China-North Korea Dossier No. 1: “China and the North Korean Succession”

By | January 19, 2012 | No Comments

China-North Korea Dossier No. 1
China and the North Korean Succession
Edited by Adam Cathcart

Please click here the view the Dossier, “China and the North Korean Succession.”


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Click the cover image for “China and the North Korean Succession” to view the Dossier

“China and the North Korean Succession,” the first in an ongoing series of digests on relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), draws upon a number of open source Chinese materials to provide a clearer sketch of the Sino-North Korean relationship during the eight days following the announcement of Kim Jong-Il’s death.

This dossier represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chinese interactions with and analysis of North Korea in this period.  A careful approach to the documents selected, rather than an attempt at true comprehensiveness, was favored. Several of the sources featured in this dossier are being made available for the first time in English. These include dispatches from the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang, more accurate translations from state media stories of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao’s visits to the DPRK Embassy in Beijing, and editorials from Huanqiu Shibao [环球时报/ Global Times] and important “think-tank intellectuals” in China. Also included is a sample of what Kim’s death looked like from the perspective of one rather active corner of the microblogging site Sina Weibo.

On Translations and Format

What Chinese leaders actually say, and how they portray themselves, often differs from what official English language press releases suggest. Much is lost in translation, probably purposefully. When Hu Jintao is described with his various Chinese titles as “General Secretary of the CCP” and “Chair of the National Defense Committee” rather than in the U.S. parlance as “President Hu,” one can see Kim Jong-il as having been in fact Hu’s precise bureaucratic homologue: head of his Party and Chairman of the National Defense Commission.  When the North Koreans code their speech with references to “the Party and nation,” the distinction is deliberate, and it represents a minor concession to Chinese ways. To miss the means by which these socialist states communicate with one another and how they depict themselves is to miss an essential and enduring similarity between the two states and systems, as well as one of the many keys to understanding why China behaves as it does toward North Korea.

Although many major U.S. media outlets continue to quote or paraphrase Chinese websites or statements without linking to the actual document being quoted, an effort is made in this dossier to hyperlink all documents back to their Chinese original. Simply place your cursor over a document title and double-click to open up the original article.

On Commentary

Brief commentary and context is provided in italics before each document.

On Terminology

In the Chinese language, North Korea, or the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), is referred to as “Chaoxian” (朝鲜), and is sometimes shortened further still to “Chao” (as in Zhong Chao guanxi [中朝关系/ “Sino-North Korean relations”]). Occasionally one will see references to “North Korea” (in Chinese, Bei Chaoxian [北朝鲜], or, far less often, Bei Han [北韩]).  In translating the term “Chaoxian,” the editor of this dossier has elected to use the term “North Korea” primarily for convenience, and, when appropriate, has substituted in the term “DPRK.”

On the North Korean Official Response

Clearly China’s relations with the DPRK do not take place in a vacuum, and what the North Koreans say, both in private and public, to their Chinese partners has some analytical value.  Although the emphasis of this dossier is on Chinese sources, the staff at our website has compiled the complete China-related dispatches from the English-language Korean Central News Agency from the period after Kim’s death; these dispatches have already been aggregated and analyzed in their full English text on, but they are included here for the convenience of readers.

Although every effort has been made to assure accuracy of translations, there is likely to be within this dossier a questionable interpretation or infelicitous rendering of a Chinese phrase.  Comments or suggestions should be directed to me at

Adam Cathcart, editor and translator

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