CIA Factbook

China Facts: China's Economy - North Korean Refugee Crisis

How do China's economic ties with North Korea affect the North Korean refugee crisis in China? In order for the Communist Party in China to remain in power, it must have a growing economy. Unemployed people = Unhappy people

Graph of China, US GDP Growth Rate Since 2000 Source: World Bank

Though China’s growth has made it the world’s second-largest country by GDP, because of the sheer size of the country, many of its people remain in poverty ranking 121 out of 228 countries.

China must support its breakneck economic growth by securing resources from around the world for cheap.

This is part of the reason why China wants to keep close economic ties to North Korea.


China represents about 60 percent of North Korea's economy, according to the Congressional Research Service. And this relationship continues to grow.


What China gets out of this relationship are cheap raw materials, which are abundant in North Korea.

Natural resources accounted for 73 percent of North Korea’s bilateral trade with China in 2012, according to the Korea Times.

Over the past 10 years, China has effectively propped up the dysfunctional North Korean economy and provided little incentive for the regime to change its ways. It has done so at the expense of the people of North Korea, many of whom report to us widespread poverty in the country's outer-regions.

The people of North Korea continue to suffer while the elite in North Korea prospers. The Daily NK reported that Kim Jong Un spent $644 million dollars in luxury goods last year. North Korea recently requested $600 million in food aid.

China's economic ties to North Korea creates the situation from which the North Korean refugees flee from. These same North Korean refugees are those who China refuses to accept into their country. This is why the work of Crossing Borders is essential in the region. As North Korean refugees cross into China and as China refuses to offer any human rights to these people, we will continue to be a safety net for the people of North Korea, who have suffered so greatly.

Stay tuned for more facts about China.