Graduation Year

Fall 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Second Department


Reader 1

Minxin Pei

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© 2013 Ju Young Lee


Having conducted a successful long range ballistic missile test in December 2012 and a third nuclear test in February 2013, North Korea increasingly poses a security threat to Northeast Asia. Given these heightened escalations, the international community has come to depend more and more on China’s potential to influence North Korean behavior. Beijing’s unique leverage is based on the historical bilateral relations between the two countries in addition to China’s sole willingness to support the North Korean regime. Therefore, the following paper seeks to determine whether China’s North Korea policy shifted during the consecutive Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping administrations in response to North Korean provocations. Ascertaining China’s North Korean paradigm is constructive and worthwhile in order to understand the future development and hopeful resolution of the North Korean security dilemma.

In order to better examine the two administrations, the paper first defines China’s strategic interests regarding the Korean peninsula. Song Jooyoung’s dual threats model and Taewan Kim’s politico-economic linkage model are then used to assess the different factors that influenced China’s decision-making process when deciding whether to maintain its support after each North Korean provocation. Analysis of the two administrations reveals that Beijing’s underlying foreign policy objective of stability remains unchanged. On the other hand, unyielding North Korean provocations have forced Beijing to reassess its current policy of bolstering the North Korean regime toward the end of the Hu administration and even more so during the current Xi administration. In addition, North Korean actions in defiance of China’s public warnings illustrate a North Korea diverging from its usual subservience to Chinese influence. More importantly, the defining reason for the shift in China’s policy is the fact that North Korean behavior undermines Beijing attempts to posture itself as a responsible global power in addition to fulfilling its own strategic interests.

Assessing China’s North Korean paradigm is meaningful due to Beijing’s capacity to resolve the North Korean security dilemma. Although skeptics question whether China will ultimately break from its customary support for North Korea due to fears of damaging instability, increasingly public statements rejecting North Korean provocations signal the Xi administration’s recalibration.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.