China’s new premier, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to visit South Korea in the next few weeks. Given the tame, bland statism of both country’s media, few of the interesting debates and important disagreements will be aired. Instead, the national prestige obsession of both will dominate the coverage. There will be a lot of self-congratulation and vanity: how important each country is now, how they are resetting world politics, how the West, and the United States especially, needs to pay more attention to them, and so on. And finally, as both countries’ bureaucracies are reflexively anti-Japanese, there will be a lot of the standard conspiratorial “Japan is remilitarizing and plotting to take over Asia again” boilerplate. All-in-all, the local media coverage will be weak and recycled, so instead, here are the large, unspoken issues lurking in the background:
South Korea is increasingly caught between its economic dependence on Chinese export markets and military dependence on the United States.