U.S.-China Negotiation Simulation regarding North Korea

 The Model U.S.-China Dialogue (also known as MUCD or the Dialogue), initiated by The China Program of The Carter Center, aims to encourage students to understand, contemplate, and discuss U.S.–China relationships on international affairs, such as cooperation regarding a third country.

The first simulation was tested at Emory University Global China Connection’s annual China Summit in late March. Each of the four different teams of student participants selected two members to represent government officials of either China or the United States; the rest of the team members role-played as South Korean officials as the control group. All of the teams received a confidential briefing outlining the articles which they had to negotiate on; a numerical value was assigned to each article, representing the degree of significance to the other country. The scenario for this model dialogue was one wherein General Choe Ryong-hae takes over the North Korean government after the assassination of supreme leader Kim Jong-un, and reaches out to China and the U.S. asking for assistance in transforming North Korea into a country that embraces/adheres to more international norms. The simulation focused on what China and the United States should do to cooperate and help North Korea’s reform.

The articles of negotiation covered various issues including security, politics, and economic concerns. For example, some of the terms addressed the control of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The materials given outlined the leeway on who could control the nuclear weapons, but also strong conflicting interests on who controls the arsenal, given China’s problems of illegal trading. Similarly, while both countries would be interested in taking the dominant role in assisting law enforcement in North Korea, it was assumed that China could better manage military personnel, customs, and trade due to preexisting situations. On the other hand, neither country would be interested in handling refugees. The two would also have opposing interests in terms of reunification talks, since this relates to China’s influence in the region.

Though the student competitors were unfamiliar with the rules and were given little time to prepare, they were able to assume their roles relatively quickly. Within the twenty minutes of negotiation, the teams were to come to an agreement on seven articles—not an easy task. The teams were also given two chances to propose alternative solutions. Thereby students not only took reality into consideration, but also tried to be creative. The teams relied on the information given and also on what they had found through general background research they had performed beforehand.

U.S.–China consensus and cooperation over the Korean Peninsula is realistic as long as both countries are satisfied with the benefits they gain from their involvement and control on North Korea. The negotiation was a “give and take” process in order for both countries to maximize their profits and satisfy their interests, while also keeping South Korea’s potential reactions in mind. Both of the teams from the first round of negotiation received higher scores than the teams in the second round. However, the second round teams proposed a very creative solution and showcased their critical thinking skills along with broad knowledge on international relationships.

Since the two sides were having a hard time deciding how to help North Korea reform, the Emory University team proposed splitting North Korea into two regions; U.S. and China would thus each be in charge of one region. This seemed like an unrealistic idea at first. Nevertheless, it is not completely impractical—the U.S. and the Soviet Union split Germany after World War II. With further discussion and analysis, the U.S. and China may find an efficient way to carry this out. Several judges expressed that they liked the second round of negotiation better, even though their overall outcomes were not as good as the first round, because the teams were able to push the limits of the normal understanding of international affairs and negotiation standards.

The China Summit helped raise awareness and stimulate discussion on U.S.–China relations and international affairs. It also provided a platform for introducing and testing a model U.S.-China  negotiation dialogue concept. Many attendees applauded the engaging nature of the negotiations. One of the judges, however, commented that he would not suggest negotiating seven terms in only twenty minutes. Thus, for future reference, the stimulation should allow for deeper discussions by lessening the number of terms and prolonging negotiation time.