China and North Korea have a long-standing relationship that goes back centuries. The two countries have a shared border and shared historical, cultural, and ideological ties. China has long been North Korea’s closest ally and provider of financial and diplomatic support. China has been North Korea’s main trading partner since the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in the 1950s. In 2020, the countries reportedly increased their bilateral trade by 6.1% to $10.88 billion.
Data and Statistics
China is North Korea’s primary source of imports and export destination. In 2020, North Korea imported $5.84 billion from China, accounting for 54.2% of total imports. This was up 1.3% from the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, North Korea exported $4.61 billion to China in 2020, representing 52.4% of total exports. The majority of the exported goods were minerals such as iron ore and coal, followed by agricultural products and seafood.
Perspective from Experts
Some experts argue that China’s trade with North Korea helps prop up a regime that most of the international community considers a pariah state. They argue that while North Korea is in need of assistance, there must be limits on how much assistance China should provide.
Other experts point out that China often uses its trade ties with North Korea as a form of leverage. They argue that while China may stand to benefit economically, it also wants to ensure North Korea remains friendly and has a sense of loyalty.
Own Insights and Analysis
North Korea’s growing reliance on China for trade could be a double-edged sword. On one hand, China’s support could enable North Korea to import the necessary resources and fuel economic stability. On the other hand, this increasing reliance could leave North Korea vulnerable to Chinese influence and leverage. The growing economic ties between the two countries may also be a source of tension in the region, as other countries may view China’s trade relations with North Korea as a form of brazen support for the regime.
The trade relations between China and North Korea have a significant impact on the region. The trade figures illustrate that the majority of North Korea’s imports come from its neighbor, leaving the regime financially dependent on China. As a result, China is in a position to demand political favors or other concessions in exchange for its support.
Moreover, the growing trade ties between China and North Korea could also be a source of contention between China and other countries in the region. Countries such as the United States, South Korea, and Japan could perceive China’s economic ties with North Korea as a form of tacit support for the regime. This could lead to further regional tensions and the potential for arms race.
Furthermore, the trade relations between China and North Korea could also have long-term consequences on North Korea’s economic stability and prosperity. The economic reliance on China may leave North Korea vulnerable to economic shocks, as the country could potentially be in a position where it is solely reliant on China for its foreign currency.
China’s influence over North Korea could also have implications for the country’s political system. As North Korea increases its reliance on China for trade, it could become more dependent on the Chinese for political and strategic advice. This could lead to an increased alignment between China and North Korea, and further cement China’s influence over the region.
The trade relations between China and North Korea also have implications for civil society in North Korea. China’s trade with North Korea could potentially support the growth of a nascent civil society, as access to new technologies, products, and resources could help North Korea develop economically and athletically.
At the same time, the increased reliance on China for trade could also have an adverse effect on civil society, as China could potentially use its leverage to influence the political landscape in North Korea. Moreover, the increased flow of Chinese goods into North Korea could also lead to an increase in inequality and potentially increase the existing socio-economic divide in the country.
The trade relations between China and North Korea are also relevant in terms of humanitarian aid. As North Korea continues to rely on China for trade, it could potentially lead to increased access for humanitarian organizations. This could help reduce the reliance on the domestic markets, and improve the supply of food and medical resources to those in need.
At the same time, the increased reliance on Chinese imports could also lead to greater scrutiny on humanitarian aid. China could potentially use its leverage to limit the access of organizations that are not aligned with its interests. This could potentially affect the availability of humanitarian aid and the ability of organizations to deliver necessary supplies.
Sanctions and Policy Implications
Finally, the trade relations between China and North Korea have implications for international sanctions and policy. While China is often viewed as a source of support for the North Korean regime, the country has also taken a more active role in efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The trade figures also suggest that China has been willing to comply with international sanctions and is unlikely to provide economic support for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. However, the trade relations between China and North Korea still have implications for international policy, as China is still in a position to use its leverage to influence the political landscape in North Korea.