Pyongyang’s Take on the Beijing Model of Development: KCNA Files No. 11 and 12

By | March 28, 2012 | No Comments

Click here to view KNCA File No. 11 (Feb 19 – Feb 25) in its entirety.  

Click here to view KCNA File No. 12 (Feb 26 – March 3) in its entirety.

African Union (AU) headquarters, the tallest building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and bankrolled by China | Photo courtesy Foreign Policy

Does Africa need a Marshall Plan?  Western analysts nod in agreement.  Developmental economists argue that significant investment in African business and infrastructure is necessary to get Africa on a path towards long-term economic development.  While the U.S. has been focusing its resources on military ventures the Middle East and Central Asia, China has been busilyy pumping capital and building relationships in Africa.  Although trend is no longer “breaking news” for most of the world, China’s investment push in Africa is getting substantial coverage by the KCNA.  As revealed in KCNA File No. 11, the focus of the North Korean of the issue coverage is centered around a critique of the “neocolonialism” argument put forth by skeptics of China’s investment in Africa.  As Evan Koepfler’s analysis indicates, North Korea’s view of China’s commercial activity in Africa is that investment by China is a net positive, because it produces progress in the region that is “real and tangible.”  The KCNA’s counter-critique can be interpreted as a response to concerns that the DPRK’s high level of dependence on China for trade and investment puts into question its level of autonomy vis-a-vis China.  As KCNA File No. 11 shows, there is indeed a desire by North Korea to “depict its own ties with China within a normal sphere of cooperation.” – S.C. Denney, Assistant Editor

Promoting Chinese Interests in Africa: Analysis of KCNA-China File No. 11, February 26 – March 3, 2012:

by Evan Koepfler, Pacific Lutheran University

With joint US and South Korean military exercises dominating the news published by KCNA this week, only six stories concerning China were posted. Although there were ample stories in the Chinese media voicing concern about US-ROK military exercises (as a simple scan of the daily tabloid National Defense Times / 国防时报 would indicate), KCNA did not make a single mention of China’s steady diet of press critique of South Korean defense policy.

Likewise, there was no mention of the many pro-North Korean statements in the Chinese press on account of the February 29 agreement between the DPRK and the U.S. If China was responsible for mediating and cooling temperatures in East Asia, there was no sign of it in the North Korean press.

Instead, the perhaps most notable China feature in this week’s KCNA was the focus on the reaction of Koreans in China in their condemnation of the recent military exercises. The General Association of Koreans in China made a statement in response to these exercises saying, “we resolutely oppose large-scale exercises for a war against the DPRK being staged by the U.S. and South Korean warmongers.”

However, this opposition to large scale exercises and war against the DPRK is rendered a bit ironic, because just a day earlier, KCNA had published a story titled: DPRK Is Fully Ready for Dialogue and War: FM Spokesman which stated that the North Korean government is equally ready to launch into full scale war as they are to enter dialog to solve the issue.

This week, KCNA has yet again paid increased attention to China’s cooperation with several other nations as it moves closer and closer to the forefront of the global stage. The first of these stories detailed China’s boosted friendship with Africa. KCNA highlighted China’s financial contribution that helped build the African Union Conference Center, which it noted was the first time the AU had a headquarters to meet at in its 48 year history. Furthermore, China has “actively expanded in various fields including politics, economy, trade and culture with the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) as a momentum.” Despite past claims that China has engaged in “Neocolonialism” in Africa, the relationships and progress that China has made in the region are real and tangible. The story goes on to list off accomplishment after accomplishment, which include: increased trade, increased oil exports to China, economic cooperation, and an overall movement towards mutual peace and prosperity. It appears quite obvious that the KCNA has determined that raising the straw man of Western critiques of Chinese cooperation with Africa can serve as a sufficient proxy for concerns that China is using North Korea in a somewhat “neocolonial” fashion, which is to say, mainly treating the DPRK as a source of mineral extraction.

Natural resources trade with China was at the core of two more stories detailing further cooperation between China and countries including Nepal, Venezuela, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan. China and Nepal have agreed to increase cooperation in forest conservation and management. Venezuela and China signed agreements to further increase cooperation in mining and oil exchange. Indonesia and China met for a third time, and vowed to further “cooperate in the fields of infrastructure construction, bilateral trade, military exchanges, culture, education, health, media and youth.”

With the short item on China and Kyrgyzstan signing agreements to fight drug trafficking and related issues with drugs in the region, the KCNA allows for some discussion of the problem of borders, frontiers and drugs which have problematized its own relationship with the PRC.

Finally, two stories published this week focused on the increasingly rocky relationship between China and Japan. Last week, KCNA reported on new tensions over the Nanjing massacre, and this week, tensions continued to rise with a story focusing on Japan’s recent rhetoric, which paints China in an increasingly negative light. China’s claims are that this negative depiction of the country threatens the peace in the region, and that Japan has itself bolstered its military instead of seeking out peace and stability. Furthermore, China also took issue with Japan’s survey of contested waters in the East Sea of China. Both of these issues in addition to the issues discussed last week have contributed to an increasingly uneasy relationship between the two countries, countries that are the two major powers in the area. It should be noted that quarrels between these two powers threatens the overall stability and peace of the region as a whole, making it possible that the KCNA is not covering these issues to support Chinese claims of inflamed anti-Japanese sentiment among North Koreans, but rather to remind readers of the fractious relations among the DPRK’s neighbor states.

Analysis of KCNA File No. 11 after the break.

Standing Up for Nanjing: Analysis of KCNA-China File No. 11, February 19-25, 2012

by Evan Koepfler and Adam Cathcart, Pacific Lutheran University

In keeping with the decreased North Korean news coverage of China over the past several weeks, this week saw only eight stories published relating to China specifically. As KCNA continues to focus on Iran and the glorification of the Kims, China seems to have fallen by the wayside. This being said, of the few stories that KCNA did publish about China, most of them have significance.

Stories about Sino-Southeast Asian meetings to establish cooperation in business, economy, and trade and investments indicate a North Korean desire to depict its own ties with China within a normal sphere of cooperation. Meetings between China and the DPRK Science and Technology Cooperation Committee were discussed, as were China’s other agreements with Iran, Ukraine, and Vietnam to increase cooperation from everything from the military (Ukraine), to cultural exchange (Iran), and just overall “friendly cooperation” (Vietnam). It is obvious from these stories that, so far as KCNA is concerned, China’s Peaceful Rise is in full swing, and China remains a node of modernization, cultural exchange, and friendship, all of which are important improvements for North Korea to gain.

One small KCNA item about the construction of a highway connecting China, Russia, and Kazakhstan is just another example of China’s increased connection—quite literally—with other nations around the world, and indicates, at least in terms of public rhetoric, that the North Koreans at least intellectually grasp the benefits of being connected.  The DPRK may not have even paved all of its roads leading to the new bridges being built from the Chinese side of the Yalu, but small gestures like this one are intended very much to nod to Chinese impatience while paying homage to the PRC’s expanded infrastructural reach.

Besides the theme of increased global cooperation, KCNA published a variety of other stories, which include the ever-increasing cultural cooperation between China and the DPRK through operas and art exhibits, and the commemorations of birthdays of national leaders and national holidays (Kim Jong Il’s birthday and Day of Shining Star).

However, the story detailing China’s reaction to the Mayor of Nagoya’s denial of the Nanjing Massacre is probably of most interest.  This story provides voice to the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hong Lei, who tends to appear in the North Korean press only sporadically. In addition to condemning the Japanese for not following through with past agreements, the Chinese government has also supported the decision of Nanjing municipal authorities to cut off all contact with the city of Nagoya. While the story indicates a setback towards Sino-Japanese reconciliation, its inclusion in KCNA news is likely intended to show North Korean readers another facet of Japan’s apparently eternal perfidy toward the rest of Asia, and remind PRC officials that North Korea is a far more sensible and historically untroubled ally. Given recent discussions in the Chinese news media (see Huanqiu Shibao op-ed page, March 27, 2012) speculating about a closer Sino-Japanese relationship resulting from North Korean recalcitrance and provocations, such a strategy by DPRK media seems to be relatively well-founded. It may also be that the story is meant to support the Nanjing city government specifically in cutting off its ties with Japan, as Jiangsu and Nanjing have been a focal point of the North Korean “southern strategy,” led by Premier Choe Yong Rim, for forging ties with Chinese municipalities not exclusively in China’s Northeast.

Christian Bale in Zhang Yimou’s "The Flowers of War." | Financial Times, December 30, 2011.

Click here to view KNCA File No. 11 (Feb 19 – Feb 25) in its entirety.  

Click here to view KCNA File No. 12 (Feb 26 – March 3) in its entirety.