China’s Great Power Strategy Can Help North Korea to Demilitarize: Chinese Scholar

By | December 30, 2011 | No Comments

A rough translation of an editorial in Huanqiu Shibao that encapsulates a bit of possible self-delusion in China: the notion that North Korea is about to undertake a “peace dividend,” settle down and fundamentally reorient its economy away from military-first politics:

Sun Xingjie, “大国要给朝鲜安全感 / A Great Power Will Give North Korea Feelings of Security,” Huanqiu Shibao, 21 December 2011. 

金正日去世是否会引发整个东北亚局势的变化,人们在此之前都做过不同的评估,美国对金正日可谓恨之入骨。《华尔街日报》的表述就非常典型:“那个以恐惧与孤立维持权力,以核武器胁迫邻国、威胁美国的独裁者,死了。”这反映了美国幸灾乐祸的心态,但是朝鲜的变革需要一个安全的外部环境,美国白宫发言人卡尼称,“我们继续承诺,维持朝鲜半岛稳定,保证盟国的自由与安全。Whether or not Kim Jong Il’s death will lead to overall changes in the situation of Northeast Asia, everyone’s assessments of the situation can no longer be the same as before, as when United States regarded Kim Jong Il as to be “hated all the way down to the bone.” The statement of the “Wall Street Journal” was very typical: “The dictator who used fear and isolation to maintain power and used nuclear weapons to terrify neighboring countries and threaten the U.S. is dead.” This response reflects the gloating mentality of the United States [美国幸灾乐祸的心态].  However, North Korea’s change of course [朝鲜的变革] will require a change in the security external environment. White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We remain committed to maintain the stability of the Korean peninsula, to ensure freedom and security of its allies.”

冷战结束之后,朝鲜失去了苏联的支持,一度创造过“经济奇迹”的朝鲜却连连发生饥荒。处于大国夹缝之中的金正日只能依靠挥舞核大棒来制造国际影响,换取国际援助,保证政权稳定。自2003年以来,金正日便一直玩耍“边缘战略”,他是一个一流的战术专家,玩弄大国于股掌之中。After the end of the Cold War, North Korea lost its Soviet support.  Again and again, the country that had created an “economic miracle” was producing only famine [饥荒]. Caught in between great powers [处于大国夹缝之中], Kim Jong Il relied upon waving the big nuclear stick to create international influence, trade for international assistance, and ensure regime stability. Since 2003, Kim was continually playing on the “strategic edge”; he was a first-class tactical expert, wrapping the big countries around his finger.

金正日的外交战略一方面反映了朝鲜的地缘政治困境,另一方面也把朝鲜拖入了一种安全困境之中,进入了恶性循环。“先军政治”的战略使朝鲜成为一个军事化国家,庞大的军队消耗了大量的资源。金正恩要开启改革大门,一方面要获得军队的支持,另一方面需要裁撤军队,否则,改革会面临巧妇难为无米之炊的窘境。要裁撤军队,就需要周边大国给予朝鲜以安全感,否则,军队的地位会继续强化,而改革的窗口会慢慢关闭。 Kim Jong Il’s North Korean diplomatic strategy reflects the geopolitical predicament.  On the other hand, it also dragged into the DPRK directly into a security dilemma and a vicious circle. The strategy of “military-first politics” made North Korea a militarized state in which a huge army consumes a lot of resources. Kim Jong-un wants to open the door to reforms.  On the one hand, he needs to get the support of the army, and other hand, he needs to dissolve [裁撤 cai che] the army, otherwise, the reform will face the dilemma of “making bricks without straw.” In order abolition the army, big powers surrounding North Korea need to give it a sense of security, otherwise, [Kim] will continue to strengthen the position of the army, and the window for reform will gradually close.

Update: The editorial continues..]

朝鲜半岛被称为冷战的活化石,要把朝鲜接纳进入区域共同体之中,需要周边大国与朝鲜逐步建立互信。就目前而言,要达成这样的目标,可能需经历一个相当漫长而痛苦的过程。The Korean peninsula is known as the living fossil of the Cold War [冷战的活化石]. In order to admit North Korea into the regional community, mutual trust needs to gradually be built between the major neighboring powers. However, we need to recognize that achieving this goal may bring [us and/or North Korea] through a considerably long and painful process.

对于美日韩而言,金氏政权是不受欢迎的,尤其是三代世袭已经成为世界政治的“化石”了。但是一个拥有核武器的朝鲜,如果一旦陷入危机之中,“首尔陷入一片火海”的场景并非不能出现。金正日的“先军政治”将朝鲜变成一个军事化国家,无论有没有核武器,这个政权本身就是个核弹。因此,白宫表示承诺半岛的稳定,至少在短期内不会发动战争。如果外部压力增大,金正恩只能继续父亲的老路,包括导弹试射、大型阅兵等“秀肌肉”的活动。For the United States, Japan, and South Korea, the Kim regime remains an unwelcome idea, especially given the fact that this “fossil” has taken North Korea through three generations of hereditary politics. For these countries, a nuclear-armed North Korea, in the midst of a crisis, were to “plunge Seoul into a sea of ​​fire” is not a scene they can accept. But Kim Jong Il’s “military-first politics” have made North Korea into a militarized state. Irrespective of if North Korea has nuclear weapons or not, the regime itself is a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, the White House expressed its commitment to the stability of the peninsula, and, at least in the short term, cannot start a war. If the external pressure were to increase, though, Kim Jong Un could continue down his father’s old path, including missile tests, huge military parades and other “muscle-flexing” activities.

对于中国而言,一个稳定有序的朝鲜是目标。金正日玩“核弹牌”也让中国非常被动,一方面,朝鲜拿到了大量的援助,另一方面,又在玩弄包括中国在内的区域大国。金正日时期曾经试图学习中国改革开放的经验,但是虎头蛇尾。中国需要积极稳妥地推动金正恩进行改革开放,一个加入市场体系的朝鲜要理性得多。美国情报分析机构认为,对于中国的依赖不断增强,金正恩会感到更大的压力。中国需要把这种依赖变成朝鲜改革的动力,一个走向正常国家形态的朝鲜才是中国之福。For China, a stable and orderly North Korea is the goal. When Kim Jong Il played the “nuclear card,” it made China very passive. On the one hand, North Korea got a lot of assistance, but on the other hand, another result of this game included that China grouped itself with the other powers in the region. For a while, Kim tried to learn from China’s experience of reform and opening up, but it was a situation of “tiger’s head, snake’s tail [虎头蛇尾]” (hǔtóushéwěi — a process which starts strong but ends weakly). To Kim Jong Un, China needs to actively and steadily promote reform and opening up; a North Korea that joins the market system would be much more rational. U.S. intelligence analysis organizations believe that the growing dependence on China leads Kim Jong-un to feel more pressure. China needs to transform this dependence into momentum for reform in North Korea.  A North Korea which moves in the direction of taking forms resembling a normal state would be a blessing for China.

No Comments

  1. If North Korea does indeed open up, they will, like Burma, seek a strategic counterweight to China. That said:
    South Korean involvement is an ideological threat to North Korean sovereignty.
    Beyond a pipeline, what does North Korea really have to offer Russia (surely Rason doesn’t offer much of an advantage over Vladivostok)?
    After decades of anti-Americanism, courting the U.S. would be pretty difficult.
    Haha, Orascom?

    “A North Korea which moves in the direction of taking forms resembling a normal state would be a blessing for China.”

    A North Korea shut off to everyone but China guarantees them nearly unlimited access to resources. Not to suggest that this is a near-term reality, but I could see China feeling quite threatened by the specter of a developed, GDP-per-capita rich country like South Korea actually on their border.

  2. Absolutely, no big disagreements here. Also enjoyed your comment on Twitter about Western business practices in Democratic Republic of Congo. I am actually waiting for someone to write a paper or to start to compare Chinese policy in Africa with its policy (industrial, mining contracts in particular) in DPRK.

  3. (intelligence squared debate on China’s role in Africa) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXck9BS3Hfw&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=SPE7865CD7C141D230
    (worth following I’m sure) https://twitter.com/#!/D_Brautigam

    The DPRK is no stranger to the DRC as well (there’s just something special about those democratic republics!).

    My feeling, based on my limited knowledge of Glencore etc., is that there are Western entities doing the same stuff that the Chinese have become notorious for. However, there aren’t any Chinese equivalents to American NGOs, which presumably create some goodwill in Africa.

    North Korea is a homogenous society. Ethiopia is probably the closest you get to North Korea and they’re split on religion. I think we’d learn more from a Chinese FDI in NK vs. Burma paper.

  4. Wow! Thanks, Nepotist. Much good food for thought here.

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