Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2013

Balancing Chinese Interests on North Korea and Iran

Lora Saalman

April 2013

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


China recently joined the international community in its response to North Korea’s satellite launch and third nuclear test, and it also participated in talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Analyses abound that Beijing’s strategic calculations have changed. Yet, in China, nonproliferation continues to be framed as an excuse behind which Washington and its allies are able to engage in provocative and destabilizing acts, compromising Beijing’s larger security interests and containing its growth. China frequently is reacting more to the United States than to the case of proliferation. And while Beijing may engage to curb instability, this does not necessarily mean that it seeks to find an enduring solution. Instead, China is more likely to continue to seek a balance between keeping the United States preoccupied and dissuading it from an extreme response that would harm Beijing’s interests.