If North Korea fell to South Korea, and China could get the US out of the peninsula, China would exchange an erratic belligerent poor state for a stable affluent trading partner on its border at the same time it was moving US forces away from its border. Has there been any hints that China is thinking this, perhaps that it's come up in discussions between South Korea and China or as a threat to North Korea, or ever just influential voices discussing inside China?

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    There are other outcome than "US out of Korea and an affluent trading partner." Like "a US friendly Korea that deletes the existing buffer." Or "a regime change in NK by isolationists who want to maintain the status quo and their privileges, and who are willing to become an US-client to limit China's influence." Or, way more problematic, "an erratic belligerent rich state with the nuclear weapons of NK and the military and economical power of SK that feels that it no longer needs the patronage of its gigantic neighbour."
    – SJuan76
    Jul 26, 2022 at 21:07

3 Answers 3


What if the USA does not leave Korea after the reunification?

Because that's what happened when Germany reunited. There are still USA bases there to that day.

Knowing this, I don't think China would risk having land border with USA-based country for hypothetical gains from unified Korea.

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    Agreed. Given the train wreck that NK is, there's a good chance reunification would happen on South Korea's terms, meaning it may very well cut a deal with the US to stick around. Just like Europe did. Jul 27, 2022 at 1:31
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    Do you have any quote from official or tier 1.5 Chinese sources on this, rather than just guesses?
    – o.m.
    Jul 27, 2022 at 3:29
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    @o.m. Oh, come on, this is Military Strategy 101. Korea is a mountainous country and China has the buffer of North Korea stopping or at least slowing down any NATO invasion. There's a wikipedia entry for the concept, it doesn't take a PhD to figure out one reason China is keen on not losing it. But yeah, not hard to find exactly this kind of claim in the pros section of NK, before digging into the cons. Jul 27, 2022 at 5:02
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    But the analogy to Germany remains extremely valid nevertheless. China has much more to lose by having NATO troops on its borders than it has incurred costs from NK so far. Any idea that it will let NK reunify on SK and Western terms is wishful thinking - aww, shucks, can't we all be reasonable?. Instability is also very relative: SK is not going to attack NK and is quite unlikely to take any action significantly harming China's border interests. Sure, Kim is batshit crazy, but he's somewhat their bat shit crazy. Jul 27, 2022 at 6:09

According to a paper from 2010 the official position of China was that it supported peaceful reunification of Korea. But from declarations to practice... And yes, China demands the departure of the USFK. That paper is written based on the declarations of Hu Jintao administration. I'm not sure if anything has changed in the Xi Jinping era in these regards, but I suspect nothing significant.

Unofficially Chinese analysts (quoted in that paper) raised a bunch of concerns, including South Korean FDI displacing Chinese one in the North, and in the long run a unified Korea being a much more serious economic competitor; essentially they fear a combo of cheap labor from North and tech from the South. Another point of anxiety is that a unified Korea might make irredentist claim over portions of the neighboring Chinese provinces that have a significant Korean minority. (China prohibits dual citizenship of the chaoxianzu for the same reason.)


To be clear, CCP is not China, but the notion of influencial voices in China outside CCP is laughable.

South Korea on its own is already a big threat to CCP because of SKorea's most valuable export, K-pop(not mentioning high tech industry and educated labor force).

CCP doesn't have any incentive for an unified Korea, it would be supporting the creation of a state that is not friendly with China and a bad example working democracy right on its border for the people of China.

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    South Korea's most valuable export is electronic integrated circuits (depending on how you group things, but K-Pop is not anywhere near the most valuable export). South Korea exports and imports more from China than anywhere else, so it has a good working relationship with China and after removing the US from the peninsula, a unified Korea would be little threat to China.
    – prosfilaes
    Jul 27, 2022 at 23:25
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    @prosfilaes "After removing the US from the peninsula" is a bit like "First, kill a Bengal Tiger..." in the hypothetical receipe for Delicious Bengal Tiger Steak -- necessary for the premise to make any sense, but grossly unrealistic and impractical, given that the US has zero incentive to leave and South Korea has even less incentive to ask them to go in favour of relying entirely on the benevolence of a continent-sized country that likes to make claims about "historical borders". Jul 28, 2022 at 6:46
  • @Shadur The Bengal tiger is threatened with extinction from, among other things, poaching. Like the poacher, China has a lot of power and may see that as a solvable problem, especially if China's help is critical to the unification of the peninsula. Fizz is the only one who actually tried answering the question of what China thinks (and China is apparently worried about Korea making claims about historical borders.)
    – prosfilaes
    Aug 5, 2022 at 20:38
  • @prosfilaes, "but K-Pop is not anywhere near the most valuable export" Tell that to a gen x or millenial. LoL “China has been striving to increase its soft power over the past decade, not only for international recognition but also to bolster national pride among its people,” Park said. “But the very existence of hallyu detracts from China’s efforts to present itself as a cultural superpower. As Korea’s soft power gains global recognition, including in China, China’s cultural contents become subject to comparison — and they honestly fall short of quality. -- koreajoongangdaily
    – dhwang
    Sep 12, 2022 at 2:00
  • @Shadur making claims like a toddler in tantrum is much better than bombing nations without formal declaration and sanctioning small islands just because it is close to you and has a different political ideology. If US is willing to be nice to Cuba then they could have the high ground in lecturing China on the issue of reunifying Korea.
    – Faito Dayo
    Sep 12, 2022 at 2:33

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