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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post


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PostWatch
 

Thursday, January 09, 2003
 
11:44 PM

So I start out reading this item via Insta about China blocking access to blogspot sites, which includes me. Easy to take freedom for granted, isn't it? (And the odd thing is at the moment, Chinese bloggers can post to their sites--they just can't read them!).

One thing leads to another and I find this fascinating post by China Hand, also linked by Insta. First there's a tale about how he's treated by his relatives after the first 20 years--he married into a Chinese family. Then this:

From the Western press you may well get the impression that China is doing nothing to avert a potential catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula but let me give you a little background which might shed light on China's apparent inaction.

In some ways China's relations with Korea are like those with Vietnam. The Korean Peninsula is something seen from China as being traditionally a Chinese suzerain if not actually Chinese territory. Nevertheless throughout the centuries the Koreans have fought for their independence and remained proudly separate from China....


Fast-forward to the Korean War, when it seemed pretty clear China wouldn't get involved if the Americans remained below the 39th parallel:

MacArthur's people clearly chose to ignore the implicit message which surely was underlined in diplomacy at the time. China, like Russia had been devastated by the war against Japan and then a two year civil war. It had no will to take on the clearly ascendant US. But it was bound to defend North Korea. While propaganda from both sides talks of the warmth and friendship between the two people, I have heard stories that Chinese troops in Korea, with over extended supply lines and inadequately equipped often received little help or welcome from the locals who regarded them to be invaders no more welcome than the US troops....

Though the two had comradely relations in the post-Korean War period there was little gratitude extended to China.When I was a trade consultant in Beijing in the 80's it was suggested I talk to the Koreans who had indicated they were interest in doing business in Australia. The talks came to nothing but I did note a hostility to Chinese even there when I attempted to speak Chinese to the Chinese fluent trade diplomats they made it clear they did not like even speaking Chinese.

So my point is this. Although we like to refer to China as North Korea's main ally, any suggestions that the Chinese just need to talk to Kim Jong-il and he will fall into line is ludicrous. China has been urging Kim for over ten, if not twenty years to open up and reform. While he has made a few token gestures so far little of substance has occurred. Korea is as fiercely independent of China today as it has been for a thousand years. Any suggestion they can be influenced by outside forces is clearly uninformed.








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