Anti-Japanese Protests in Beijing, and the History of Diaoyu Protests

Three suitably breathless Global Times articles and photo galleries are linked below, but for a sane appraisal of at least part of what is going on, I recommend MIT professor M. Taylor Fravel’s September 15 article.  Respectively, the articles below deal with the protests in Beijing, Ferraris at the protests in Beijing, and the newly-publicized “40-year social movement” to protect Diaoyu/Senkakus with liberal borrowing from Taiwan’s archives.  Unfortunately, none of this seems to get at what happened in San Francisco in 1951 and what the PRC said about the issue then, but then again, that is what Cold War historians of East Asia (like myself) are supposed to do.

Rethinking “China’s Peaceful Rise”

Although I occasionally mourn my inability to be in two places at once — as Sichuan and Tibet come immediately to mind — the benefits of being in the Puget Sound region in the autumn, I now recall, are multiple, as these perks include the ability to spend time talking with, and hearing from, Sidney Rittenberg.

A new film project, “The Revolutionary” — a preliminary screening of which I was able to attend in Tacoma — calls Rittenberg “the most important foreigner in China since Marco Polo.”

Rittenberg has subsequently undertaken a lecture series on the campus where he and I are both members of the Chinese Studies faculty — Pacific Lutheran University.  The intersection of Rittenberg’s vast experience and unique deep background on China along with our students is enjoyable to observe and to navigate.  One of the most interesting juxtapositions of worldviews comes when with military backgrounds get a chance to think through the elder Rittenberg’s assessment of China’s place in the world, and the global outlook for what some folks call “China’s peaceful rise” (or what students with a DoD connection, urged on by events and information, might rather call “China’s peaceful rise with aircraft carriers and ICBMs”).

Today I received a truly interesting communication from one of my students growing out of Rittenberg’s lecture, and I thought it might serve as a solid pretext for “breaking out of the [writer's] blockade” which I seem to have imposed myself recently upon this blog.

Thus:

During Sidney Rittenburg’s lecture he portrayed a very (as we stated in class) rosy view of China especially on the military side. In short, he stated that the idea of Chinese imperialism does not fit the culture of China. The one exception he provided is Chinese territories (Taiwan, Tibet, ect.). Over the years, China has used many forms of soft power to force nations to recognize the “One China Policy” and deal primarily with the PRC over the ROC.

Sidney also recognized the danger of growing ultra-nationalists (especially amongst the youth of China) and their affect on China’s foreign policy.

I was wondering what your thoughts were on the possibility of ultra-nationalists (or even moderates) within the government extending the “One China Policy” to other areas within East Asia under the precursor of China’s historical ownership over the land and how China’s soft-power can be defined as a form of Chinese neo-imperialism ultra-nationalists may utilize to carry out their agenda.

Thank you for your thoughts. I understand this is a complex question.I have a reason why I am asking this question that I may be able to discuss with you later in the semester. In short it has to do with the strategy used in weiqi.

Before dropping down a fuller answer, and in its stead, I cannot recommend highly enough this piece from Foreign Policy on the form and function of the Global Times or Huanqiu Shibao, one of the foremost means by which China could and does justify its policy of military growth. [Update: In keeping with the heavy comments that follow this particular post, Global Times has a riposte to the Foreign Policy summary of its activities available here in English; Kaiser Kuo's always-worthwhile Sinica podcast this week covers the same issue in style and itself links to one final takedown of Huanqiu Shibao's "Top 10 Screeds" and take-no-prisoners editorial style.]

Celebrating the National Day Holiday Week in the PRC

Just when you think that China has completely exhausted its capacity to surprise you, the hard-line foreign policy tabloid Huanqiu Shibao sends a reporter to cover an S & M-themed show at an International Exhibition in a second-tier city like Zhengzhou, Henan, where apparently, if the face of the little old man at the foot of the stage is any indication, the show brought much joy and proof of China’s internationalism to the masses.

image courtesy Huanqiu Shibao -- picture links to further images and some extensive Netizen commentary

Given his attempts to wipe out sex-themes samzidats as head of the Communist Youth League in the mid-1980s (as documented in the East German archives, among others), I can’t imagine Hu Jintao signed off on this one,

Perhaps the Health Ministry [卫生部] has won an important internal bureaucratic battle?  It seems that the promotion of information about sex in China has been significantly increased since even August.

Or, as one Netizen said in response to the above gallery: “中国 开的太放了 该管管了 [China has opened up too much; need to manage manage....].”

By contrast, Kim Jong Il’s travels through Manchuria and the Russian Far East led him to decree an end to short skirts, tight pants, and English-language T-shirts in North Korea.  Whereas China, the socialist ally and cultural intermediary for North Korea, promptly began, at the same time, the state promotion of rubber dolls by women wearing bunny ears.

Perhaps it’s not inaccurate to say that the “culture wars” continue in East Asia?  Before long, even this analyst will be crying for the return of the Generalissimo and the spiritually healthier days of the New Life Movement.

But in the meantime, happy birthday PRC.  If the 2008 Olympic Games somehow failed to mark your debut on the world stage, certainly the Zhengzhou Expo marks a new moment in some kind of history of this jagged, morphing, protean, now overtly masochistic, fascinatingly weird and endlessly restless Republic.

North Korean Lorry Watch

Chosun Ilbo reports from Dandong about a supposed influx of Chinese military equipment into the DPRK.  I was all over that bridge 5-7 days ago and there were indeed quite a few trucks coming back from the North, but then again, there were a few bare-handed swimmers as well, and the Sinuiju riviera has not yet calcified completely.

One Free Korea, who is normally superbly on top of aggragating border-related news, is going into minor remission these days.

Both of these things make me a little nervous, much as Kim Jong Il —  he rolling towards the Urals as if deployed by a Pasternakian plot — regards Operation ‘Ulchi Guardian’ obliquely from his flatscreened armored train command post.

And thus one turns to questions of “free trade (within a command economy)” in Rason via Curtis Melvin, and gets an eyeful of nigh-retroactive North Korean-Russian relations on Sergei Witte’s great Eastern rail spur, a look at Kim Jong Il in Russia by NK Leadership Watch.

Some people think the Chinese bridle at having Kim reach out to Russia for aid and support (some even say he is “reviving Kim Il Song’s policy of playing Beijing off of Moscow”), but this is precisely wrong: Huanqiu Shibao at multiple points in its initial analytical page 2 Kim-in-Russia story, a story which I read in its entirely for precisely the length of time it takes to get through the border at LAX from Shanghai, emphasizes precisely that Russian help will reduce North Korean dependency on China, and by implication this is a good thing.

The answer, then, is to count cars and points of patronage as if they were bars of music, in successsion and separate ictus.  The Chinese now drape the bridge in Dandong with gently-colored lights; the old Japanese command post gun slots are each filled with a soft purple bulb.  This invitation to commerce, to parting with one’s currency in exchange for the novel, brings with it a weird wind, coughing with seraphims from the North.

Hat tip to the ever-brilliant Tor in Stockholm for the post title.

Image courtesy Noko Jeans, Stockholm-Pyongyang

Emerging Chinese Narratives in the Sino-Korean Border Zone // 环球广播的中朝边区报道

The Korean border news narrative of the Chinese Communist Party seems to be changing in some subtle and perhaps fundamental ways.  As Michael Rank first pointed out on North Korea Economy Watch, the Huanqiu Shibao is now reporting on security problems with North Korean refugees along the Tumen River, and doing so in a relatively aggressive manner:

A Chinese report has highlighted how villagers on the North Korean border live in fear of desperate North Korean refugees who rob and steal from them.

The villagers have launched a new internet monitoring system to guard against the refugees who frequently escape across the Tumen river, according to the Chinese-language report.

Inhabitants of Sanhe, near the town of Longjing in Jilin province, were in constant fear of “illegal border-crossers who would rob, steal and cause disturbances” until, in cooperation with the police, they installed an alarm system to warn each other of possible infiltrators. [...]

The Sanhe area, which covers 182 sq km, has only 1,600 inhabitants, 90% of whom are ethnic Korean, and most young people have left the area to seek work elsewhere, including South Korea and Japan. (A separate report shows photos of another border village, Nanping near Helong, which has similarly been blighted by young people leaving the area. Only 1,700 people still live there out of an original population of 4,000, while the primary school has five teachers and only three children).

“This journalist walked around [Sanhe] for over 10 minutes and only saw old people, women and children. But the Sanhe area faces danger from across the river,” the report says.

To illustrate the threat posed by refugees, it tells how in spring 2003 a North Korean woman in her 70s and her son in his 40s were killed in a border incident in Sanhe, and also mentions how in 2004, after the red light system had been installed, villagers seized a North Korean border guard who had crossed the river and begged for food from a farmer who had just slaughtered some animals.

The report says the river is only 50 metres wide at Sanhe and is shallow enough to be crossed by children.

It notes that borders “are not only a geographical concept, but also involve extremely complex [matters of] security and struggle.”

The police chief said that after the monitoring system was launched, “there have basically been no more cases of illegal border-crossers entering the village to take part in illegal activities.” However, he added, “But border security must not be relaxed because ordinary people are the most direct victims” [if it were relaxed].

A separate group of photographs illustrates the Huanqiu narrative.

Obviously, this emergence of a heightened Chinese public narrative of upping border security against dangerous North Koreans in the inner Tumen valley occurred precisely at the same time the PRC was launching some very ambitious-sounding economic projects with North Korea on the bookends of the border region.

It seems evident that the CCP, perhaps fearful of resentment at the large amounts of largesse being thrown at North Korea, is hedging its bets and giving itself rhetorical space in the border region.  As is usual these days, the emphasis is on security.  (The headline praises the ‘ten household system’ whereby villagers team up to report suspicious behavior.)

The Party media’s open acknowledgement of problems posed by North Korean refugees into China is, of course, about fifteen years overdue, and includes no discussion about the reasons for North Korean flight into China, but it is notable nevertheless.  The narrative of smooth and harmonious domestic “social management” trumps the need to save face for North Korea.

One of the most interesting aspects of the above story is how the Huanqiu Shibao itself becomes part of the story, and how the Xinhua apparatus is promoting this story as an example of hard-hitting, verismo, serve-the-people journalism:

Part of what we have here is the trope that the Party is able to correct itself.  As the (somewhat ficticious and certainly disposable in the event of martial law) narrative goes in China, the news media and the internet serves the vital function of hearing the voices of the people.  Patriotic reporters are a key piece of this narrative.

Cheng Gang is one of those writers, and he is presently Huanqiu Shibao‘s top borderlands reporter.  Last December he made a foray into the Rajin special economic zone, a visit which brought to light a few interesting facts which, to my knowledge, this blog remains the only English-language outlet to have acknowledged or covered.

(As a side note, it remains simply astonishing how many otherwise critical reporters and bloggers will believe basically unsourced allegations stemming from Chosun Ilbo that Chinese troops were occupying Rajin, and then, when Cheng Gang emerges as an actual source from Rajin emerges, totally miss the boat.  Does Xinhua have to translate it into mangled English in order for a reportable event to have actually occurred?  This is why, in addition to actually reading the Chinese media, one has to read German media about China, because German reporters, unlike, apparently, most Anglophone reporters other than Michael Rank, read and cite the Huanqiu Shibao.  Yes, the periodical is owned and run by the People’s Daily, but it also has a swarm of reporters who are occasionally allowed to extend the boundaries of discourse so long as the extension serves the national interest of the PRC.)

How do we know Cheng Gang is patriotic?  Besides regularly reading his stuff?

This 15-minute Huanqiu TV reportage from the borderlands is led by Cheng Gang, and it is not to be missed.  An absolutely classic revolutionary-era cutaway technique is used at the Sanjiaohe border post near Hunchun, where there is a flashback to the evil days of imperialism when China ceded its northern Pacific coastline to the Tsars.

The Chinese access to Rajin thus becomes swallowed into the much more capacious narrative of national revival and restoration, and is not bound by nattering contemporary concerns such as UN Security Council Resolution 1874 which was intended to punish North Korea economically.  In other words, the CCP is Li Hongzhang, and anyone who stands in the way of China assuming its rightfully central and monolithic role in East Asia is, well, Kaiser Wilhelm II, or a Romanov, whichever you prefer.

Along the lines of a renewed central push for reporting from the border region, a cluster of Huanqiu sources for your edification:

Cheng Gang’s June 10 dispatch from Rajin

- Huanqiu’s reference to a North Korean blueprint for economic opening up until 2020

- A back-door acknowledgement that right across the Tumen River in the city of Musan that there is “Asia’s largest iron ore mine” from which Chinese companies might profit

- A back-door complaint that Hyeryong is the source of the refugees that disturb security in Chinese border towns

- A gallery and update from the Hwanggumphyong zone near Sinuiju

- More details on Yalu River border security in historical context

Reference Material:

Adam Cathcart, “Leasing of North Korean Port Arouses Suspicion”: Huanqiu Shibao on China’s Ten-Year Lease on DPRK Rajin,” Sinologistical Violoncellist, 11 March 2010.

Barbara Demick, “China Launches Economic Projects in North Korea,” Los Angeles Times, 10 June 2011.

Sino-North Korean Extravaganza at Rajin, June 9, 2011

Coda: DailyNK reports that DVDs of the moving “Crossing” are becoming popular in North Hamgyong province among the very population of struggling workers and DPRK citizens depicted in the film.  Fortunately for those of us living outside of the Sino-North Korean anti-YouTube Firewall, the film, and its “my-emotions-are-being-manipulated-but-I-love-it-anyway” soundtrack, is available.  This, by the way, is precisely the sympathetic narrative of North Korean refugees which we do not see in China — where the dystopian “social managment” of the DPRK drives men to run, and to work as yet another subsection in China’s floating population of Wanderarbeiter.

Notes on Sino-German Relations

Mark Siemons, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite correspondents in Beijing, has another piece in yesterday’s Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung.  Ironically entitled “Deutschland ist eigentlich ein zweites China in Europa [Germany is truly a second China in Europe],” it reveals a few things of note.

Foremost, the Chinese domestic media gave less attention to Wen Jiabao (and his 13 fellow ministers) in Berlin “than it would for a state visit to Central Asia.”  With virtually nothing in the Huanqiu Shibao (which Siemons calls “one of the most influential papers on transnational affairs”), a scribble in People’s Daily, and a blurb in a local Beijing paper, the visit to Germany was in the eyes of the Chinese propaganda apparatus nothing worth discussing.  Certainly there was no mention of Ai Weiwei, and why would there be?  With the giant red orgasm of the CCP’s 90th anniversary about to explode — the harmonious imposition of what the Tagezeitung calls “a unified community of belief” — why would Angela Merkel’s subtle notice about more regular and open dialogue about human rights have any traction whatsoever?

The Party thus celebrates itself in the immense bubble of humanity that is China.

Far more interesting in Siemons’ article is the notion of “Germany as a second China in Europe.”  Here Siemons characterizes his conversation with a group of Chinese intellectuals who have been keyed into this notion by writings of one particular scholar (one whose name now escapes me) at the Center for International Studies in Beijing.  The idea, according to Siemons, is rooted strongly in 19th-century notions of global power and competition, and projects a future in which Germany “leaves Europe” to unite with Scandanavia and divide the world, essentially, among itself and the U.S. and China.  Such a notion, Siemons notes, is not only tremendously fanciful, it virtually ignores Germany’s European orientation and forgets completely about the huge reluctance of Germans to strive for global power.  It seems the Chinese intellectuals have become far more Nietzschean than any German, in other words.

Finally, Der Spiegel wins the prize for the best picture caption: “The East is Red: Ferrari Red.”

Kim Jong Il in China: PRC Media Tropes

If there’s one thing we know about North Korea, it is that the DPRK is intensely mindful of how it is portrayed in foreign media.  Scrutinizing its own international image is something that the North Korean regime does not simply to hunt for materials with which to bludgeon the United States, Japan, and South Korea, but also to keep its nominal “friends” from becoming unrestrained in their complaints about North Korea.

In the recent past, the North Korean Embassy in Beijing has prompted the Chinese government to censor historical journals that asserted Kim Il Sung’s culpability for the Korean War, and earlier this year, China locked up an ethnic-Korean scholar for trafficking in rumors about Kim Jong Il.

At the same time, the Chinese media has become increasingly free to criticize the Kim family, even as references to Kim Jong Eun are now mostly preceded with his full military title and a nice “Vice Chairman.”

Why am I making these points and asking these questions today?  Because the Associated Press reports that Kim Jong Il is on his third trip to China in just over a year’s time.

China is covering this visit in its now-standard way: by second-hand summaries of South Korean media passed along in selected foreign affairs periodicals, namely, the Huanqiu Shibao.  No Chinese journalists have the right to tail Kim Jong Il, to interview anyone about the trip, publish a “scoop,” or get a quote from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, or from sources in Pyongyang (where, by the way, Xinhua has a bureau).  Thus Chinese readers are left with South Korean speculations about his itinerary.

According to Huanqiu Shibao (whose passing along of South Korea reporting, in this case, indicates an endorsement of accuracy), Kim entered China via the extreme Northeastern DPRK city of Hamyang and went into Tumen, the small city on the frontier of the PRC’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region.  He is probably going further on, then, to Mudanjiang, where, as KCNA reported recently, North Korean tourism officials have been traveling.

As for Kim Jong Eun,  Huanqiu Shibao indicates that he may be studying the old “reform and opening up” techniques in Shanghai.  How detailed is this speculation?  Well, Kim Jong Eun’s name is not on the guest list at a guarded hotel in Mudanjiang, site of some anti-Japanese, pro-Korean resistance monuments.

Does this trip and the way that China is covering it testify, then, to a blossoming Sino-North Korean relationship where China pledges to continue to the flow of aid and back up the DPRK with its full military support?

Not quite: Witness this very unusual report which was released yesterday (two days ago in Chinese time) on Huanqiu TV, asserting that North Korea has 30,000 hackers in a special school whose purpose is to combat the United States. What is this all about?  Why does a Chinese Communist Party which is tightly controlling discourse about North Korea, and is certainly aware that the Kims are coming to town, release this report on the eve of that visit?  Is it possible they want to yell at someone?  Or is it fodder for China’s internet hawks, giving them another implement of proof that North Korea is a strategic asset for China because they can cause problems for the United States?

Perhaps the May 18 Global Times editorial, entitled “Dark Undertones of US Internet Diplomacy,” testifies that North Korea’s hacker army has its uses, so long as so long as it its ministrations are aimed Eastward and away from Beijing.  Now that unmanned aerial drones are reported (by both Huanqiu Shibao and KCNA) in the Sino-North Korean border region, it seems that cyberwarfare is more important than ever.

Of course, being ever “a shrimp between whales,” Kim Jong Il is again outflanked by other, larger, events: the  Chinese commentariat, as well as the netizens, seem  far more transfixed today on President Obama’s new Middle East speech than on the obscure itinerary of North Korean “politicians,” men who, after all, probably have far more in common with Mubarak and Qaddafi and than with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao.  At the end of the day, even as Chinese leaders encourage or berate Kim to open up his economy, the preamble must surely be one wherein the lessons of past collapses are taken into account.

The News from North Korea: Relations with China, Aerial Drone Denunciations, Green Totalitarianism, and the Middle East

Since the emergence of putative successor Kim Jong Eun into the public eye, the North Korean news media — specifically the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA — has taken pains to publish more content about two things: youth, and the international situation.

What this equates to is an expanded view of what North Koreans are encouraging people to talk about, and how the state frames problems of the day.  It also means that there is simply much more content up on the slate-grey KCNA English-language website, and that the content needs to be culled for emerging themes.  Thus the present post.

To summarize the significance of the last two weeks of news from North Korea (just in the aftermath of the Jimmy Carter visit to Pyongyang), a few themes bear noting:

- Information about China is handled extremely gingerly in North Korea; on the one hand, the regime wants to make clear that it has positive relations with its orthodox socialist neighbor Beijing (and, implicitly, that material gains will follow this warming trend of the past two years).  On the other hand, China is depicted as the source of fake goods, fake news, and people who bow to Kim Il Sung.

- There has been a serious upsurge in news about unmanned aerial drones.  Someone in Pyongyang is either legitimately worried about U.S. spying and assassination capabilities, or cognizant that whipping up public anxiety over foreign drones makes for good summer vigilance propaganda, or, more likely, a combination of both.

- North Korean leaders are clearly very anxious about the events in the Middle East, including the Syrian protests and events in Pakistan.

- North Korea continues with its cultural diplomacy, making slight inroads; a new and interesting theme is to stress environmental cooperation with Germans.

Here, then, are the links in question, with some glancing annotations:

North Korea and China

The single most “must-read” KCNA story summarizes an article about US aerial drones in the Sino-North Korean border region.  The Huanqiu Shibao is China’s foremost (nationalistic, intensely Party line) foreign affairs daily, and North Korean diplomats and media professionals read it scrupulously.  I will endeavor to find the Chinese article in question, but the fact that North Korean propagandists are taking this up is rather noteworthy.  When it comes to facing off against American military technology, China and North Korea still present the image of a strong united front.  LINK:   http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news08/20110508-17ee.html

Staying in the North Korean-Chinese borderlands, North Korea now pledges to turn the Sinuiju side of Yalu into a showcase socialist funland.  Given all the attention given lately to foreign investmen in Rason, clear on the other northeastern end of the border with China, we might interpret this as a sign that Sinuiju development, while far slower, is nevertheless on the agenda of the Pyongyang leadership.  We will see how this idea moves forward, if at all.  LINK: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news09/20110509-25ee.html

North Korea’s rhetorical committment to economic 


development in the border region is seen by a very unusual report of an official who is neither Kim Jong Il nor his son following up  on a site visit at the Hyesan Youth Mine http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news09/20110509-28ee.html

Although it may appear unrelated, a major article recollects Kim Il Sung’s directions on geology; in my interpretation, such articles give cover to the fact that North Korea is giving major mining contracts to China http://tinyurl.com/3vscpu5

…now, for reasons of time, the annotations get punchier and less grammatically accurate.  Enjoy!   

North Korean state publishing officials are visiting Beijing http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news14/20110514-31ee.html

An earthquake hits extreme NE edge of North Hamgyong province http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news13/20110513-12ee.html

Interesting timing — Kim Il Sung’s 1993 Works are now off the press.  But an important, infrequently asked question is: Will North Korea be able to manipulate Kim Il Sung’s legacy so as to retro-approve of the new China policy?
http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-24ee.html

Dependent on Chinese largess, North Korea is unable to publish much about social problems/dangers in the PRC, but such items are increasing.  Thus i

It might be argued that North Korea has been far more successful in controlling the popular image of South Korea than that of China. For a North Korean system predicated on the trope of its own unique superiority, Chinese success is almost more dangerous than that of ROK.

Chinese delegation makes “deep bows of reverence” to Kim Il Sung statue: Stories that depict Chinese visitors worshiping Kim Il Sung: about the only way that North Korea can today assert any form of superiority.
http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-31ee.html

More North Korean meetings about tourism cooperation with China http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-29ee.html


 North Korean News Items About China

KCNA: “China Intensifies Education of Children” http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news16/20110516-16ee.html

Kim Il Sung University delegation travels to China http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news04/20110504-32ee.html

China as example for North Korea: school anti-drug campaign lauded by KCNA http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news05/20110505-05ee.html

China as a land of Maoist mobilization practices when described by NK http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news09/20110509-14ee.html

A 


KCNA dispatch implies corruption among Chinese cops http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news12/20110512-11ee.html

North Korean Cultural Diplomacy

Chopinist or isolationist? North Korea is still sending pianists abroad http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news16/20110516-22ee.html

North Korea really believes in a diplomacy of sports teams and orchestras http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news04/20110504-34ee.html

NK high school students perform benefit for Palestinian youth in Pyongyang http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news12/20110512-26ee.html

NK would so love to pry Mongolia away from the ROK but cannot http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news08/20110508-02ee.html

North Korea and the US/Japan

US Navy commissions new carrier: to NK, another sign we’re about to invade http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-08ee.html

Safe to say: we are in for another North Korean anti-Japanese summer http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news06/20110506-16ee.html

Unlike its reports re: Japan, NK media assures no radiation in China http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news04/20110504-16ee.html

KCNA: “Japanese businesses are going bankrupt like flies” http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-10ee.html

North Korea and the Middle East

NATO denies hitting DRPK’s Tripoli embassy, via Xinhua of all agencies http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-05/12/c_13872223.htm

Huanqiu blog response supports NK system, wonders how NK will retaliate for NATO Libya damage http://bbs.huanqiu.com/thread-630814-1-1.html

Via Libyan TV: NK embassy damaged in NATO bombing (in English this time) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43002467/ns/world_news-africa

Worried about news already leaking into universities in Pyongyang about the revolutions in the Arab world, NK media is trying hard to give the impression that all is OK in Syria http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news10/20110510-11ee.html

North Korea finally reports on Syrian demonstrations, May 5: of course they are depicted only as anti-US actions http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news05/20110505-08ee.html

KCNA reports on “false reports” from Chinese media http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news05/20110505-33ee.html Does this have a whiff of Jasmine?

Is NK able to attack ROK facilities in Baghdad and Afghanistan? http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/05/17/2011051700584.html

DPRK Foreign Ministry watch: new ambassador to Oman http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-02ee.html

Drone-haters: North Korea excoriates US “murderous atrocities” in Pakistan http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news16/20110516-08ee.html

Must-read KCNA/Huanqiu Shibao on US aerial drones in Sino-NK border region http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news08/20110508-17ee.html

Highly orthodox Minju Chosun report equates Philly handguns with aerial drones http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news10/20110510-18ee.html

North Korean media have been bringing up Pakistan more than usual http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-01ee.html

North Korea and the Environment

North Korea praises itself in the field of green cities http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-20ee.html

According to Good Friends reports, North Korean “greening” projects are onerous for civilians and inspire anti-China rumors.

North Korean “green diplomacy”: Chinese ecologist granted DPRK award http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news17/20110517-28ee.html

A little bit of pro-German, pro-environment sentiment in NK press http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news12/20110512-04ee.html

VERY curious NK report about Korean dams protest in Germany http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news15/20110515-06ee.html Echt?

Kim Jong Il “called for continuously and energetically doing fish farming as a mass movement.” NK waters are already overfished! 


Jang Song Thaek dutifully listens as Kim Jong Il says NK must “make sure that every place where water is available teems with fish.” (see KCNA, 12 May 2011)

NK looks to increase crab harvest in northeastern seas: Russia not upset? http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news10/20110510-30ee.html

Miscellaneous

NK media reminding troops and officials not to plunder food from locals http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news05/20110505-24ee.html

The late spring ideological campaigns in North Korea have begun in earnest http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news13/20110513-16ee.html

“…spreading bourgeois ideology, culture and lifestyle…divest man of his soul and body and cause social chaos.” KCNA 13 May ’11

NK notes worldwide food crisis as subtle justification for domestic misery http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news13/20110513-10ee.html

Rodong Sinmun hints that North Korea wants to abrogate its int’l debts http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news12/20110512-13ee.html

Fighting the Obama Effect in NK: Obama as symbol of US “expansionism” http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news12/20110512-20ee.html

Where does France stand at the UN on the nuclear North Korean issue? http://j.mp/fW8u9C

Trashing Diplomatic Etiquette, or Just Empty Cannon Shots? Huanqiu Shibao Weighs in on Clinton’s ‘Fool’s Errand’ Comment

There has been an immense amount of action which has occurred in the U.S.-China relation in the past week, actions about which, being on several “fool’s errands” of my own, I nevertheless hope to comment upon.

At the end of a week of bilateral meetings in Washington, rather than grand strategic debates, we seem to have in hand the following tempest-in-a-teapot:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with the Atlantic Monthly about democracy in the Arab world, made brief and passing — and very critical — comments about the Chinese Communist Party.

These remarks have caused something of a kerfuffle in the Beijing media.

In response to Clinton, the Huanqiu Shibao editorial of May 15 2011 noted:

  美国国务卿希拉里用破坏外交礼仪的语言批评中国人权,称中国“做蠢事”(fool’s errand),西方与中国的人权之争呈现出更多的不规则性。西方对中国的态度像是外交、舆论战,以及它们国内政策工具的大杂烩。猜西方一个激烈指责“背后”的故事是很累的,简单说起来,西方在当下的人权之争中咄咄逼人,但这场冲突究竟谁是“胜利者”,却要历史说了算。

Which translates roughly as:

American Secretary of State Hillary [Clinton recently] critiqued China’s human rights by describing China’s ‘fool’s errand.’ By using this language, [Clinton] laid wreckage to diplomatic etiquette, and brings even more unpredictability to the Sino-Western debate on human rights. The Western attitude toward China appears to be one where human rights is used as an implement in the mish-mash of domestic politics, diplomacy, and the war for public opinion. Gathering that the story of fierce Western criticism behind [China's] back is tiresome, [we can] put it simply: Western criticism of China’s human rights has presently become totally overbearing [咄咄逼人]. However, on this field of struggle, only history will say who emerges ‘the victor’.  

Huanqiu Shibao’s editorial language is far more expressive that that of the paid-to-be-sternly-taciturn Jiang Yu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman whose remarks are reported on by China Digital Times [hat tip to CDT; an earlier version of this post can be found in the comments section on the linked piece over there].

The Global Times’ English version of the May 15 editorial in question is way, way toned-down and changed around, and includes the token reference to the now-useful-to-all-parties Ai Weiwei, who is so good at disappearing that he does not make the Chinese edition at all.

The strange thing in analyzing Clinton’s comments to the Atlantic is that they came in the midst of a much longer interview focused almost entirely on the Middle East. In fact, Clinton is in the middle of a comparison of China with — get this — Saudi Arabia when the conversation turns, and then she almost immediately swivels back to the prospects of regime change in Syria.

Is it possible that Clinton’s criticism of China is quite intentional, and intended to lay down some preemptive covering fire (in the form of “empty cannon shots,” as Mao famously said to Nixon about pro forma propaganda) for the Obama administration’s domestic opponents as the administration is engaging in multiple high-level meetings with China and signing a battery of bilateral agreements?

The anguish of the artistic community, and the Tibetans in exile, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and the Falun Gong notwithstanding (all of whose complaints are, like those of the American communist parties, very much separate and disconnected, united only by the object of mutual derision), is there nothing to celebrate about last week’s cooperative efforts in Washington, D.C.?

There is a ton of video footage available of Clinton’s various bilateral sessions with Chinese leaders last week, and in none that I’ve seen does Hillary Clinton appear to be lecturing Chinese leaders in tones reminiscent of the Atlantic Monthly interview as to how they need to change in order to avoid the historical dust heap.

(Stalin’s advice for avoiding said dust heap, by contrast, would have been an ice pick to the head of the regime’s opponents — effective and cheap, but in China there are not enough ice picks and too many heads for this strategy to work, and besides, this is the United States, where no problem, including the President’s national origin, can’t be solved without a little public bellyaching and a lot of transparency.  The relative clarity of ice, in other words, beats steel ice picks, and Jefferson trumps Lenin.)

At one point, Clinton happily looks on as her Chinese counterpart describes the good old days when [the Republic of] China and the U.S. got together to launch air raids on Japan.  When you’re remembering World War II and channeling Song Meiling, it’s best not to mention that China vaguely resembles Saudi Arabia, even if you think it does. (The video of this session was up on Friday on the State Dept. website and on YouTube, it now appears to have been taken down.)

The Huanqiu Shibao editorial therefore accurately notes the milieu in Washington last week.  The Secretary of State did indeed warmly greet her Chinese colleagues, the editorial states, concluding: “It makes one wonder if, when they talk about human rights to China, the leaders of some countries aren’t just going through the motions [走过场].”

Hey, if “going through the motions” gets us some real “Eco-Partnerships,” maybe it’s all in a day’s work.

Or maybe the State Department is banging on the table about the rights of American students — like the 25 I brought to Sichuan and Tibet last fall — to travel to China as part of the Hundred Thousand Initiative.

Or maybe they are busy talking about currency, trade, and our mutually dependent economies.

Fool’s errand, indeed, but then again, so was Henry Kissinger’s trip through Pakistan to Beijing in 1971, laden with briefing books by Chas Freeman and the hopes of a President burdened by a war (or two) and the hopes of a second term.  Who is writing Clinton’s briefing books and coordinating her strategy on China might even deserve a bit of begrudging support, as to both Sun Tzu and Chairman Mao (as well as their successors and their advisers in Zhongnanhai), “unpredictability” might be considered a word of praise for a premeditated but previously unseen Washington strategy.

via Le Monde