Sino-DPRK Relations: A ‘Tolerance-Autonomy’ Model

41 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2019

See all articles by Changyong Choi

Changyong Choi

KDI School of Public Policy and Management

Eul Chul Lim

Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) - Institute of Far Eastern Studies

Date Written: December 3, 2018


This article proposes that is termed the ‘Tolerance-Autonomy Model’ to explain Sino-DPRK relations by expanding prior theories on international relations between a hegemon and periphery states. According to the model, China will allow actions of the DPRK within the ‘boundary of tolerance’ so long as China’s national interests are not intruded upon. Conversely, it predicts that the DPRK will attempt to expand its ‘autonomous space’ from China by maximally utilizing its geopolitical and its strategic value.

From the perspective of the model, China currently faces the following four challenging issues:

a) the DPRK nuclear problem,

b) Sino-DPRK economic cooperation,

c) Sino-US and Sino-DPRK relations, and

d) acknowledging the Kim Jong-un regime.

Due to such challenges, it is expected that Sino-DPRK relations will not collapse in the near future, but levels of conflict and tension will gradually rise while maintaining much looser cooperative relationships than the ‘blood alliance’ of the past.

Keywords: Alliance, China, Conflict, North Korea, Security, Tolerance-Autonomy Model

Suggested Citation

Choi, Changyong and Lim, Eul Chul, Sino-DPRK Relations: A ‘Tolerance-Autonomy’ Model (December 3, 2018). KDI School of Pub Policy & Management Paper No. 18-06 (October, 2018), Available at SSRN: or

Changyong Choi (Contact Author)

KDI School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 184
Seoul, 130-868
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

Eul Chul Lim

Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) - Institute of Far Eastern Studies

Nahimovsky avenue, 32
Moscow, 117997

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