Translating Jang Song Taek in Beijing: A Communique Troika

By | August 18, 2012 | No Comments

Though Zhou Enlai comparisons may be a stretch, Jang Song Taek (L) is seen as the man with ample Party clout and the pragmatic credentials to get things done. Here he chats with the president of North Korea’s favorite neighbor, Hu Jintao (R).

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As we pointed out in “China and the North Korean Succession” (SinoNK Document Dossier No. 1), what the Chinese government says both to and about North Korea rarely comes across into our beloved English language without some strategic alteration. 

While those alterations are minor, they are also revealing.  In the case of three of the key documents from Jang Song Taek’s trip to Beijing, the new translations allow us to see flashes of Chinese satisfaction, PRC pragmatism and strategic resilience, and a North Korean quasi-leader who is eager to appear deferential to his dead predecessor and the young head of state whose time for a foreign sojourn – and all the pomp Beijing has to offer behind and in front of its vermillion doors  has not yet arrived. 

Translating Jang Song Taek in Beijing: A Communique Troika

by Adam Cathcart

Xinhua, “Senior CPC, DPRK officials meet on ties,” August 17, 2012.

Translation checked, corrected, and expanded by Adam Cathcart.  Phrases and words which did not appear in Xinhua’s English version are underlined, based upon the original Chinese document.

BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) — Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, met here on Thursday after the third plenum of the joint committee on SEZs with Jang Song Thaek, chief of the central administrative department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Wang voiced congratulations on progress the complete success [圆满成功]made this week in the work of the third meeting of the joint steering committee for developing and managing the Rason / Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa Islands Economic Zones, achieving what is evaluated as a recent success [积极评价近来]in the development of Sino-DPRK relations.[1]  Wang said that unceasing consolidation and development of Sino-North Korean friendly and cooperative relations is unalterable direction of the Chinese Party and government.  China is ready to work hand-in-hand with the DPRK to expand and deepen cooperation in all areas including the economy and trade economic and other areas of pragmatic cooperation [务实合作] well consolidating, well constructing, and well developing the Sino-North Korean relations created by the old generation of both countries. [2]

Jang hailed highly valued the efforts made by the Chinese side to push forward the development of the economic zones. He said the North Korean-Chinese friendship is a rich inheritance bequeathed to us from the hands of the older generation of leaders,[3] and that DPRK is willing to make joint efforts with China to well and firmly  unswervingly implement the important consensus already reached by both leaders[4] so as to lift the traditional DPRK-China friendship to a new height.

The two sides also exchanged views on their domestic situations and other issues of common concern. Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai, Deputy Head of the CPC International Department Liu Jieyi [刘结一] and DPRK Ambassador to China Chi Jae Ryong [池在龙] and others also attended the meeting.

Sino-NK relations: mano-a-mano or cooperative friendship? Jang Song Thaek (L) shakes hands with Wen Jiabo (R).

Liu Dongkai [], “Chinese president vows more cooperation with DPRK、“Xinhua, August 17, 2012.
Translation checked, corrected, and expanded by Adam Cathcart.  Phrases and words which did not appear in Xinhua’s English version are underlined, based upon the original Chinese document.

Hu Jintao said: “China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors connected by mountains and water, and the peoples of the two countries enjoy a deep traditional friendship. The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, from beginning to end, place a high and long-term strategic priority to the development of Sino-North Korean relations [始终从战略高度和长远角度看待和发展中朝关系].

The Chinese side wants to move forward together with North Korea [中方愿与朝方一道] to earnestly implement important consensus reached between the two sides, maintaining high level-contacts, strengthening exchanges and cooperation, emphasizing intimate communication on international and regional problems [密切在国际和地区问题上的沟通协调], working hard to bring the traditional friendship between China and the DPRK to a new high level.

Hu Jintao emphasized: “In recent years, China-DPRK trade and economic cooperation has developed fast, and bilateral trade, investment, and other areas of cooperation have shown remarkable statistically significant [显著]results.

[I] wish for both sides to fully use their own advantages [充分利用和发挥各自优势] by exploring new methods of cooperation, advancing key making solid progress in the development of the two special economic zones and other important projects, unceasingly fostering new growth spots in order to benefit  serve the welfare [福祉] of the people of the two countries.

Jang Song-taek said: The traditional DPRK-China friendship,  and the friendship between the two Parties and governments, was personally created and has grown by the hands of older generations of leaders and having withstood the storm and stress test in every era.  The inheritance and development of this indestructible DPRK-China friendship is the staunch and unchangeable will of the WPK and DPRK government.[5]

The DPRK side is ready to work with the Chinese side to develop gain even greater achievements in the two economic zones, further strengthening and growing the traditional friendship and cooperative relationship between the two countries and their ruling parties.[6]

The region may see in the near future the depth of the traditional Sino-NK friendship as economic cooperation deepens.

JustRecently, “Wen and Jang: Joint Efforts,” August 17, 2012,
Translation from the original Chinese by JustRecently, lightly revised and annotated by Adam Cathcart.

Chief State Councillor Wen Jiabao met with a delegation consisting of North Korean Workers’ Party Politbureau Standing Committee member, head of the Central Administrative Department, and Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission Jang Sung-taek and members of two delegations of economic-region cooperative-development guiding committee members at Zhongnanhai’s Ziguang Pavillon on Friday.

Wen Jiabao said that Sino-North-Korean friendship is a valuable asset [宝贵财富], that the Chinese government, just as in the past, will promote the relations between the two countries, maintain and support North Korean economic development to improve the livelihood of the people [坚定支持朝鲜发展经济,改善民生], and expressed his belief that North Korea would achieve new successes in all fields of  national construction.[7]

Wen Jiabao said that in recent years, Sino-North-Korean economic and trade cooperation had achieved positive results. As the next steps, the two sides should implement the Joint Guidance Commission’s consensus within the Rason Economic Zone and Hwanggumpyong Island / Weihua Island at the focus of cooperation: (1) to strengthen the two countries’ governments’ leadership in cooperation and planning, to improve law and regulations; (2) to encourage the active participation of the regions in question, to maintain close contacts and coordination; (3) to create good conditions for the role of market mechanisms, land, taxation etc.; (4) to encourage companies to invest, and to solve their practical problems and difficulties [鼓励企业投资,为他们解决实际问题和困难];[8] (5) to improve customs, quality control and other services to provide benefit for the cooperation. The Chinese side wishes, in common efforts with North Korea, to build and manage the economic zones well, to promote the achievement of a higher level by the Sino-North-Korean economic and trade cooperation.

Jang Sung-taek said that Comrade Kim Jong-un attaches great importance to North-Korean-Sino friendly relations, and that the deep bilateral friendship will surely be passed on through the generations and continuously go to great heights. The development cooperation in the two economic zones had entered a substantive stage, the North Korean side wishes to work closely with the Chinese side, accelerate and promote the relevant work, to make their cooperation achieve greater progress.


[1] Wang’s Chinese statement is immediately more bullish.  When was the last time any Chinese official pronounced movements in Rason or the Sinuiju SEZs to be a “complete success”?

[2] The Chinese version goes straight to the point: this is about money, foremost.  Economic cooperation comes first and then other stuff can follow.  The note on “pragmatic cooperation,” though, adds a nice note of ambiguity, and fits in well with Hu Jintao’s somewhat enigmatic injunction the next day to try “new methods” of cooperation.

[3] Again, Xinhua English tones down the inheritance talk.  It appears that Jang was at pains to appear deferential foremost to Kim Jong Il, and secondarily to Kim Jong Un as the ultimate “inheritor.”

[4] This appears to be a reference to Kim Jong Un, or, much more likely, Kim Jong-il: “最高领导人达成的重要共识.”

[5] Here, the Xinhua English pversion really tones Jang’s language down significantly, rendering it as “it is the staunch and unchangeable will of the WPK and DPRK government to carry on and expand this good work.” What Jang called 牢不可破—indestructible, unassailable- Xinhua shorthands as “good work,” while toning down his explicit language about inheritance into simply “carrying on.”

[6] Jang’s original statement points to a present North Korean pride in the achievements already made in the SEZs, while the Xinhua English makes it sound like he’s ready to get started in developing them.

[7] Xinhua English renders this key phrase as “Wen said the government would …support DPRK to improve its economy and people’s well-being,” which is not, strictly speaking, the correct translation of the capacious term minsheng/minsaengMinsaeng is code, in this case, for food.

[8] In the meetings that Jang had with leaders, this appears to be the only reference to North Korean joint ventures swallowing, stealing, or otherwise beating their Chinese partners out of the DPRK. For discussion of Wen’s role in one particular case, see http://www.piie.com/blogs/nk/?p=7158  and http://sinonk.com/2012/08/15/nightmare-investment-documenting-north-koreas-abuse-of-the-haicheng-group/.

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