walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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China Urges Norks to Embrace Markets, Foreign Investment

Something positive happened in Asia this week; China’s premier Wen Jiabao has urged North Korea to embrace “market mechanisms” and to turn to such aids as foreign investment to revitalize its catastrophic neo-Stalinist economic model. At the same time, while reiterating China’s support for its difficult neighbor and client, President Hu Jintao also met with the uncle of North Korea’s young new leader, sending what is seen as a signal of support for economic reform efforts that First Uncle Jang Song-thaek is pushing back home.

While economic reforms won’t do much to end the stifling repression that makes North Korea one of the most rigid dictatorships in world history, even modest reforms have the potential to relieve the grim suffering of ordinary North Koreans. Bringing some modest prosperity to their lives would be a good thing, and with China’s help North Korean reformers can probably get this much done.

But there is more. While China itself is hardly a model of liberal democracy, there is no doubt that the economic changes since the dark days of the Red Guard and the Gang of Four have dramatically increased the freedom as well as enhancing the lifestyles of hundreds of millions of people across China. If North Korea finally does start down the Chinese path, North Koreans will also begin to have more chance to think and act for themselves.

And something else will happen. A North Korea in the process of economic reform and development must necessarily look for ways to end its international isolation. Trade relations with countries besides China will be necessary for the reforms to prosper. With a little bit of luck and a lot of careful thought, North Korea’s neighbors and the US can use this opportunity to promote some badly needed changes in the North’s foreign policy.

It is in China’s interest for the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the North likes to call itself) to have a soft landing. If the North Koreans really embrace that goal for themselves, and First Uncle Jang seems to be at least open to the idea, then we could see one of Asia’s perennial trouble spots begin to calm down.

The North Koreans have flirted with reform before, sometimes as a way of extracting more aid from China, but over time even Pyongyang seems to be understanding that it is currently stuck on a dead end road.

Via Meadia won’t expect miracles in North Korea until we see them, but as we wait we wish Premier Wen and President Hu well; when China speaks to North Korea it speaks for the hopes of the whole world.

 

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  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Mead:

    “when China speaks to North Korea it speaks for the hopes of the whole world.”

    So Chicoms, running a totalitarian state with some specks of crony capitalism, speak to insane totalitarians in NK, they speak for the hopes of the whole world?

    It is official, our Ruling Class has gone insane.
    Just look what its pundits write.

  • Eurydice

    Just yesterday somebody was telling me about a town in Armenia called Nork, so it’s interesting to see the word pop up again, only this time meaning North Korea. A quick google shows that it’s also Australian slang for breasts and also an act which I can’t describe here because Granny wouldn’t approve.

  • Luke Lea

    Slow learners, those North Koreans.

  • Luke Lea

    A Chinese journalist once remarked that the biggest favor America ever did for China was to kill Mao’s son during the Korean War. Otherwise China might be like North Korea today.

  • Kris

    I wonder if Wen Jiabao’s comments were meant entirely for external consumption by North Korea.

  • lmao tse tung

    “So Chicoms, running a totalitarian state with some specks of crony capitalism, speak to insane totalitarians in NK, they speak for the hopes of the whole world?”

    1. Anyone who uses the appellation “Chicoms” is immediately discredited as a crank in the same way people who use “Zionists” and “ZOG” as a shorthand for Israel and the U.S. are discredited as cranks whose visceral hostility for the subjects of their respective ire precludes rational debate.

    2. Believe it or not, the sentiments of the hostile, hawkish anti-Chinese right aren’t shared by most of the world. You are fringe. Very fringe. No Asian country shares your worldview (not even Vietnam, possibly the country with the most cause for concern among China’s immediate neighbors) as a matter of policy. ASEAN as a whole would almost certainly agree with China’s attempt to maneuver the DPRK into a soft landing.

    3. It’s easy for cocksure Americans to indulge their ideological hostilities from a safe perch somewhere in CONUS. We Asians who live in the neighborhood, on the other hand, have no use for your intellectually hollow saber-rattling.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @lmao tse tung:

    “Anyone who uses the appellation “Chicoms” is immediately discredited as a crank”

    You might be familiar with concept of dictionary.

    You might be interested to find out that Merriam-Webster is arguably the best American English dictionary, widely used in the US and around the world by people who are not pathologically hate the USA, and even some of those do use MW.

    Here is definition of Chicom in MW, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chicom:

    Definition of CHICOM: a communist Chinese

  • Rand Millar

    With regard to the relationship between mainland China and the northern part of Korea in thrall to the Kim family regime, it should be understood that the ties between senior officers of the military establishments of the two entities have been key for decades. The Kim family regime maintains its “military first” orientation, while the Chinese communist party which holds the monopoly of political power in mainland China has itself been in hock to its grossly overgrown party militia (which we think of as the PRC armed forces) since June of 1989.

    The interests of the mainland China regime are in preventing a united Korea which both might eventually be part of a geopolitical challenge and itself, being a multiparty state, be an unwelcome example to non-Party members in mainland China. Additionally, the Chinese authorities are able to undertake some developments in northern Korea to facilitate external trade by enterprises in China’s northeast, development which a strong united Korea would not permit to remain under effective Chinese control.

    The Kim family regime will always seek to prevent the emergence of any commercial, let alone political, activity, in northern Korea not under its strict control. For once any combination of people in northern Korea are thinking for themselves and determining their own destinies, the end of the regime is in sight. Because of the notably hermetic nature of the regime, that end might come with terrible swiftness for its abettors and dependents. The regime knows this all to well; they only need to harken to the fate of free Korea’s politically-minded generals when civilian-origin President Kim Young-sam did housecleaning early in his term in the 1990s. Since their own rule has been infinitely more harsh than anything that occurred in the south during the Park Chung-hee and Chon Doo-hwan presidencies, they can well expect by their own lights that their own exit to be notably merciless. So, snuff out any light, any possibility of oxygen, from any quarter, though it can be useful to parade hints to the contrary before the anxious gaze of useful foreign fools from time to time. Getting the rudderless G.W. Bush administration of the USA to cancel its sanctions on Banco Delta Asia, which were beginning to severely impinge upon the perks of the senior Kim family retainers, is but one example.

    Related to the above, it will always be essential that the Kim family regime is perceived to have some semblance of nuclear power, in the form of a few (deployable?) weapons and facilities apparently capable of producing weapons-grade material. In this way they will always be able to keep importunate foreign entities at bay when questions of the nature of the regime are in play. Thus terror at home is complemented by a form of terror abroad.

    The terror regime in the north does fear Koreans free of it rule and what they seek to do in undermining its survival. Their rabid fulminations directed at Cho Myung-chul, Park Sang-hak, Kim Young-hwan, and others, betray their fear of the slightest amount of oxygen getting by their controls. But the real threat to their rule come from a different quarter. The church of the Korean diaspora, a network of Christian congregations in North America, Europe, and elsewhere, is slowly but surely coalescing in prayerful and practical determination to erase the regime and see Korea one again. Once again the people of the northern part of Korea will receive the Good News. The monuments to tyranny defacing Pyongyang will go the way of the walls of Jericho, and the Word of God will again be heard in churches in the “Jerusalem of the East”. Having been freed from their “Babylonian captivity” of near to 70 years, our brothers and sisters in the north will rise as if one to witness Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to all Korea. The reunited Korea will by the free witness of individual Koreans be a New Korea – God’s Korea.

    Until the day!

  • lmao tse tung

    “You might be familiar with concept of dictionary. You might be interested to find out that Merriam-Webster is arguably the best American English dictionary, widely used in the US and around the world by people who are not pathologically hate the USA, and even some of those do use MW.”

    So are the words “n****r” and “zionist.” Just because they are listed in a dictionary means they aren’t indicative of cranks who use them in a habitually loathsome way? You might want to familiarize yourself with the concept of a dictionary.

    And no, I don’t “hate” the USA, and I would consider myself on the ‘right’ in that I agree more with the American right than the American left on most issues of domestic and foreign policy. On the other hand, your gleeful use of “ChiCom” tells me exactly where you are coming from, just as the gleeful and derogatory use of “Zionists” by people with a pathological hate of Israel tells me exactly where they are coming from. You are not that much different from your deranged counterpart on the extreme “anti-Zionist” left.

  • Kris

    @9: By using the term “ChiCom”, Mick is drawing a distinction between China itself and its dictatorial regime. Do you object to this distinction, or do you simply think that “ChiCom” is somehow too offensive a shorthand for “Chinese Communist Party”?

  • lmao tse tung

    Of course he is. In the same way disingenuous “anti-Zionists” are drawing a distinction between Israeli Jews and the Zionist regime. If you think I’m objecting to the distinction per se rather than the way it’s being used, then you’re not grasping what I said.

    It’s quite simple. “Zionist,” when used as a hostile, derogatory shorthand for Israelis (or supporters of Israel), is the calling card of the crackpot. The phrasal tic of someone who can’t even discuss Middle East policy without referring to the state of Israel or her denizens in a measured way (lest he validate the regime). It’s a red-flag indicating that very little reasonable argument can be had with the person using the label. Likewise “ChiCom.”

  • Kris

    lmao@11: Sorry, but I still don’t see it. If Mick had said “The Chinese Communist dictatorship”, would that be OK?

  • lmao tse tung

    It would be ludicrous and indicative of the same jaundiced views as someone who repeatedly refers to Israel as “the Zionist regime.” So no, it won’t be. Stop being disingenuous. What’s wrong with China? Or the Chinese government? Or PRC? We know exactly what you’re referring to. The fact that you insist on using silly labels to denigrate at every turn is reminiscent of how crackpots can’t pass up a chance to use “Zionist regime” rather than “Israel.” It’s the calling card of the axe-grinder.

    Perhaps you will persist in not seeing it, and predictably claim that your label is ‘technically correct’ (just as people who resort to contortions in order to use “the Zionist regime” are technically correct), but it would be disingenuous.

  • Kris

    So we’ve established that “ChiComs” isn’t a problem in itself, the problem lies in daring to refer to the Chinese government as “The Chinese Communist dictatorship”. I’ll be very happy to stop using the latter term once Chinese citizens can freely do so.

    As to your “Zionist” argument, I have decided to never again use the phrase “mass murderer Anders Breivik”. This phrase is patently unfair.

    By the way. who is this “you” who is so very upsetting you by using this term “at every turn”?

  • lmao tse tung

    Wrong. We have established no such thing. “Chicom” is a problem in itself just as “Zionist regime” is a problem in itself. You realize the difference between using a pejorative label to distinguish citizens and state and using a neutral descriptor like “Israel” or “PRC,” don’t you?

    (“Amerikkka” is an analogous label similarly beloved of crackpots.)

    Your protestations are similar to extremists who claim they’ll stop using the term “Zionist regime” once it stops murdering Palestinians. There is no reasoning with them. Even your predictably crankish recourse to ‘technical justification’ of the label fails: the PRC is not a dictatorship but an oligarchy.

    So feel free to use the unwieldy “Chinese Communist dictatorship” or “Zionist regime” or “Amerikkka” at every turn, I’ll simply refer you back to my point 1: “Anyone who uses the appellation ‘Chicoms’ is immediately discredited as a crank in the same way people who use ‘Zionists’ and ‘ZOG’ as a shorthand for Israel and the U.S. are discredited as cranks.”

    Your maladroit attempt to justify its usage fails. I’m not upset or offended by your recalcitrance. I think it’s amusing.

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