China/North Korea talk by Shen Zhihua (2017.04.24)

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An interesting talk by Professor Shen Zhihua (wiki / official) who recently gained a lot of attention after openly criticizing the Chinese government on the China-North Korea relations and also how the Chinese responded to the deployment of the THAAD in South Korea (NYtimes article).

The title of the talk was quite provocative (?), but the talk itself was a more academic than trying to repeat the more political statement. The 90 minutes talk (including a Q&A) covered the relationship between China and North Korea, which will reportedly be published as a book in English, Japanese and Korean – but maybe not by a mainland Chinese press.

The gist? Contrary the official stance, the relationship between China and North Korea (and South Korea / Russia) has gone through a lot of tension, conflicts and clashes. And in that sense, it is no surprise that China faces a lot of tension with North Korea currently – it has always been so, as the primary interests and priorities of each state do not always match with each other. Looking back, not surprising – where in the world is an ideal bilateral relationship between two (or more) states where both of their priorities are a perfect match for more than fifty years – but having it proven by documental proof is another accomplishment, of course.

Once I get the book I might be able to pull some interesting quotes and anecdotes for any modern 20C East Asia course.

And some trivia.

  1. No photos or recording was allowed, hence the only image I have is the announcement ad.
  2. Prof. Chen Jian did the introduction and translation. Interestingly, he called Prof. Shen as a “real historian, who works on documents” which kind of makes me as a historian … a bit sad, as it implies that there are lot of historian who do not follow the most basic rules of this profession.

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