South Korea’s Policy Toward Belt and Road Initiative

 
PIIS013122270017933-7-1
DOI10.20542/0131-2227-2021-65-10-81-90
Publication type Article
Status Published
Authors
Affiliation: Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University)
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Affiliation: Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University)
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameMirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia
EditionVolume 65 Issue 10
Pages81-90
Abstract

The article explores the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) position and policy toward China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI). South Korea’s interests and intentions regarding linking of Moon Jae-in’s New Northern and New Southern Policies (in an earlier period – Park Geun-hye’s Eurasia Initiative) and China’s BRI are examined. The potential risks and factors that will influence such cooperation are defined, in particular the deepening of US-China rivalry in the region, fears of overdependence on China, instability on the Korean Peninsula, and costs associated with a slowdown in economic growth during the (post) pandemic period. At the official level the ROK has not joined the Belt and Road initiative, but Moon Jae-in’s government adheres to the position of the need to develop cooperation with the PRC. The ROK is interested in economic benefits it can have through its participation in the BRI. In particular, it expects to enter new infrastructure markets together with China. Seoul's diplomatic curtsy over the BRI is not least related to the ROK's interest in the Chinese consumer market, which in 2020 became the largest in the world after the US consumer goods market, as well as the importance of economic cooperation with China, its largest trading partner. Projects with the participation of North Korea are of great importance for Seoul as well, but their implementation at this stage is extremely problematic due to international sanctions. Under these circumstances, South Korea is trying to find common ground between its regional policies and the BRI at the level of interregional cooperation and joint investments in third countries (in particular, ASEAN). Thus, South Korea is highly likely to continue its balancing act towards China's BRI. Seoul will support the Chinese initiative at the level of official rhetoric about the search for formats of linking it with South Korean regional policy, while emphasizing the multilateral nature of cooperation and avoiding as much as possible too much involvement.

KeywordsBelt and Road Initiative, BRI, Eurasia Initiative, New Northern Policy, New Southern Policy, South Korea, China, Eurasia
AcknowledgmentAcknowledgements. Research for this article was supported by MGIMO University, project No. 1921-01-02.
Received13.12.2021
Publication date13.12.2021
Number of characters27772
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1 Период пандемии продемонстрировал сложности в отношениях Южной Кореи (Республики Корея, РК) с Китайской Народной Республикой (КНР). В начале эпидемии, когда вирус проник в РК, в стране наблюдался резкий всплеск антикитайских настроений [1], а из-за локдауна возникли трудности, связанные с разрывом производственных цепочек и цепочек добавленной стоимости [2].
2 Одновременно произошли и некоторые значимые позитивные изменения. Одним из них стало подписание 15 ноября 2020 г. Республикой Корея, Японией, Новой Зеландией, Австралией, Китаем и странами АСЕАН соглашения о Всеобъемлющем региональном экономическом партнерстве (ВРЭП). Ожидалось, что вступление соглашения в силу приведет к еще большему сокращению тарифов, чем в ранее созданной зоне свободной торговли (ЗСТ) с АСЕАН (от 91.9% до 94.5%) [3]. Кроме того, ВРЭП должна добавить в среднем 0.41‒0.62% к ВВП РК, а также способствовать созданию и укреплению внутрирегиональных цепочек добавленной стоимости [4]. И хотя на официальном уровне подписание соглашения о ВРЭП рассматривается в связке с асеаноцентричностью политики РК (в частности, Мун Чжэ Ин назвал подписание документа “историческим моментом” и достижением дипломатии АСЕАН [5]), в экспертных кругах это событие часто ассоциируется с китайским экономическим лидерством [6], а также с недостаточной привлекательностью реформированного, после выхода США в 2017 г., Всеобъемлющего и прогрессивного Транстихоокеанского партнерства (ВПТТП) [7].
3 С учетом ВРЭП и растущей конкуренции КНР и США в регионе особый интерес вызывают перспективы продолжения сотрудничества Китая и Южной Кореи в направлении сопряжения их флагманских инициатив, а именно “Пояса и пути” с Новой северной политикой (НСП) и Новой южной политикой (НЮП). Тема совместного осуществления указанных инициатив постоянно обсуждается на правительственном уровне: в частности, о координации между НСП и НЮП и инициативой “Пояс и путь” в очередной раз упоминалось в ходе состоявшегося в дистанционном формате в декабре 2020 г. 24-го южнокорейско-китайского совещания по вопросам всестороннего обзора экономического сотрудничества между двумя странами [8]. Постоянное внимание властей КНР и РК к данной задаче делает необходимым выявление комплекса геополитических, региональных и внутренних факторов, которые определяют особенности политики РК в отношении ОПОП и перспективы ее участия в соответствующих проектах.
4

ОТНОШЕНИЕ ВЛАСТЕЙ РК К ИНИЦИАТИВЕ КНР

5 Когда в сентябре 2013 г. Китай объявил о старте инициативы “Один пояс, один путь”, предусматривающей два направления ‒ Экономический пояс Шелкового пути и Морской Шелковый путь XXI века, администрация Пак Кын Хе поддержала китайское начинание и взяла курс на поиск способов сопряжения с ним своей Евразийской инициативы, выдвинутой в октябре того же года и представлявшей южнокорейское видение интеграции в Евразии [9].

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