FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

North Korea and China: Report From Beijing

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
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail