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Obviously China fears the combination of anarchy (that historically usually come with revolution) plus the results of 60 years of NK producing & stockpiling (very real) WMD’s that any side-fraction could use in e.g. a North Korean civil war (as historically, civil wars don't happen, without revolution).
After all that's why the West did not topple Saddam in 1991 (because his WMD’s posed a real & credible, strategic threat to neighbouring ISteal). You could reason-intimidate Saddam but not all Iraq's tribes, religious groups, and the regions endless political groups.
NK’s current leaders must fear the sight of a “court room”, even more than China fears a NK revolution (as a NK revolution is quite unlikely, to personally cost, the Chinese leaders anything much, at all).
So united against revolution China & NK should be; but why united against change?
The requirements of NK’s leadership not destabilise itself through reform (like Gorbachev) obviously mean it suits NK well to “go slow” on many reforms.
But China seems irrationally at ease seeing the same "broken Communist".
Surely China wants…
1. Another capitalist economy it could trade with?
2. A North Korean, consumer class, to support & strengthen this economy?
3. Preferential trade treatment given to China (supposedly by North Korea own “free will”) (i.e. so China’s preferential treatment is internationally legal-acceptable, with China’s trading partners).
One way China could have good NK relations (whilst simultaneously encouraging NK’s leaders to be good to China) is entice NK’s leaders with the sincerest wealth protection, prosecution immunity, and bribery (wherever appropriate, of course!)
With one "stick" being: China standing ready to remind NK of the importance its continued access (through e.g. low goods taxation) to-from the Chinese market.
One would hope that if ever Chinese growth slowed North Korea could represents another South Korea (just one almost exclusively for China's benerfit).
I hope the conditions of NK’s (unrebellious) people can improve, the country disarms, and benefits western markets plus China.