MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY
At a time when the United States is trying to fan trouble in the Asia-Pacific region amid already high tensions between Beijing and Washington and talks of a "new Cold War" by some US politicians, stronger China-Republic of Korea ties can help reduce the risks and restore stability in the region.
People in China and the ROK can never forget the time when the Korean Peninsula became a front line between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And since the Cold War caused great harm to the whole of Northeast Asia, Beijing and Seoul have common interests in avoiding a new Cold War.
China and the ROK established diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then bilateral cooperation has benefited both sides and enhanced mutual trust. On Sept 27, the ROK returned the remains of 117 Chinese People's Volunteers who were killed in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53) to China. The two sides have held annual exchanges of their respective citizens' remains for seven years, which have deepened their ties. The seventh exchange this year, to some extent, helped to overcome the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic and Sino-US tensions.
China and the ROK have promoted high-level mutual visits and strategic communication. They established a cooperative partnership way back in 1998, an all-round cooperative partnership in 2003, and a strategic partnership in 2008.
The sound bilateral political relations have helped boost China-ROK trade ties, as China has become the ROK's largest trading partner, largest export market and largest source of imports, and the ROK has become the third-largest trading partner country of China. And as of the end of 2019, the ROK was the second-largest source of foreign investment in China.
People-to-people exchanges have been extensive and frequent between the two neighbors, increasing from 130,000 trips in 1992 to 10.83 million in 2019. Also, China and the ROK are the largest source of overseas students for each other, with cultural exchanges having great mutual influence.
True, mutual interests and similar stances on major international and regional issues, particularly the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, have created a broad common ground for political communication and people-to-people exchanges between the two sides. But due to its geographical proximity and close trade partnership with China, and the military alliance with the US, the ROK faces a diplomatic dilemma today, especially because of the intensification of strategic competition between China and the US. As such, Beijing and Seoul need to make more efforts to strengthen bilateral ties, not least because that would be in their common interest.
To safeguard their respective national interests, China and the ROK should, based on their overall interests, strengthen communication and cooperation, and work together for regional and international development. As for the increasing competitiveness in China-ROK trade, the two sides need to deal with it rationally. They could, for example, further open up their markets to each other and help develop third-party markets.
Besides, cooperation between the local governments in China and the ROK, which made good progress during the fight against the pandemic, should continue. So should the enhancing of bilateral communication.
Good relations between peoples of different countries play an important role in international relations. Hence, China and the ROK should promote more people-to-people and cultural exchanges so their citizens can better understand each other, and, if possible, elevate this policy to the national level.
The China-ROK relationship is an apt example of peaceful mutual development and benefit. With efforts of both governments and peoples, China and the ROK will take their ties to an even higher level and help build a region of healthy development and governance.
Wang Sheng is a professor of international politics at Jilin University; and Wang Yuxuan is a doctoral candidate in political science and diplomacy at Sungkyunkwan University in the ROK.