Two Chinese Visions of Post-Kim Jong Il North Korea: Translations

By | December 28, 2011 | No Comments

A much more extensive Sino-NK Document Dossier is in the works, gathering up a number of sources in translation for a more comprehensive look at Chinese views of the North Korean transition, but in the meantime two translated editorials will suffice:

1. Sun Xingsong [孙兴杰] “Severe Challenges Facing the Kim Jong Eun Era [金正恩时代面临重重挑战],” Huanqiu Shibao, December 22, 2011 

12月19日中午,朝鲜国家电视台向世界发布了一条重要消息:该国最高领导人金正日于17日突发心肌梗塞去世。一时之间,世界各大媒体纷纷报道这一消息,一个没有金正日的朝鲜将会走向何处?后金正日时代,朝鲜面临着权力更迭的挑战,同时也考验着大国外交智慧。On December 19 at noon, North Korean state television released an important message to the world: the country’s supreme leader Kim Jong Il had died on the 17th, suddenly, of a heart attack. In a single blink of an eye, with report after report from the world’s major media were reported this news: Where will a North Korea without Kim Jong-il go from here? In the post-Kim Jong Il era, North Korea is facing the challenge of change of power, and at the same time, testing the diplomatic wisdom of the great powers.

金正恩的难题:重建权威 Kim Jong-un’s problem: Reconstructing Authority

金正日去世之后,其子金正恩顺利接班,朝鲜官方媒体号召国民,“在金正恩同志的领导下,我们需要化悲痛为力量与勇气,克服眼下的困难。”真正的挑战在于,年轻的金正恩能否建立自己的统治权威,政治领域最大的难题莫过于权威的建立。政治权力既是一种集中性权力,也是一种强制性权力,但是过多的强制,尤其是暴力会消解政治权力的效力。After Kim Jong-il’s death, his son Kim Jong-un smoothly succeeded him. North Korea’s official media informed the citizens [朝鲜官方媒体号召国民]: “Under the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-un, we must turn our grief into strength and courage to overcome the difficulties of the moment.” In reality, the challenge lies in question of whether or not the young Kim Jong-un is able to establish his own authority.  The establishment of political leadership is the largest problem. Political power, naturally, needs to be concentrated in order to be coercive, but it is also true that too much force, especially violent force, can cause rejection of political power.

德国著名社会学家马克斯韦伯将政治合法性分为三种类型:即克里斯玛型、传统型与法理型。朝鲜第一代领导人金日成大体可以算作克里斯玛型,通过神话其出身、革命经历等使之具有常人难以企及的魅力。2012年是金日成诞辰100周年,金正日宣称2012年朝鲜将打开强盛大国之门,进入发达国家行列。换言之,朝鲜的政治合法性在一定程度还依靠金日成的个人魅力。Well-known German sociologist Max Weber would divide political legitimacy into three types: the charismatic [克里斯玛型], traditional and legal types. The first generation of North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, can generally be regarded [大体可以算作] as charismatic, this being connected to his person via the myth of his origin and his revolutionary experience, etc. It would be difficult for an ordinary person to equal this type of magic.  2012 will be the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth.  Kim Jong Il has declared that in 2012 North Korea will “open the gates to a powerful nation” and enter the ranks of developed countries. Another way of saying this is that North Korea’s current political legitimacy, to a certain extent, continues to rest on Kim Il Sung’s personal charm.

金正日在1994年继任最高领导人,仅仅依靠个人魅力难以重建政治合法性,他提出了“先军政治”的治国方略,将军事作为所有政策的中心。朝鲜仅有2400万人口,但是却拥有上百万大军。金正日的名言就是:“如果没有糖果可以活下去,没有子弹就不能生存。”在金正日领导下,朝鲜勒紧裤腰带发展尖端武器。1998年,朝鲜大浦洞动导弹从日本上空飞过;2006年10月9日,朝鲜宣布成功进行地下核试验;2009年5月25日,朝鲜二度进行地下核试验。When Kim Jong Il succeeded his father to become North Korea’s supreme leader in 1994, it was difficult for him to rely on his own personal charisma in the rebuilding of political legitimacy. He therefore proposed the “military-first politics [先军政治 songun]” as the national policy, placing the military at the pivot point of all policies. North Korea’s population numbers only 24 million people, but it has millions of troops. As Kim Jong Il’s put it, famously: “If you can live without candy, cannot live without bullets.” Under Kim Jong-il’s leadership, North Korea tighten their belts in order to develop sophisticated weapons. In 1998, North Korea’s mobile missile, the Taepodong, flew over Japan; on October 9, 2006, North Korea announced a successful underground nuclear test; and on May 25, 2009, North Korea conducted a second underground nuclear test.

金正日的权威更多的源于绩效,就是朝鲜成为核武器国家这种功绩。年轻的金正恩要稳定政局,首要的是改组最高权力机构,确立其核心地位。Kim Jong-Il derived even more authority from the repeated performance of the feat that North Korea had become a nuclear-weapon state. For the young Kim Jong-un achieve his own political stability, the most important thing is for him to restructure the systems of highest authority, changing them to the core.

金正恩面临的第一个挑战是自己的资历尚浅,80后的金正恩面对的是一些80后的政治老人。自1980年以来,劳动党的领导机构一直保持原状,党中央的一些成员已经去世,中央政治局的五位常委中已经有三位超过80岁。政治权威的确立需要时间,虽然金正恩在去年9月已经确立了继承人的地位,但是要真正做到名副其实,需要在党政军各个领域积聚资源。如果金正日能够多活几年,金正恩会拥有更多的时间和资源建立自己的政治基础,可惜,天不假年,金正日只给了继承人一年多时间去做准备。In the short term, the first challenge facing Kim Jong-un is his own lack of experience [资历尚浅]. Kim Jong-un, born in the 80s, now faces old political veterans who have been in power since the 1980s[80后的金正恩面对的是一些80后的政治老人].  Since 1980, the leadership organs of the Workers’Party have maintained the status quo: some members of the Party Central Committee have already died, and of the five members of the Central Political Bureau of the Standing Committee, three are more than 80 years of age. The establishment of political authority takes time; although Kim Jong-un was established with successor status last September, but to be truly worthy of the name, need to accumulate resources in the military and political fields. If Kim can live several more years, Kim Jong-un would have more time and resources to build their own political base, but unfortunately, space does not leave, the heir Kim Jong Il gave only more than a year to do the preparation.

金正恩的第二个挑战是如何将权力从党内元老手中夺回来。金正日为了减少金正恩接班的困难,提升了自己的妹妹金敬姬的地位。金敬姬长期掌控朝鲜党务工作,去年9月,金敬姬与金正恩同时晋升为大将。Kim Jong-un’s second challenge is how to wrest [夺] power back from party elders. In order to reduce the difficulties of Kim Jong-un’s succession, Kim Jong-il enhanced the status of his sister Kim Kyo-hui. Kim Kyo-hui had long controlled the work of North Korea’s Workers’ Party; in September last year, she and Kim Jong-un were both promoted to the rank of general.

这一消息被外界解读为,金正日希望妹妹能够帮助儿子掌握大局,顺利继位。问题的关键在于,金敬姬及其丈夫张成泽是否甘居人后,像“周公吐哺,天下归心”的周公一样,把政权交给成王;抑或像“鞠躬尽瘁死而后已”的诸葛亮一样辅佐扶不起的阿斗。 The key question is whether Kim Kyo-hui and her husband, Chang Song-taek, will or will not want to keep power [甘居人后].  Will they resemble the Duke of Zhou, who did everything in the interest of the whole, giving all of his power to the king? Will they be resemble Zhu Geliang, who gave his power to the king until his death, even when that sovereign was a perennial fool?

金正恩的第三个挑战是改革的风险。新官上任三把火,要确立自己的威信需要提出新的治国方略,其父的“先军政治”战略的效能已经穷临谷底,金正恩需要改弦易辙。从朝鲜官方对金正日死亡消息的封锁以及对金正恩公开的支持来看,朝鲜高层的控制能力并未削弱,由此可见,金正恩顺利接班是没有什么大问题的。风险在未来几年,如托克维尔所言,一个政权最危险的时刻,是它要变好的时候。尤其是在朝鲜这样一个封闭了几十年国家进行改革,平衡和对冲风险是非常重要的。The third challenge for Kim Jong-un is the risk of reform.  As the old saying goes,“A new governor wants to sweep things clean”:  In order to establish confidence in his own authority, Kim Jong Eun needs to propose a new government strategy.  Seeing that the performance of the of “military-first” political strategy of his father has already resulted in poverty from top to bottom, Kim Jong-un needs to change course. Looking at North Korea’s official news, which suppressed the news of Kim Jong Il’s death and then declared open support for Kim Jong-un, we can see that the high-level control in North Korea is not weak [未削弱].  From this, we can also see that the smooth succession of Kim Jong-un was no big problem. In the next few years, the risk, as Tocqueville put it, is one in which the most dangerous moment for political change, is when is it time to change for the better. Especially in North Korea, a kind of closed country where reform was prevented from going forward for so many decades, taking a balanced approach and hedging one’s risks is very important.

当朝鲜的青年人通过网络认识世界,反思自己的时候,可能金正恩的风险就真来了。When North Korea’s youth come to understand the world via the internet, reflecting on the time of their own isolation, it could be that the risk to Kim Jong-un truly arrives.

***

The second piece is an expanded translation from the Global Times of editor Hu Xijin’s December 20 op-ed, which appeared in English but was much more interesting (and complete) in the original Chinese.  What follows below is something new for SinoNK: what we like to believe is an authoritative translation from the Huanqiu Shibao, China’s leading tabloid for foreign policy.  Underlined text accompanies words or sentences present in thhe Huanqiu Shibao original editoral which were cut out of the Global Times’ English translation.

中国是朝鲜平稳过渡的可靠后盾 / China is North Korea’s Reliable Support for Smooth Transition

North Korea’s highest leader Kim Jong-il has suddenly died, and China quickly expressed its grief. This is a crucial issue for Northeast Asia.   No matter how the transition of power will be realized within North Korea, some countries will take it as an opportunity to change the strategic pattern of the region. North Korea’s stability, and the strategic stability of the region, will both be tested.

China’s attitude is very important at this moment. China must clearly signal that it will protect North Korea’s independent self-rule, guarantee North Korea’s transition of power from external interference, and guarantee North Korea’s freedom to choose its own national way.

Because North Korea’s next leader Kim Jong Eun is relatively young, some countries expect drastic change to take place in North Korea, and may even provoke various actions and activities to achieve it. Being a small country, if North Korea were to be left under the pressure of the common  geopolitical conditions [放在普通的地缘政治条件下], it could be very difficult for the North Korean system to accept the pressure.

China should be a powerful and secure backer for a smooth transition of power in North Korea. A clear and decisive Chinese attitude will contribute to maintaining the confidence of North Korea.

China must establish an equal balance between the external countries’ pressure and North Korea to be the secure power upon which North Korea’s stable power transition can rely at this key moment of storm and stress. China’s clear attitude and production of power, without any doubt, helps North Korean society keep strategically confident during the transition of power.

North Korea is China’s special strategic partner. Although the nuclear problem has given China no small troubles, China and North Korea still maintain currently friendly relations. These relations help us with regard to stability on our borders, and play an increasingly critical role in China’s strategic initiative in Northeast Asia, and in the whole of East Asia.

In China, there are some people who always think that China has paid too much in maintaining Sino-North Korean relations, and that China should “learn lessons from our predecessors” in experiences of aid to Albania and Vietnam. Relations with North Korea are just a little bit of money in the context of China’s rise and great strategic plan.  In international relations, epochs of history are not identical.  The cost of keeping friendships is high, but it is better than dealing with a worsened strategic environment.

In reality, it has taken several decades for China to achieve today’s Sino-North Korean relations.  If China were to indulge other countries and allow them to disturb and change the strategic foundation of Sino-North Korean cooperation, all of China’s diplomatic effort would be wasted (literally, to “relinquish the gains of past labor [前功尽弃]”).

The strategic credibility of a great power is becoming more and more important to China. It should have the courage to protect its friends rather than flinch at the crucial moment. In this way, China will have more and more friends.  If [it takes the other path], China will have fewer and fewer friends.

In the long run, China should influence the development of North Korea’s politics but not interfere in its internal affairs, trying its best to encourage North Korea in normal ways to take the path of sustainable development and security. Chinese intervention [干涉] in North Korea’s internal affairs is a tired and also unreal notion, but for China to give up its influence would obviously severely hamper China’s advantages. China has long been the biggest great-power influence on Korea, but at no time did it engage in causing chaos in North Korea’s internal affairs.

We suggest Chinese high-level officials visit North Korea as soon as possible to maintain close communication with the new leader and send a strong signal to Pyongyang and the world that, with China’s support, that North Korean power transition will be reliable.

China also needs to coordinate with Russia with regard to the Korean peninsula, taking the attitude that North Korea should have increased cooperation with South Korea, the U.S., and Japan.

In the environment of the post-Kim Jong Il era, amid North Korea’s construction of political power, China must continually actively position itself, continuing the past special successes of solving problems on the Korean peninsula.

China does not need to worry that its support of a stable relationship with North Korea will cause tensions with South Korea, the U.S., and Japan. China supports stability, and takes an stand clearly opposed to upheaval [反对动荡].  Accordingly the possibility of outside countries having issues with North Korea is accordingly smaller.  Similarly, this means that Sino-North Korean friendship cannot be effected by the change of power in North Korea.  In a word, Sino-North Korean friendship is the most important cornerstone of today’s stability in Northeast Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

No Comments

  1. Any HQSB article on NK is worth reading for its communication of Chinese perceptions of NK. That said, I found the analysis bizarre and wanting.

    “当朝鲜的青年人通过网络认识世界,反思自己的时候,可能金正恩的风险就真来了。When North Korea’s youth come to understand the world via the internet, reflecting on the time of their own isolation, it could be that the risk to Kim Jong-un truly arrives.”

    This could just as easily be said for Kim Jong-Il, in fact, it probably applies better to Kim Jong-il than Kim Jong-Un. In the short-term, NK youth/general populace will be less likely to revolt against Kim Jong-Un because he represents some sort of unknown quantity and therefore hope. From our severely obfuscated vantage point, everything seems to have gone smoothly, but like the author described in the first 90% of his article, Kim Jong-Un has a lot more to fear from some ambitious general than the people of North Korea right now.

  2. Thanks Nepotist, and also for the work on Twitter.

    I like the point implied here, which is that just because Chinese analysts have a different interpretive framework or more information about North Korea doesn’t necessarily make them right or close to spot-on all the time. I have a tendency to get a little overawed with all the newness of the ideas and want to get them out there while it’s still relatively fresh, though.

    Some interesting themes in Chinese press lately; I am hoping to have a piece coming out soon in a reputable journal about the topic.

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