The death of Kim Jong Il has put the world’s focus on the future of North Korea. However, while the fate of North Korea certainly hangs in the balance, the next moves of another country should also be getting the same, if not more attention.
China is emerging as a world superpower and how they treat the situation in North Korea may define their future role in Asia and the world.
China has tolerated North Korea’s actions in the past as its ally, as Kim Jong Il brought the attention of the West to its nuclear program and human rights problems.
But in Kim Jong Il, China had an incompetent but stable leader. Kim did not do his country any favors, but as an ally, he effectively kept his people in line. That’s a valuable trait for a Chinese ally.
However, with the death of Kim Jong Il, that stability is gone. Kim’s third son, Kim Jong Un, currently in his twenties, is supposedly the next in line to the seat of power, with an uncle who may either help him retain control, or take it from him.
Meanwhile, more news of the hunger and famine that most North Koreans face is making headlines and whispers of those same hungry people wanting a change in power are growing.
In a world that has seen the Arab Spring turn into the Arab Year, and thousands of people participating in Occupy Wall Street protests around the world, no country, even North Korea and China can take whispers of revolt lightly.
This is why the current power vacuum in North Korea will test China and how they use their growing world superpower status.
China simply cannot afford to have North Korea break down into chaos or revolution. Not only would that create an incredible amount of unrest in the region, but it will also serve as an inconvenient reminder to the Chinese people that governments do not always know best.
However, China cannot treat North Korea as a colony either. They must treat the situation delicately so as not to get mired in the situation, but be involved enough to control the outcome.
China has worked hard to become an emerging superpower. They now will get an opportunity to engage in the influential role of a leading power, and may learn the hard way about the risks of not doing the job correctly.
If China is clumsy in their handling of this situation, they will most certainly draw criticism from the
West, but more important for China, they will also draw criticism from their allies and their own people.
After watching the West influence countless nations experiencing great change, China now has the opportunity to do the same with one of their closest allies and neighbors. But if they do not operate with care, they will learn the same lesson that powerful nations in the West have learned.
Influencing nation building is a tricky, messy business, and that’s if it’s done right.
When it’s done wrong, it can be downright disastrous.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.