October 24, 2020

Chinese Checkers: Beijing plays off Seoul, Pyongyang

A S.Korean presence at China’s parade, a Chinese presence at the North’s, and a marginalized America

Sun Tzu, the renowned Chinese military strategist of the Spring and Autumn Period, wrote over two millennia ago that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Beijing, taking a page from his playbook, is apparently balancing North and South Korean aspirations as a means of diminishing American influence on the Korean Peninsula.

Chinese President Xi Jinping went out of his way to foster a warm, personal friendship with South Korea’s Park Geun-hye along the lines of the fabled Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher partnership. Xi skillfully played the Japan card to ingratiate himself to a South Korean public irate over nationalistic Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s repeated insensitivity on a range of history issues. Xi, for example, gave approval for a memorial to anti-Japanese independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun in Harbin in 2014. (This move would play equally well in Pyongyang, especially given that Ahn was a son of the northern Korean province of Hwanghaedo.)