Empire and Righteous Nation: Past, present and future of China-Korea relations

Sino-Korean relations have played a key part in the Korean Peninsula’s history. They will do so further still in coming decades. This panel seeks to understand the past so as to better plan for the future.

For much of the past century, Korea has been forced toward the centre of international affairs. In 1894-1895, China and Japan fought a war over Korea, each believing that control of the peninsula was essential to its own future. In 1910 Japan annexed Korea, seeking to incorporate it into a new empire. In 1950-1953, China and the United States engaged in a fierce conflict alongside their respective Korean allies, reducing much of the country to ashes. And in our own time, well after the Cold War, the North Korean Communist regime insists on its right to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles in response to what it sees as an American threat, making Korea—yet again the centre of international contention.

This panel seeks to untangle the history of Korea’s relationship with China and, given that Sino-Korean relations will be of crucial importance in the future, build on this knowledge to recognize new opportunities, or avoid false paths, over the years to come.



This event was recorded on Tuesday 16 March 2021.


Rosemary Foot is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a Research Associate of Oxford’s China Centre. In 1996, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. Her research interests and publications cover security relations in the Asia-Pacific, human rights, Asian regional institutions, China and regional and world order, and China-US relations. Author or editor of 13 books, her latest book is entitled China, the UN, and Human Protection: Beliefs, Power Image (Oxford University Press, 2020).

James Hoare is Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies' Centre of Korean Studies. He joined the Diplomatic Service as a Research Analyst in 1969, reaching the rank of Research Counsellor. He served in Seoul and Beijing. His last post before retiring from HM Diplomatic Service in 2003 was as charge d’affaires in Pyongyang, where he established the British Embassy.

Odd Arne Westad is 2020/21 Engelsberg Chair in History and International Affairs at LSE IDEAS. He is currently the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale, and is a Founding Director of LSE IDEAS.

Meet the chair

Michael Cox is Founding Director of LSE IDEAS and Senior Academic Adviser to the China Foresight Forum. He directed and taught on the LSE-PKU Summer School for several years. He has published widely on China’s relationship with the West and has been a central figure in the discussion as to whether China’s rise poses a serious threat or a major opportunity for the West.