Dear President Xi Jinping,
Soft power. It’s a term we hear used now and then in the West, and it is something to be coveted. For outsiders to view your nation in a positive light is a good thing, not to be given up lightly.
These days, most of what we hear in the news about China relates to earthquakes, aircraft carriers, the South China Sea, Diaoyu, pollution, Taiwan, and so on. Not a lot of positive there.
I know China has more. One of the longest recorded histories and a proud people that have triumphed over great adversity. As a Canadian, I have great admiration for China and its abundantly rich history than you might think.
The People’s Liberation Army is the largest in the world. You have the largest air force the world has ever known, and you are a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I don’t believe that you need to prove anything in this regard, though I do believe that the respect you are afforded for this is (sometimes) given begrudgingly.
You need to think more about China’s soft power, and you need to think beyond the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army. And I think I have a relatively easy way for you to earn a lot of that for China, and for yourself: Pull the plug on the DPRK.
If we were to meet privately over dinner, I believe that we would quickly agree that the lunacy that is the DPRK has outlived its usefulness. Each time they raise their rhetoric, each time they detonate a nuclear weapon, launch a missile, or fire a shell – you lose face. You lose face because we believe you could put a stop to it. All that lies in the balance is the choice.
The world is a different place than it was 50 years ago, and we are different people within it. No one wants war, dirty business that it is, and the USA doesn’t want to bother you any more than Switzerland does – but they are heavily obligated to protect South Korea, and they will not falter in that.
I do understand that a solid defense is still very necessary. The USA isn’t the only country you need to think about, but employing the DPRK as a buffer state is no longer necessary.
We all want prosperity, and I can honestly say that the world does not want to be afraid of China. We really do want to like you. If you are to emerge as a superpower, I think we all would like you to be a benevolent one. And I think you’d like that as well. It’s good for business.
Cutting off the DPRK will certainly cause trouble for you, this we know. If you were to cease shipments of fuel and other non-essential supplies, we’ve been led to believe the regime would quickly crumble. Perhaps it would not be so quick, but it would come in time.
Line your border with the DPRK with just a small fraction of your military might. Set up refugee camps, and then open the border. I’m absolutely certain that you would find that other nations (my own Canada included) and the UN would be willing to help in any way they were able in this regard, but if you did not want the help I’m sure you could do it alone. See these poor, oppressed people clothed and fed, and once things settle down in Korea – send them home.
Ask President Obama to come visit you. When he arrives, work out a deal with him that would see no US troops or other US presence allowed north of what is now the Military Demarcation Line. That way they could keep some of their people in what is now South Korea until they were comfortable enough that they could just leave. I’m sure they’d love to have most of their people there go home if they could.
A unified Korea would be an asset to you, and a potential ally. Just imagine all those North Korean workers, working for Chinese companies in factories overseen by Koreans. Korea is rich in high technology and makes most of the best in the world right now. To not take advantage of what is on your doorstep is a genuine loss to China.
But back to soft power. By engineering the demise of the DPRK and overseeing the reunification of Korea you will have done something for the history books. Our own Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for inventing the concept of Peacekeeping – what accolades do you think you might garner for yourself, and for China, should you finally put this long-simmering mess on the Korean Peninsula to rest? The Peace Prize would be just an opener, and China would be regarded not only as a nascent superpower but as a superpower the world would be better off with than without.
China has every right to be proud, and every right to make your way as you see it to be in your interests. To suggest otherwise would make me a fool, and to behave otherwise would make you one.
So with that I implore you: Take the lead, show us the way. Take these bold steps.
No great thing was ever done easily, and no easy thing was ever great. Be great.