FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

North Korea and China: Report From Beijing

by

Beijing.

For weeks, the party leadership in Beijing had trumpeted the Brics summit as a chance to herald China’s vision for the group of emerging nations.

The meeting of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Fujian province was a big deal for Beijing.

So when North Korea conducted a nuclear test, its largest yet, as the summit was about to start on Sunday it was a slap in the face to the president, Xi Jinping.

This is a crucial time for the Chinese leadership and Kim Jong-un’s provocation highlights Beijing’s lack of diplomatic firepower.  It has options, but only one that it truly favors.

Any action against Kim depends on Xi’s position at home. This, in turn depends on a pivotal 19th Communist Party congress next month.

Congresses occur every five years and this one marks the end of Xi’s first five-year term in office and more intriguingly the start of his second term. He has to show he adheres to core party ideology while balancing the needs of an ever-expanding economy with a growing global presence.

To do this he has to pack the leadership with as many allies as he can to protect his back and to secure his influence when, or indeed if, he steps down in five years.

In February, Beijing halted imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year — ending a US$1 billion annual harvest for North Korea’s budget.

To North Korea’s dismay, China is now fully compliant with the unprecedented UN sanctions it signed up to in March 2016. Pyongyang responded by accusing Beijing of “dancing to the tune of the US”.

Nonetheless, China has limited but credible options.

One is to further tighten sanctions by targeting North Korean exports of textiles and clothing. Not headline grabbing but it would hurt Pyongyang. Many items of clothing with a “Made in China” label are actually made in North Korea.

Banning North Koreans from working in China, hitting the pockets of 80,000 or so North Koreans would also send a strong message.

And totally cutting off North Korea’s crude oil supply – 90 per cent already has been – would signal a complete rupture in relations. But this creates a nightmare scenario for Beijing. A massive refugee and security crisis just a few hundred kilometers from the Chinese capital, igniting massive social unrest.

China has one other option, the favored one. Get North Korea and the US talking. While the US blames China for not reining in its “vassal state”, the Chinese reply that it is the US that needs to take the lead. Only negotiations can solve this crisis, they say. The Chinese are pressing the US to push for a diplomatic resolution or at least try get one.  There is a weariness in Beijing as Washington accuses it of not doing enough. From Beijing’s perspective, that is an accusation that can be turned on the Americans. If the crisis is to be resolved, then at some point the US and North Korea have to jaw-jaw.  It may even be, some suggest in Beijing, that the inconvenient truth may be that it is a convenient crisis for US military strategists.

All the while, in the back of the minds of the Beijing political elite is the timing of the congress. It starts on October 18. Considering what North Korea did to the Brics summit, Beijing is worried that something bigger may derail its congress and undermine Xi’s position.

More articles by:

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail