Chinese academic and popular sentiments long ago turned against the North.
President Donald Trump’s bromance with Chinese president Xi Jinping has yielded few practical results. To the contrary, U.S.-Chinese relations increasingly seem headed for rough waters.
Nothing has been resolved on economic issues, so Washington is rolling out another set of trade penalties. Beijing appears to be abandoning Deng Xiaoping’s old policy of patience and is moving ever closer to political and military confrontation with Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) also continues to aggressively press its expansive territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific; in response, the U.S. Navy ran another Freedom of Navigation Operation a few days ago.
Then there is North Korea. Last year the president blamed the PRC for not doing enough to pressure the North, before thanking President Xi for his efforts. But after the North’s recent angry eruption, or “different attitude,” as President Trump put it, he appeared to again blame China: “I think I understand why that happened,” said President Trump, but “I can’t say that I’m happy about it.” He went on to cancel, perhaps only temporarily, the planned summit with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
Apparently the president believed that Kim was ready to toss away his nuclear weapons, and who knows what else, until President Xi summoned Kim to Beijing and issued contrary instructions. (John Bolton highlighting the “Libya model,” which made possible that government’s overthrow, twinned with the president’s and vice president’s threats of military action, are far more likely culprits for Pyongyang’s shift.)
President Trump is not the only one to assume that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was China’s puppet. Sen. John McCain once urged threatening the entire U.S.-PRC relationship if Beijing did not rein in the North. More recently Joseph Bosco, who served in the Bush Defense Department, charged China with “blatant sabotaging of the promising dialogue” between the United States and North Korea (DPRK).
Matthew Continetti of the Free Beacon argued that “the two governments function in a close alliance. North Korea would not exist without Beijing’s support.” Indeed, he added, “We don’t have a North Korea problem. We have a China problem. North Korea is a wild dog—China holds the leash. To change North Korea’s behavior, change Chinese behavior first.”