China's intervention in Korea cannot be ascribed simply to wanting to maintain the semblance of balance of power, "a theory of state behavior [that] explains and predicts how states respond to threats posed by a potentially dominant, revisionist and aggressive state"1, based on the assumption that states seek to, "maximize their power in order to survive in a competitive international system".2 US presence in the Asian region led to China and the US pursuing purely security related strategies that were mutually exclusive, inadvertently generating mutual hostility.
Similarly, Chinese responses cannot be generalized into the Chinese merely wanting to secure their national interests without taking into consideration many other factors such as leadership challenges, domestic imperatives, and political consensus amongst domestic bureaucracies that can impinge upon foreign policy. The general understanding and belief is that China's foreign policy has been shaped primarily by external stimulus with domestic factors playing only a marginal role. However, the inability of existing theories to fully explain the reasons for China's entry into the conflict signifies that we must look at explanations that go beyond functional concepts of International Relations but also look more closely at internal factors and domestic compulsions.
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This is particularly relevant in the context of the Korean War, when one recollects that China was then emerging from the throes of a protracted civil war and that the People's Republic of China had been formally declared less than a year earlier, in October 1949. When the internal polity of a country is in a state of flux, any government which is seen as defending a nation's interests will only emerge stronger. China's entry into the Korean conflict can therefore, largely be seen to emanate as a result of the CCP converting a external 'threat' into an opportunity to consolidate its position internally.
Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910 and remained under Japanese occupation until the end of World War II. In August 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States decided to oversee the surrender of Japanese forces to the North and South of the 38th parallel respectively. This was to be a temporary arrangement, with a united Korea the ultimate aim. In the interim, the US and the Soviet Union established governments in their respective zones that were sympathetic to their political ideologies. The US installed Syngman Lee in South Korea, while the Soviet Union backed North Korea Kim Il-Sung, with both wanting a unified Korea, under their own system and stewardship. However, North Korea was bolstered by Soviet advisors and military equipment was better prepared to seize the initiative.
The North Korean attack across the 38th Parallel in June 1950 was a resounding success North Korea could not capitalize on their gains. North Korea failed to accomplish two crucial tasks, namely the total annihilation of the South Korean army and the