China’s Renewed Interest in Korean War Origins

The Telegraph in London writes of the heightened drive in Beijing to assess the origins of the Korean War, a conflict now being cast in an increasingly negative light insofar as North Korea’s responsibilities are concerned:

The official Chinese media stated for the first time that it was North Korea that dealt the first blow. In a special report, Xinhua’s International Affairs journal said: “On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army marched over 38th Parallel and started the attack. Three days later, Seoul fell.”  [ed.: Where the hell is the report?  Is it really that difficult for newspapers to provide a link, or, at the very least, the pinyin of the journal's name, or the name of the author?  Oh well...]

In Asia, however, the memory of the war is still felt strongly and has sustained a continuing alliance and emotional bond between Beijing and Pyongyang.

While many Chinese historians privately subscribe to the view that North Korea was the aggressor in the war, driven by Kim Il-sung’s desire to unite the Korean peninsula under a Communist banner, the matter remains highly sensitive.

“It is not convenient for me to comment on the matter,” said Zhang Liangui, a leading professor of Korean studies at the Communist Central Party School in Beijing. “I was not aware of this timeline [in the Xinhua article]. As far as I am aware there has been no change to the official view on the war.”

Meanwhile, the Global Times, a government-run newspaper, said it was “high time to renew and strengthen efforts by Chinese scholars to discover the truth about the Korean War.” [Hat tip to Kevin Knodell.]

Not that this means that one can expect Chinese scholars to be cheering Douglas MacArthur anytime soon.  Indeed, amidst the drive to revise the past in a slight but consequential way, the Global Times put out this not-to-be-missed (but also rather long and strenuously-debated) essay by Dai Xu [戴旭] on why force is sometimes necessary in international relations [必要的武力是改善安全环境的有效手段].

In short, it’s not a particularly good time to be a North Korean.  But it might be a good time to check my Twitter feed for a host of tasty links from the past week on the topic of Korean War interpretations and Global Times/Huanqiu Shibao controversies.