China’s economic engagement strategies towards a reforming DPR Korea

Abstract : Since the beginning of the 2000’s, China and the DPRK (North Korea) have tried to implement economic cooperation and crossborder-economic integration programs. These cooperation programs have been facilitated by reformist policies in the DPRK, as the 1990 decade famine that struck North Korea convinced the Pyongyang leadership that some degree of economic reform was needed to restart and regain control over a greatly damaged economy. As a result, trade and investment ties between China and North Korea soared. However, political experimentations by the Pyongyang leadership, such as Special Economic Zones, have attracted limited attention from Chinese entrepreneurs and officials.Through an empirical analysis of a selection of North Korean Special Economic Zones and related policies, interviews with Chinese businessmen active in the borderlands as well as anecdotal evidence gathered in the DPRK, the author argues that Chinese economic engagement policies and North Korea’s economic development strategy bear structural incompatibilities which makes the current economic cooperation patterns a source of diplomatic and political friction. It seems that China has indeed been trying to achieve different political and geopolitical objectives through economic means, which largely resonates with the larger Chinese-led “One Belt, one Road” initiative” but is seen as interfering from Pyongyang. Quite paradoxically, the author argues that later generations of Special Economic Zones do not only constitute institutions designed to foster economic integration between China and the DPRK but also embody political resistance to the Chinese economic embrace.
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Theo Clement. China’s economic engagement strategies towards a reforming DPR Korea. Political science. Université de Lyon, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018LYSE2051⟩. ⟨tel-01916212⟩

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