On October 18, the Chinese Communist Party will begin its 19th Party Congress to install the country’s next generation of leaders. This twice-a-decade leadership transition is particularly noteworthy given China’s expanding economic ambitions and increasingly active role in global governance. It also comes ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated first visit to the region, at a time when tensions are reaching a climax on the Korean Peninsula. More than usual, the international community is watching to see how China, under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, will chart its future course.The personnel appointments to China’s top political body will provide indications of Xi’s consolidation of power and the popularity of his policy agenda.
In this Q&A, initiated by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, scholars explore how China’s policies and role in the world could change after the 19th Party Congress.
Paul Haenle: The Chinese leadership remains unconvinced that North Korea is its problem to solve, and the 19th Party Congress will not change this calculus. Certainly, Beijing strongly opposes North Korea’s provocations and hopes that Kim Jong-un will put an end to the country’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. But until North Korea’s behavior threatens the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party in the eyes of the Chinese people, it is highly unlikely that Beijing will make a fundamental shift in its approach to North Korea. The growing views among young Chinese that North Korea is a burden and an embarrassment, and Pyongyang’s persistent disruptions of Xi’s most important occasions in the international limelight, are not deal breakers for Beijing.
What is of real concern, however, is the possibility that Pyongyang’s nuclear tests could release significant radioactive material into China or that the North may follow through on its threat to mate a nuclear…