Korea. Three reasons account for them. First, distance matters. The security dilemma is naturally more intense for countries that border each other. Second, given that China’s projection of military force has occurred more often toward neighboring countries than toward any others, concerns and worries linger in the region despite Beijing’s rhetoric 191 192 Introduction on the “friendly neighbor policy” (Ryan, Finkelstein, and McDevitt 2003, 18-19). Third, deep-seated memories of Chinese dominance and, more importantly, the newly brewing historical controversies among China and regional states are adding fuel to these generic concerns about the rise of China. As the level of interdependence grows, sources of friction between South Korea and China are bound to amplify. In this special issue on South Korea-China relations, Chen Zhimin offers Chinese assessments of Sino-South Korean relations—a “more complicated relationship”—for the last twenty years. Jae Ho Chung provides a South Korean view of the bilateral relationship and suggests that South Korea-China relations are heading toward an uncertain passage. Si Joong Kim suggests that economics and trade could become a key conflict arena as South Korea and China are likely to have more frequent disputes concerning product safety, restructuring of bilateral trade and investment, technology transfer, and formation of a bilateral free trade agreement. Frictions and disputes may go beyond economics and trade. Since China and South Korea are both highly nationalistic nations, clashes may occur in the areas of history and territorial integrity. Gilbert Rozman discusses the history controversy as a key issue and points out that sinocentrism as a resurgent ideology in China is a key obstacle. Scott Harold digs into the likelihood of territorial disputes between South Korea and China, and suggests that the US position— though not its action—is probably closer to South Korea’s on the issue. As the power gap between the United States and China narrows, the sources of Sino-South Korean conflicts could extend beyond issues ofbilateral concern, such as the Korea-US alliance. Keyu Gong suggests that China views a stronger, broader, more comprehensive, and more strategic alliance as threatening. Hyon Joo Yoo, however, argues that alliance consolidation is necessary vis-a-vis North Korea, although Seoul should be careful not to get sucked into regional conflicts between China and the United States. Considering the global ascent of China, whose future trajectory has yet to be specified, the future of South Korea-China relations does not warrant blind optimism. As the Chinese refer to it, “the Seoul-Beijing relationship is healthy in general terms but carries some Jae Ho...


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