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China's Xi Jinping and North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, Frenemies at Best

October 14, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Shortly after presiding over a grand celebration of the 70th anniversary of the creation of the People’s Republic of China, President Xi Jinping is expected to receive North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. In June, Xi visited Pyongyang, the first trip to North Korea by a Chinese leader since Hu Jintao in 2005.

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If this upcoming meeting occurs, it will be the two leaders’ sixth in two years. Many American policymakers take a cynical view of the latest North Korean-Chinese snuggle. Attitudes in Washington have been steadily hardening against the PRC. Even before President Donald Trump’s trade war, some officials and analysts viewed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as Beijing’s puppet. In their view, Chinese officials have turned North Korean provocations on and off at will.

In truth, the PRC’s influence is much less. The historical relationship between the two governments is fraught, with abundant competition, derision, and antagonism ever since the two opened diplomatic relations 70 years ago.

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As Kim Il-sung’s regime teetered near defeat in late 1950, after the U.S. intervened in the Korean War, China entered to block an American victory. Beijing effectively took over the conflict, leaving Kim on the sidelines, a slight he never forgot. The DPRK never gave its larger neighbor credit for preventing an allied victory, even though hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers died, including Mao Zedong’s son, who is buried in North Korea. Today the Victorious Fatherland War Museum still largely ignores China’s role while glorifying Kim’s leadership.

Kim later consolidated power, balancing the U.S.S.R. and China. Along the way he wiped out the pro-PRC faction, much to Beijing’s annoyance. Mao Zedong also criticized Kim for turning a Communist state into a quasi-monarchy when the latter made his son, Kim Jong-il, his successor. Despite Chinese officials’ claims that the two nations’ relations are as close as lips and teeth, dissatisfaction long was evident on both sides. The Xi regime was irritated that after supporting …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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