- 연구원소식 - JPI PeaceTalk
JPI PeaceTalk
Subject JPI PeaceTalk with Yan Xuetong, Dean of the Institute of International Relations, Tsinghua University.
Author JPI  (admin)
  Yan Xuetong.JPG  (97KByte)
2019-08-09 오후 5:29:56


Professor Yan Xuetong agrees with the premise that the US wants to prevent China from catching up, and points out that while previously observers only considered the Trump administration’s emphasis on the trade balance now many analysts understand that the US is much more concerned with China getting technology superiority over the United States, particularly when it comes to 5G technology. Professor Yan pointed out that this year’s Pentagon report suggests that 5G is closely related to national wealth, economic growth, market security, defense security, and especially the new military strategy.

Taking an admittedly different view from the Chinese government and most Chinese scholars, Professor Yan China has proposed an alliance with South Korea and the United States to balance between China and the US and to deal with North Korea’s nuclear capability. He warned of the limited impact of Track 2 dialogues to reduce strain between South Korea and China, because the Track 2 dialogue only helps to ideas. He says that the important thing is whether these ideas can be accepted by the governments. If the government do not accept these ideas, they cannot be powerful or meaningful.


Q1. The eyes of the world are centered on the U.S.-China trade war and special attention is given to China whether it will retaliate for Trump’s tariff hike. Why do you think the trade war broke out? Analysts who lay emphasis on power shifts t heory are seeing the current conflict as an inevitable collision between the hegemonic state and the rising power. Do you agree to the thought?

This is very general—I think I agree: China is a rising power, and the US is a status quo power. So, the US wants to prevent China from catching up to the US in terms of comprehensible threats. But if you look at the trade war and mainly focus on the technology trends. Some people think that President Trump is mainly focusing on the Chinese market, to rebalance the trade surplus. But now people realize that that understanding is very superficial. The purpose of the tariffs initiated by President Trump is actually to prevent China from getting technology superiority over the United States. That’s why the Trump administration is using all its efforts to block 5G. I just read the Pentagon’s report about 5G, and it clearly said that China already has an advantage over the US in terms of 5G and South Korea is quite strong in terms of 5G. So the US already lags behind China.


Q2. Those words were actually on the Pentagon report?

Yes, it’s talking about how 5G is closely related to national wealth, economic growth, market security, defense security, and especially the new military strategy. It gives explanation of why the Trump administration has to give all efforts—even at a high cost—to US economic interests, to contain China’s 5G technology.


Q3. Do you think China will take retaliatory action?

I think at this moment China has already done so—first with the tariff on some American exports to China. We increased tariffs only for about $60 billion on US products, and US increased tariffs of $200 billion of Chinese products. The other retaliatory issue is about technology. It takes all kinds of efforts to block and contain Huawei, and China is also forced to take some action.


Q4. You have proposed the alliance between China and Korea in coping with Japan’s growing military strength and North Korea’s stocking nuclear weaponry. Korean academia has been surprised with your proposal. What is public opinion in China like about pursuing regional peace through an alliance?

First, I have to say, China’s policy follows a non-alignment principle. China will not make an alliance with anyone. My opinion is a minority one in China. Definitely this idea is not accepted by the Chinese government. Even among scholars, most do not agree with me. The other thing—which is more important—is to explain why I proposed to make an alliance with South Korea. For example, even today Pakistan has an alliance with the United States but even meanwhile has a very substantial and meaningful military relationship with China. If China can make an alliance with South Korea and South Korea could balance between China and the US, it would be helpful not only for South Korea but also is useful in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear capability. If China and South Korea make an alliance then regional peace will be more stable.


Q5. The Sino-Korean relation has been strained after the deployment of the
THAAD in South Korea. In your opinion, what role should Track 2 dialogue, such as think-tanks and Jeju Forums, play to improve relations between Korea and China?

I think there’s already a lot of Track 2 dialogue between South Korea and China. I’ve also joined these bilateral Track 2 dialogues on security issues. From that standpoint, the Track 2 dialogue only helps to ideas. The important thing is whether these ideas can be accepted by the governments. If the government do not accept these ideas, they cannot be powerful or meaningful. In that way, I don’t think scholars should not give too much emphasis on these Track 2 dialogues. I think scholars on the two sides try to new thinking and suggest new proposals to the governments. If it’s practical, then it will be accepted by the governments—that’s what works.


Q6. In order to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, China has been continuously proposing a security guarantee to North Korea. What's your view on the proposal? Do you believe that North Korea will denuclearize in return for the security guarantee? What do you think the best way to guarantee security?

I just attended a panel here about denuclearization. From my standing, the question should be asked in this way: In what way will North Korea agree to dismantle their nuclear weapons. From my understanding, only under two different conditions is it possible for North Korea to accept this idea. First, they’re forced to. Second, they’d like to because they find there would larger profits through dismantlement. At this moment I cannot see these two conditions. First, I don’t think the whole world can force abandonment because the existence of the North Korean government relies on nuclear weapons. They believe that only nuclear weapons can prevent a US nuclear attack against North Korea. Second, the question is that nuclear policy is not decided by people. Nuclear strategy is decided by policymakers, by national leaders. So, we have to ask the question, how can North Korea’s national leaders view the profits of nuclear weapons possession. I don’t think anything is more profitable to them than nuclear weapons at this moment. The US needs to make North Korea’s policymakers see more profits from abandoning nuclear weapons.


Q7. Jeju Forum and Boao Forum started in the same year in 2001 and both are playing important roles in boosting soft power in Asia. As a member of the International Advisory Committee of Jeju Forum, would you give us a word for the development of Jeju Forum?

First, the Jeju Forum should have a clear identification: the specialty. This forum should be different from Shangri-La, from the Boao Forum, from other regional forums. If there’s a special characteristic it will gain more attention and more participants. Second, I think the Jeju Forum should give some priority to the digital economy. It has become so important recently, and will be more important in the future. The digital economy accounts for over 60% of US GDP, over 50% of Japan’s, 50% of Japan’s, and 45% of South Korea’s. When the digital economy becomes the most important cause of national wealth, the regional security will highly rely on this sector. The digital economy is largely decided by technical communication technology—that’s why the China and US have a confrontation on Huawei’s 5G technology. South Korea has some advantage, too. Jeju Forum should take advantage of South Korea’s communications technology and organize more panels on the topic. The competition among major powers are going to be more on the digital economy.

Q8. Regarding the suggestions for the Jeju Forum, you mentioned that we should have more diversified characteristics. Would you elaborate a little bit more?

The theme—being centered on Asia— of the forum is okay: Asia will be the center of the world. So, the Jeju Forum heavily focuses on Asia is a good idea, but you need special discussions. For instance, talking about 5G inventions in this region, talking about e-commerce. These three countries—China, Korea, Japan—represent 50% of the 5G technology in the world. So the whole world together shares the remaining 50%. If the Jeju Forum focuses on the special issues in East Asia, the Jeju Forum will become very attractive.