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China Lecture Series 28 : The Mar-a-Lago Consensus and China-U.S.-Korea Relations

China Lecture Series: The Mar-a-Lago Consensus and China-U.S.-Korea Relations
Professor Zhu Feng

2017. 05. 19
KFAS Conference Hall

On May 19, Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies hosted its 28th lecture as a part of its China Lecture Series. KFAS invited Professor Zhu Feng, the Director of Institute of International Relations at Nanjing University, to share his outlooks on the current world order, U.S.-China relations, and on the trilateral cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and China.

Professor Zhu started the lecture by sharing the key trends in world order that he has identified recently. First, there is a general global trend of turning rightist, as seen in the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. Second, China is turning more left, all the while embracing a mercantilist approach. Third, it is unsure whether South Korea, with its newly elected president after a political turmoil, will turn left or right. Lastly, Asia remains uncertain as to how to respond to such changes around the globe.

Citing an old Chinese concept of everything starting and ending in regular cycles, Professor Zhu continued on to identify some of the features of the new cycle coming. Globalization is no longer a process of Americanization but will be reconfigured based on new norms and principles (re-globalization); individual countries will see a reinforcement of statecraft (re-nationalization), and anti-traditional values will challenge universal value systems (re-ideologization). Such new trends have reshaped power relations, especially in Asia, and especially between the U.S. and China.

Against this backdrop, Professor Zhu assessed the recent summit between President Xi Jinping and President Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort a success. The two leaders agreed to open more channels of dialogue, cooperate on issues of cybersecurity, finalized a 100 Day Action Plan to cool off tensions in trade, and built great personal rapport among themselves. The two leaders’ agreement to take the North Korean nuclear threat as the most pressing issue, he added, was a particularly welcome outcome. Though both leaders respectively face domestic issues at home that could affect the relationship, the professor concluded that there was “new momentum” building between the two countries.

On North Korea issue, Professor Zhu reaffirmed the need for diplomacy. In his view, Trump administration’s North Korea policy is somewhere between coercive diplomacy and strategic coercion, whereas Beijing’s North Korea policy is “indecisive.” To push China to do more and make meaningful progress in addressing the North Korean nuclear threat, Professor Zhu called for a rebuilding of trilateral cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and China.

Unfortunately, however, he lamented that the trilateral cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and China has not been in its best condition. In particular, the bilateral relations between South Korea and China have become sour due to South Korea’s decision to deploy the THAAD system. The professor noted the increasing antipathy between the peoples of the two countries could harm common interests. However, he cautiously placed great hopes in the new Korean government under President Moon Jae-in, calling President Moon a “fighter for Korean democracy” whose vision Beijing could share and resuscitate the cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and China.

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