The authoritarian Chinese government has no real incentive to place sufficient pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear adventurism because destabilizing the North Korean regime could send a flood of refugees across the Yalu river into China.
But looking beyond the issue of North Korean refugees flooding into China, there are at least three more compelling reasons why China might be anxious to protect the current North Korean regime. First, China has major economic interests in North Korea. Second, for most of their history, Koreans have been anxious to preserve their political and cultural independence in the shadow of their huge neighbor. The Chinese leadership is obviously well aware of this.
While these factors are important, the main reason that China may be unwilling to risk toppling the North Korean dictatorship is that China’s communist regime is primarily concerned with preserving its own power, as shown by its almost paranoid repression during this year’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and last year’s Olympics.The last thing it could possibly welcome would be the demise of its communist ally in North Korea, no matter how dangerous and irresponsible its actions and no matter how terrible the suffering of the North Korean people. How long did the Soviet Union last after the Berlin Wall came down?