THAAD deployment hurting economic ties, but China won’t compromise on security

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/1 1:08:42

Media reports regarding the removal of an event aimed at Chinese tourists at a South Korean chicken and beer festival drew public attention over the weekend, with some analysts pointing out that the THAAD deployment decision was behind the large-scale cancellation in a planned trip of Chinese tourists to the popular "Chimaek" (Korean shorthand for chicken and beer) festival hosted in Daegu.

South Korean media has warned over the past few weeks that the deployment of THAAD would create uncertainty in the country's domestic tourism industry. Now it seems their concerns are becoming a reality. South Korea's tourism industry has to run into a strong headwind as anti-South Korea sentiment grows among Chinese people who account for nearly half of all foreign tourists entering the country.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea has soared in recent years amid improving Sino-South Korean relations. Given increasingly close trade ties, personnel exchanges and enhanced collaboration in international affairs, the economic relationship between China and South Korea was at its best before Seoul announced in July plans to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system.

There is no doubt that strengthened economic ties between China and South Korea are conducive to regional peace, stability and development. While negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between China, Japan and South Korea have been in limbo partly due to a strain in Sino-Japanese ties, Beijing and Seoul formally signed a bilateral FTA in 2015 to advocate for and support free trade.

The good momentum coming off of this bilateral economic relation was hard-earned and needs to be cherished. In other words, Sino-South Korea economic ties are  not absolutely solid. Both sides have to value the achievements that have been made and explore further potential for economic cooperation.

However, the THAAD deployment decision made by the South Korean government has injured Chinese feelings and damaged those bilateral economic ties. South Korea's Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was quoted in The Korea Times in July saying that the nation believes economic retaliation is not on China's mind.

However, the strong blowback the nation's tourism industry has recently faced shows the prime minister may have underestimated China's counter-THAAD resolve from ordinary Chinese people.

We don't want to see a rise in anti-South Korea sentiment that will hurt economic ties between the two countries, but it can not be expected that China would safeguard its economic ties by sacrificing national security. Although some Chinese enterprises may be influenced by a possible setback in Sino-South Korean cooperation, we predict that China will not compromise over issues relating to its core interests.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: Eye on The Economy

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