NK-PRC Roundup

The Korean Central News Agency — as well as the Chinese Embassy — in Pyongyang has been putting out all manner of noteworthy stuff lately which is worth some commentary.  Youthful themes abound.

1. Chinese Ambassador on a Farewell (Business) Tour of the Border Region

Outgoing Ambassador Liu Xiaoming Greets Liaoning Party Secretary Wang Min, sporting the "Casual Cadre/Bon Vivant/Bai Jiu Connaisseur" look

If it weren’t already obvious that China wants to move into overdrive with plans for North Korean economic expansion, Liu Xiaoming, the outgoing PRC Ambassador to the DPRK, just finished a four day tour of the borderland which focused on the city on Dandong.

Liu was mainly meeting with Chinese provincial leaders, looking comfortable, but the function of such visits is likely also to demonstrate to North Korea China’s willingness to engage in a comprehensive fashion, or its “united front” in presenting North Korea with business opportunities and expertise.  There’s a great deal more to say about this trip, and Liu’s tenure as ambassador, but it shall have to suffice to note the obvious irony of dubbing 2009, the disastrous year in Sino-North Korean relations, “the year of Sino-Korean Friendship,” or — be said without irony — “a year of historical firsts.”

And isn’t it awkward to have to proclaim that “2010 is going to be the year we take our relationship to yet another higher  level” after 2009 that already failed in doing just that, in spite of how you try to spin it?

2. North Korean Students on a 1,000 ri/里  journey

A large group of North Korean students have begun a reenactment of Kim Il Sung’s walk northward from Pyongyang to Kanggye and then on to the Chinese border.  This is harrowing stuff in the middle of the winter!

KCNA summarizes events here,  but far better is Michael Madden’s must-read analysis of the send-off in Pyongyang, which he entitles “Truckin’ with the Kim Il Sung Youth League.”  Madden’s blog (NK Leadership Watch) also provides an excellent series of screen captures from KCTV coverage of the event.

Where is Huchang, the border town I saw from over the miserable Yalu this past summer, and the students’ destination?  See the map here.

Moves which augur…

3. A Much More Pronounced Emphasis on Youth and Succession

There’s really no analysis necessary: this, this, and this story make completely obvious that North Korea is currently in the throes of an ongoing quest for successor preparation.

4. Kim Jong Il Enjoys Old-School Revolutionary Fare

While he allows speculation to continue about his possible trip to China in February for yet another tour of reformist enterprises he has no intention of allowing to exist in North Korea, the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il is instead enjoying some old-school military entertainment in Pyongyang.  Writing of one particular unit’s performance, KCNA noted:

They clearly proved the validity and vitality of the WPK’s policy of conducting performing activities of anti-Japanese guerrilla style by fully displaying the enthusiasm and mettle with which they have conducted militant frontline information service and frontline agitation at every post and drill ground to arouse servicepersons to perform feats in their struggle. They, at the same time, fully demonstrated the might of artistes of the army successfully performing their militant mission as honorable sentinels standing on the first-line of the ideological front.

5. Conversations Continue on the Chinese Internet About North Korea

Lately, I’ve been enjoying this BBS thread entitled “Kim Jong Il Savagely Criticizes China’s Reform and Opening Up as Poisonous for North Korea”, with its detailed misunderstandings of China’s centrality to the existence of the historical DPRK.  And, since Chinese cultural norms have a way of making their way into North Korean cities like Chongjin via Yanbian, I found somewhat unusual this post on the Yanbian City webpage which takes its object the female orgasm.

Which leads me to this: a BBS thread critiques Kim Jong Il’s “comfort corps” of women, indicating that pretty much anything now goes in China when it comes to mocking the North Korean leadership online.  Television viewers in China may get little in the way of parody of, or mockery toward, the DPRK, but there is plenty it now sitting nicely ensconced behind the Great Firewall.  Whatever will the North Koreans say when they finally get Internet cafes in bilingual Sinuiju?

Huanqiu Chatter

In its coverage of the Google affair, the New York Times is now quoting regularly from the Global Times.  What is perplexing is that the American reporters in Beijing only seem to be reading the English version of the paper!  The Chinese version (known as Huanqiu Shibao [环球时报]) is a much juicier, more nationalistic, and, quite naturally, reflective of what Chinese people are actually reading in the PRC.

The latest “big news page” set up by the Xinhua editors of the Huanqiu Shibao features a header which puts the Google issue into broader context and makes it clear that the CCP is now interpreting this issue within a mostly-nationalistic discourse:

"America Uses 'Freedom of the Internet' as a Pretext to Launch an Attack at China" / Huanqiu Shibao / click on image for link

Readers who wish further to see how the CCP is trying to disarm criticism of the situation are encouraged to read Just Recently‘s insouciant “Letters to Net Nanny.”

Update: 发难 [fa1 nan4], the final characters in the above character, are defined as either a.) to rise in revolt or b.) to launch an attack.  Thus the Huanqiu headliners manage to imply that the U.S. is encouraging a revolt within in China by its defense of “freedom of the internet” as well as mounting a frontal assault against “China.”  (Note disapproving quotation marks: in the former case, to dispute the whole notion, in the latter case, to imply that “CCP” and “China” are not always wholly synonymous.) Thus, when an opponent of the construction of a faux-Confucian goal of a “harmonious society” (和谐社会) is found,   language of the Warring States is ever appropriate.   Who needs to resort to Mao’s evocation of “sugar-coated bullets of the imperialists” (帝国主义的汤炮弹) when you can call the assailant out into the open?