Renegotiating pariah state partnerships: Why Myanmar and North Korea respond differently to Chinese influence

Jonathan T. Chow, Leif Eric Easley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Pariah status for violating international norms over decades increased Myanmar and North Korea’s dependence on China. Myanmar’s post-2010 reforms sought to reduce international sanctions and diversify diplomatic relations. North Korea pursued a diplomatic offensive after the 2018 Winter Olympics, but only after declaring itself a nuclear state. Why, despite both states’ politically unsustainable dependence on China, did Myanmar and North Korea pursue different strategies for renegotiating reliance? Unlike the Kim regime, Myanmar’s junta could step back from power while protecting its interests. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was a credible signaler of reforms, providing Western governments political cover to reduce sanctions. Myanmar used liberalizing reforms to address internal threats, whereas North Korea utilizes external threats for regime legitimacy. The theoretical underpinnings and empirical trajectories of these distinctions–as well as Myanmar’s backsliding on human rights–explain why reducing reliance on China may prove more difficult than shedding pariah status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-525
Number of pages24
JournalContemporary Security Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • China foreign relations
  • Myanmar politics
  • North Korea nuclear weapons
  • authoritarian regime transitions
  • economic and security reliance
  • pariah states


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