North Korean People’s Misery
On September 9, SCMP describes the hardship North Korean refugees suffer in China in its report “Trafficked North Korean ‘bride’ reveals her desperate flight from China” (full text of the report can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2110256/trafficked-north-korea-bride-one-woman-reveals-her).
The report says, “According to Reuters, 385 North Koreans made the journey (to Thailand) in the first half of the year, compared with 535 last year.”
That was really quite a small number. At the beginning of this century, I often worked in Qingdao where there were quite a few North Korean immigrants. According to their gossips, there were at that time 200,000 to 300,000 North Korean immigrants in China. The exact number is a mystery as there was no official figure and lots of such immigrants were able to be registered as Chinese residents due to their Chinese origin, sympathy of Chinese rural officials, bribes, etc. According to some immigrants I met at that time, all their classmates back in North Korea had moved to China. If so, the number of immigrants must be enormous.
There were over 2 million people of Korean ethnic minority in China, but lots of North Korean immigrants had registered as ethnic Han (the major race in China) instead of minority ethnic Korean. They spoke perfect Chinese and Korean languages. When asked whether they were Chinese or Koreans, they said that they were not clear themselves. Anyway, they preferred being Chinese and liked the freedom and better living standards in China at that time.
According to them, at the beginning of this century, crossing the border to immigrate to China was not difficult especially in winter when border rivers were frozen. If they dressed like Chinese people and spoke Chinese language well, no one would suspect that they were illegal immigrants. That was perhaps due to the good relations between China and North Korea at that time.
They said that lots of Chinese crossed the border to live with their North Korean relatives and friends when there was serious famine from 1959 to 1962 in China; therefore, it was only natural for North Koreans to cross the border to live with their Chinese relatives and friends when there was famine in North Korea.
However, things are different now, the starvation in North Korea may drive a flood of North Korean refugees into China that China is not able to accept as China has too large a population; therefore, China has tightened border control and will repatriate all illegal immigrants from North Korea. Moreover, it is difficult for illegal North Korean immigrants to find jobs in China as North Korea is now exporting labor to China through official channels.
North Korea’s Export of Labor to China
Hong Kong’s Singtao Daily said in its report in early August 2012 that news about North Korea’s export of 120,000 workers to China appeared for the first time on Chinese Mainland media. The first part of them, about 30 in number, had already worked for nearly 6 months in a hotel at Jiansu’s Huaxi Village, one of the the richest villages in China at that time. They were mostly college graduates aged 20-odd, working in service trade with major job responsibilities of singing and dancing. Their monthly salary of about 6,000 yuan (about US$900) was paid by their employer directly to North Korean government.” They themselves only get 150 yuan (more than US$20) pocket money a day. According to reports, they provide wonderful singing and dancing services but live a dull and mythic life.
A person responsible for propaganda in Huaxi Village confirmed that those girls were North Korea’s export of laborers to China. It was inappropriate to reveal their number and North Korea required that no photographs or video recording should be taken of nor press interview be made with them.
Those North Korean girls were but the first batch of the large number of exported laborers. According to South Korean media, North Korea would send 120,000 workers to work in Dandong, Tumen and other areas in China. China had already made a plan to received lots of North Korean laborers.
The North Korean girls’ major jobs were singing and dancing performance, but they also served as waitresses when they do not give performance. They sang Korean and Chinese songs well with good voice comparable with hot Chinese and Korean stars.
The hotel and its customers were well satisfied with their services. Compared with rural girls employed from Anhui and other places, they were much better in their style of conversation, manners and appearance. According to the hotel, North Korean girls had made the hotel more attractive. Due to the reputation of their songs and dances, quite a few rich people came to enjoy their exotic performance. Local people also wanted those girls’ services when they hold wedding banquets.
Those girls were lucky ones in North Korea, but I wonder whether they would be able to remain in China now when China imposes UN sanctions against North Korea. One thing is very clear, in the confrontation between North Korea and the US, it is the North Korean people who suffer. Their leader Kim Jung-un uses most of their country’s meager resources in developing attacking weapons to threaten South Korea, Japan and the United States with the lie of ensuring North Korean people’s security. Kim knows well that there is no danger whatsoever of US attack of North Korea as neither China nor Russia will allow the US to take North Korea and change regional geopolitical balance.
Anyway, his trick works well for the survival of his Dynasty. However, when North Korean people have had security with nuclear weapons, they want food for their survival and improvement of their living standards. Kim Jong-un is well aware of that; therefore, as soon as he has obtained the weapons he wants, he begins to seek détente with South Korea and has offered to send a team to participate Winter Olympics in Peongchang. Due to kinship South Korea is most willing to help North Korea overcome its famine.
However, Kim still has to conduct the reform and opening-up similar to China. As he has made efforts to establish his powerbase for years, he now must have the power to overcome the resistance to reform from conservatives so that there is hope for China to resume its work to set a North Korean model.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Due to the horror and damages of US air raids during the Korean War, Kim’s development of nuclear weapons had wide support from North Korean people, who always have fear about their security as the US has always been hostile to North Korea and kept quite a few troops in South Korea.
Kim was very clear that without reform he could not feed Korean people so as to win popular support for his Kim Dynasty. I described in my previous post his lack of power to overcome conservatives’ resistance to his reform so that he could not carry out his agricultural reform to feed his people. However, he was shrewd enough to know that due to fear of US attack, North Korean people put national security before food supply so that he exploits their security concerns and concentrated resources on development of nuclear weapons and ICBMs. US stringent sanctions on North Korea help him put the blame of food shortage on US sanctions.
By so doing, he further upset China as China wants good relations with the US to avoid Thucydides Trap. China has reduced its aids to Kim to the minimum, but it had to provide North Korea with food and other necessities so that North Koreans would not flee into China in large number for their survival.
China has a long border with North Korea difficult to guard in winter when border rivers are frozen.
In fact, North Korea’s nuclear weapons are also a threat to China; therefore, Kim is now doing what China dislikes.
Anyway, the US plays into Kim’s hands in taking Kim seriously and putting pressure on Kim and even threatening Kim with military attack. It helps Kim to lie to North Korean people that they have to suffer hunger as their government has to use the country’s meager resources in developing nuclear weapons to ensure their security.
At the BRICS summit in Xiamen early September 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that further sanctions were “useless and ineffective”. Putin said that the North Koreans will “eat grass, but they won’t abandon their [nuclear] program unless they feel secure.” It showed Putin’s wisdom.
The US is obsessed with military solution. That is perhaps what a world hegemon is used to. Its failures in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have not made it realize its inability in resolving problems by military means. There is very simple diplomatic solution to the crisis. Conclude a peace treaty with North Korea and China and withdraw all US troops from South Korea. North Korea simply dare not attack South Korea while China will not allow North Korea to start a war as it wants peace and stability around it for it to grow strong enough to resist US bully. Moreover, China has lots of economic interests in South Korea.
Maintaining the survival of Kim Dynasty is Kim Jong-un’s first priority. If he starts a war, his Kim Dynasty will immediately collapse. His nuclear weapons can only deter others’ attack but if he is the first to attack others, his nuclear weapons will be entirely destroyed and his poorly equipped army is no match to South Korean and US troops that dominate the air and sea. Moreover, China has already warned Kim that China will not help him if he starts a war.
Therefore, the US shall look down on Kim instead of regarding Kim’s nuclear weapons as a major threat. If so Kim will be in trouble as after all he has to feed his people with food instead of nuclear bombs and ICBMs.
With security ensured by nuclear warheads and ICBMs, Kim has to develop North Korean economy to feed his people. As he is shrewd, he will try to negotiate for a resolution of the nuclear crises in order to get as much benefit as possible. He is lucky that current US politicians are not shrewd.
Article by Chan Kai Yee.
In early 2012, Kim Jong-il, the second generation monarch of North Korea’s Kim Dynasty, visited China and decided to follow the Chinese model, but he soon died so that he did not have time to start the reform and opening up similar to China’s.
When his successor Kim Jong-un had just taken over, there was North Korean official news agency’s report that urges party organizations to prove their loyalty to Kim Jong-un by resolving the “burning” food problem. In addition, knowing well Kim Dynasty’s predicament, the regime’s three official newspapers’ joint New Year editorial even urges “the whole party, the entire army and all the people” to “become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-un.” Obviously, the Kim regime knew well that it would collapse if it failed to put an end to the famine and improve people’s livelihood.
Not long after Kim Jong-un took over, his elder brother Kim Jong-nam, the prince who has failed to succeed to the throne, predicted his brother Kim Jong-un’s failure to maintain Kim Dynasty’s survival. Knowing well the dire situation in North Korea, Kim Jong-nam believed that King Jong-un lacked the experience to fulfill the Herculean task of resolving the food problem and improving people’s living standards.
China’s experience, however, proves that it is very easy to resolve the food problem. Put an end to collective farming and divide farmland among farmers, there will soon be lots of food and other agricultural products to satisfy people’s needs. China’s agricultural reform in establishing the household responsibility system precisely did that and thus put an end to shortage of grain, vegetable and foodstuff.
However, it is very difficult for a communist country to switch to the capitalist road. In spite of Deng Xiaoping’s dominant power as China’s paramount leader, his reform and opening up capitalist in nature encountered serious resistance from communist conservatives. There were fierce debates between conservatives and reformists about the nature of the reform and opening up, i.e. whether the reform and opening up are socialist or capitalist in nature.
Deng certainly knew that his reform and opening up was capitalist in nature so that it was impossible for the reformists to convince the conservatives that the reform was socialist in nature; therefore, Deng resorted to the trick of delay. He told conservatives to wait for the results of his reform and opening up and believed that the satisfactory results would convince the conservatives.
However, the conservatives would not wait. They continued to attack the reform and succeeded in bringing down Hu Yaobang, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who was a forerunner of the reform at that time.
Hu’s successor Zhao Ziyang upset the conservatives by closing conservatives’ mouthpieces such as the prestigious Hongqi magazine in order to silence their attack at the reform and opening up. Powerful conservative elders were very much upset and tried hard to force Deng to remove Zhao as CCP General Secretary. As a result, Deng even wanted to make Zhao replace him as Chairman of the Central Military Commission to enable Zhao to have the supreme power to deal with the conservatives.
However, Zhao, as an experienced communist official, knew well that in China the power did not lie in an official’s title. As CCP top official the general secretary, Zhao had no power while major CCP elders, though retired, remained very powerful. Soon the Tiananmen Incident provided the conservatives with the opportunity to remove Zhao and almost stopped the reform and opening up.
It was not until about three years after Tiananmen Incident that Deng used his dominant power as the paramount leader to restore the reform by his well-known Southern Tour. Later, Deng’s successors Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji convinced the conservatives with their achievements of Deng’s reform and developed the Three Represents to justify the pursuit of capitalism with Marxist theory. They have thus put an end to the debates but conservatism remains quite popular as proved by Bo Xilai’s Sing Red Campaign.
Kim Jong-un promised to enable his people to have enough food in three years when he took over. As mentioned above, he would have certainly been able to achieve that if like China he had put an end to his country’s collective farming and divided farmland to farmers. However, he could not carry through the reform due to conservatives’ serious resistance. Collective farming is regarded as a major factor of socialism while individual farming is regarded as capitalism. Kim as the leader of a socialist country should not pursue capitalism, conservatives argued.
In the industrial sector, China has set up quite a few joint ventures with North Korea, but Chinese joint venture partners were unable to manage their joint ventures the Chinese way due to the obstacles set by conservative North Korean officials.
If Kim Jong-un’s father Kim Jong-il had been alive, he would perhaps have been able to make North Korea follow Chinese model of reform and opening up as he had established sound powerbase to enable him to do so. Kim Jong-un, however, did not have enough time to establish a powerbase strong enough to overcome conservatives’ resistance.
Seeing that conservatives are much stronger than reformists in North Korea, Kim Jong-un switched to conservatives’ side to have their support for his Kim Dynasty. He killed and removed quite a few high-ranking pro-Beijing reformist officials to please the conservatives but has thus caused China’s failure in setting the North Korean model.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
The Lesson of the Collapse of the Soviet Union
The US is a remote country from Asia so that however strong China becomes, it will not hurt US interests. What the US worries about is China’s rise to become its rival superpower or replace it as the only superpower in the world. However, China’s current leader does not seem to have intention to do so. What China wants is to be benefited by its relations with other countries. Acting as US rival or replacing the US as the only superpower will cost China a lot but bring little or even no benefit.
The collapse of the Soviet Union is a very good lesson for Chinese leaders. The Soviet Union has a much smaller economy but has the ambition to be a rival hegemon to the US. Like the US it had to bear the heavy burden of protecting and supporting its subordinate countries. It has given huge aids to Vietnam to enable Vietnam to defeat the US but get no return at all form Vietnam. So were its aids to North Korea and Cuba to enable the communist regimes to survive there.
People wonder why the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed as there seemed no crisis in it to bring it down. However, it is very clear to Chinese leader that the Soviet Union was crushed by its heavy burden to contend with the US given its much inferior economic strength. Anxious to maintain Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s survival, Chinese leaders certainly would not repeat Soviet Union’s disastrous blunder.
Like the Soviet Union’s efforts to spread communism, the US wants to spread its democratic system the world over but has achieved nothing, the democracy it has established in Iraq and Afghanistan are difficult to survive without US military support. The much praised Jasmine revolution for the establishment of democracy has only replaced old autocracy with new autocracy such as the autocratic regime changes in Egypt and even chaos such as the chaos in Libya.
US failure to export its political system makes the Soviet lesson even more convincing.
China simply should not have any intention to export its ideology or political system as China simply cannot benefit from such export. What it should pursue is but win-win cooperation with other countries. Such cooperation will benefit not only China but also its cooperation partners and make China popular among them. Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative now precisely aims at that.
However the experience of Western colonialism and the two world wars tells other countries that a rising power usually bullies other countries and even tries to conquer other countries and turn them into its colonies. Can China be an exception?
China is a country with its own long history and the dominance of Confucianism characterized by benevolence, harmony and the doctrine of the mean quite different from the predatory Western colonialism. Therefore, China simply has a culture different from Western culture instead of being an exception of Western culture.
Westerners and those who have suffered from Western colonialism are scared of China’s rise because they do no understand Chinese culture so that they see China from a Western instead of Chinese perspective.
The Attempt to Set a North Korea Model
To convince other countries and remove their worries, China wanted to set a North Korea model of win-win cooperation. If it had succeeded in setting up the model, it might use the model to build an Asia community.
At the time when Kim Jong-un succeeded his father Kim Jong-il, China was at a turning point. For further economic growth to realize its dream to become too strong to be bullied by other countries, it needed a huge market, lots of natural resources and cheep labor. In order to greatly expand its domestic market, it had just established nationwide life and medical insurance safety nets and was building millions of subsidized housing units in order to make its people save less and spend more. In addition, it plans to speed up urbanization and substantially increase workers’ income.
When labor became expensive, however, lots of China’s labor-intensive enterprises would be in trouble. They had to move to poor countries where there was a shortage of investment and lots of cheap labor. North Korea was precisely one of such countries.
China had been trying to export its Chinese model to North Korea for quite a long time. During his visit to North Korea in 2005, Chinese leader Hu Jintao spoke about the problems China had at a banquet Kim Jong-un’s Kim Jong-il gave in his honor. That was a clear sign that China was unwilling to give substantial aids free of charge. Obviously, Chinese aids have to be mutually beneficial. By reducing Chinese aids, Hu tried to make North Korea follow Chinese model to make North Korea prosperous.
If North Korea followed China’s example, it would establish Sino-North Korean joint ventures for China to utilize the natural resources and cheap labor there. There were prospects that North Korea would export lots of inexpensive goods to China. That would make North Korea rich and greatly improve its people’s living standards. North Korea would in turn become a growing market for Chinese exports. North Korea’s Kim Dynasty, if followed the Chinese model, would become popular. That seemed the only way out for Kim Jong-un to maintain the survival of his dynasty.
The transformation of North Korea from poverty to prosperity would set a North Korean model that would be eagerly followed by China’s other neighbors. Then the vast and populous underdeveloped Asia will become sources of natural resources and cheap labor for China and a growing market for China while China will offer its huge market for those neighboring countries.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
- Pyongyang ‘wants above all to talk to the US about guarantees for its security
- Lavrov says he informed Rex Tillerson in Vienna on Thursday
North Korea is open to direct talks with the US over their nuclear standoff, according to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said he passed that message to his counterpart, Rex Tillerson, when the two diplomats met in Vienna on Thursday.
There was no immediate response from Tillerson but the official position of the state department is that North Korea would have to show itself to be serious about giving up its nuclear arsenal as part of a comprehensive agreement before a dialogue could begin.
Lavrov conveyed the apparent offer on the day a top UN official, Jeffrey Feltman, met the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, in Pyongyang, during the first high-level UN visit to the country for six years. Feltman is an American and a former US diplomat, but the state department stressed he was not in North Korea with any message from Washington.
“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Lavrov said at an international conference in Vienna, according to the Interfax news agency. “Our American colleagues, [including] Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”
The diplomatic moves come amid an increased sense of urgency to find a way of defusing the tensions over North Korea’s increasingly ambitious nuclear and missile tests. The standoff reached a new peak on 29 November, when North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, capable of reaching Washington, New York and the rest of the continental United States. The missile launch followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb in September.
Source: The Guardian “North Korea ready to open direct talks with US, says Russia’s Sergei Lavrov”
Note: This is The Guardian’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
On October 28, I had a post titled “China’s Wisdom Tested when the US Likely Falls into Thucydides Trap” on Daniel Kliman and Zack Cooper’s October-27 article “Washington Has a Bad Case of China ADHD” that reflects US security experts’ Thucydides Trap mentality. I expressed my hope that Chinese leaders will have the wisdom to avoid the trap.
Two days later on October 30, my post “US, India Join Force to Block China’s Belt and Road Initiative” describes US Secretary State Rex Tillerson in the trap as reflected in his speech at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” before his visit to India aimed at winning over India as US ally in containing China.
Yesterday, we have Daniel Blumenthal’s article “Trump Needs to Show That He Is Serious About America’s Rivalry With China” on Foreign Policy that further reflects US elite in Thucydides Trap.
Note: The title of the article is America’s rivalry with China instead of vice versa.
South China Sea
China claims the isles, reefs and area within its nine-dash line since long ago and had the line in its map since 1947. The US supported the claim by sending Chinese navy to take back from Japan the isles there with its navy after World War II.
Due to Thucydides Trap Clinton began to challenge China’s claim in 2013 in order to contain China and Obama then began his pivot to Asia as US priority to contain China.
Instigated by the US, the Philippines began Scarborough standoff and ended up in China disallowing Philippine fishermen fishing there.
Then US told the Philippines to file an arbitration and helped it get an arbitration award that entirely denies China’s rights and interests, but China refuses to accept it and US failed to force China to accept it with its two aircraft carrier battle groups.
China decided to fight a war to defend its rights and interests, but the US did not want to fight as it had no rights or interests to defend. It certainly will not fight for others’ rights and interests.
The US ended up in losing its long-term ally the Philippines and its influence in ASEAN and the South China Sea, a total failure in its rivalry with China there.
Since Japanese government bought the Diaoyus (known as Senkaku in Japan), China has sent coast guard ships and aircrafts to patrol and large fishing fleet to the area around the disputed islands. Japan wanted to send navy to drive Chinese vessels away, but that may end up in war so that it needs US help. It was an opportunity for Thucydides Trap to give rise to a war between the US and China.
China was determined to fight. In order to prevent US retaliation with nuclear weapons in case China has sunk a US aircraft carrier (note: China had hundreds of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles able to sink a carrier with saturate attack), China showed its strategic nuclear submarines for three days in a row on CCTV primetime news to tell the US it had second-strike capabilities with not only mobile ICBMs hidden in tunnels but also nuclear submarines.
The US said that it did not want to fight for a few rocks so that it told Japan not to send its navy and China not to fire the first shot. The crisis ended as a result. Still China patrols and fishes in the disputed area so that the islands are now jointly administered by China and Japan.
At that time, perhaps Clinton had but Obama had not yet fallen into Thucydides Trap.
Now, Chinese navy has grown much stronger, fight a war in the East China Sea is out of the question especially because the sea there is too shallow for US submarines to operate.
When Obama began his pivot to Asia, Japan was very happy especially at Obama’s TPP that aimed at containing China.
Now, Trump has scrapped TPP. Japan has no choice but to court China in order to have a larger share in China’s huge market. Japan though a US ally and does want to contain China as it is scared by China’s rise, cannot give the US the help the US needs in containing China as Japan’s economic relations with China are too important for Japan especially as TPP has been scrapped.
China has satisfied Trump’s demands in implementing his sanctions so that Trump cannot make things difficult for China though the writers of the article want him to do so.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson places hope in US relationship with India to contain China, but India has joined Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Indian leader Modi is obviously very wise to obtains from every possible corner including the US. Modi will certainly not give up its interests in other corners such as trade and economic cooperation with China, weapon supply from Russia for improvement of relations with the US.
In fact, what the US can provide India with is but weapons and weapon technology but it is very expensive. If China and Pakistan may improve their relations with India to resolve their long-term disputes and remove India’s long-term enmity, India will willingly become a member of Asia Union. There is real possibility for that as both India and Pakistan have joined Russia and China’s SCO.
What China shall do is to avoid rivalry with the US so that there is no excuse for Americans to fall into Thucydides Trap though US vested interests such as money-thirsty weapon makers want them to fall into.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy’s article, full text of which can be viewed at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/02/trump-needs-to-show-that-he-is-serious-about-americas-rivalry-with-china/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2AEditors%20Picks.