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America's Views of China-South Korea Relations: Public Opinions and Elite Perceptions

Chung, Jae Ho  
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    This paper explores how Washington views the burgeoning across-theboard ties between Seoul and Beijing in the midst of the strained alliance relationship with the former. On the basis of poll and interview data, the paper demonstrates (1) average Americans' perceptual bias in favor of Europe and general lack of interest in Asian affairs at large, (2) Americans' (both public and elite) strong antipathy toward China and indifference to Korea, and (3) the potentially adverse impact of such perceptions on the future U.S.-Korea relations within the context of rapidly expanding Sino-Korean bilateralism. In the short run South Korea's strategic choice will be invariably to stick with the U.S.-centered alliance structure and, at the same time, to expand the burgeoning ties with China. South Korea's policy will increasingly resemble hedging. This approach will require much prudence. In the mid-term—by 2030—China's shadow over South Korea will perhaps have eclipsed that of the United States in Asia and, given that China may become a de factor “hegemonic” player in its traditional sphere of influence, the time will come when South Korea has to decide whether or not to jump on the Chinese bandwagon. Much of this, however, will certainly by largely predetermined in the next decade during which the future pattern of U.S.-China relations and the “revisionist” disposition of China will become increasingly manifest.


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