News / Asia

China's Ties with North Korea Include Economic, Political Influences

China has long provided an economic lifeline to North Korea and those connections are expected to continue as the North moves through a period of transition following the death of Kim Jong Il. Such close ties, analysts say, provide Pyongyang with much needed foreign investment and Beijing with both economic and political influence.

The China-North Korea Friendship Bridge in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong is a decades-old symbol of the close links between Pyongyang and Beijing. And it's also one of the few ways to cross into North Korea from China.

The pace of China's economic ties with the North has picked up over the past decade and analysts say China accounts for about 45 percent of North Korean trade.

Abe Denmark, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington,  says some in China believe economic engagement makes Beijing more powerful inside North Korea -- to possibly shape events and at the least gain a better understanding of what is going on.

"Beyond that, the Chinese are convinced that North Korea needs to go through a reform and opening process, the same way China did after the death of Mao [Zedong]," Denmark said. "Beyond that, the Chinese are convinced that North Korea needs to go through a reform and opening process, the same way China did after the death of Mao [Zedong] and after the end of the cultural revolution. Many in China in fact see North Korea as somewhat a proto-China."

Helping to build up the Rason Special Economic Zone is a key part of that effort.

The warm-water port is close to the Chinese and Russian border, and one Chinese company has already signed a 10-year lease to rebuild a pier there, a move analysts say would help significantly to cut transportation costs.

"Part of the economic rationale for that is because they needed a maritime transit route whereby they could transfer their goods from the northeastern provinces to their southern industrial bases, also to Japan. This also increases the ability of goods and services from southern China to reach the northeastern provinces," said Russell Hsiao, a senior research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute.

And it is not just in special economic zones where China's engagement can be seen.

One of the last public appearances Kim Jong Il made before his death was to Pyongyang's first supermarket. The market is believed to be backed by Chinese capital and carries Chinese characters on its sign.

The market is both a sign of progress and example of just how far North Korea lags behind most countries in the region.

"Comrade General [Kim Jong Il] asked what it was when he saw it, and I explained it was a stir-fry pan. He said it was really good and housewives would like it," said Kim Yong Ok, the general manager of Rejuvenation Supermarket and was present during Mr. Kim's visit.

Since 1999, China's trade with North Korea has grown from roughly $300 million to more than $3 billion, says Hsiao.

And this has not only helped North Korea.  It also offers hope for the economies of China's northeastern provinces at a time when they are suffering.

"In the past decade [the northeastern provinces] have seen a gradual decline of its industrial base, the unemployment rate increasing, the agricultural sector as well is diminishing and there are certain concerns within Zhongnanhai [among China's leaders] about the implications for that for stability in that region," Hsaio said.

However, how far North Korea will go with its economic opening remains to be seen.

"But whether it's a legitimate experiment in the free market or if it's just a way to get foreign capital, and there's no real interest in foreign markets or capitalism, even to a very limited degree. It's all in the mind of the North Korea's senior leadership," Denmark said.  "But whether it's a legitimate experiment in the free market or if it's just a way to get foreign capital, and there's no real interest in foreign markets or capitalism, even to a very limited degree. It's all in the mind of the North Korea's senior leadership and it's very difficult for us to know."

Trade has long been a difficult dance for North Korea's leaders, analysts say. And while North Korea's leadership may want to be modern and open, it also wants to be modern and open on its terms and for central authorities to remain in control.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs