Here’s an interesting little fact: the DPRK’s economy grew by 3.9% last year. Officially, it trades with China, Russia, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, India and even … South Korea. Unofficially, it trades in small arms manufacture and a range of other goods sought the world over. In fact, the DPRK’s economy has been steadily improving for the last decade, with a couple of small dips.
How can this happen, when sanctions are supposed to hurt them? They are well-organised, quite used to sanctions, and developing their own version of the ‘reform and opening up’ policy China began four decades ago. As for China, the number one trading partner, it is keen to see the lives of DPRK citizens improve, since this leads to stability on the peninsula.
A good article on a presentation by Ma Zhaoxu, head of the Chinese Mission at the UN in Geneva. Apart from pressing the point that human rights requires dialogue and cooperation, he also reiterates two crucial features of a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights (see my earlier post): the importance of sovereignty in dealing with human rights, and the often-neglected human right to economic wellbeing and reduction of poverty.
A further word on sovereignty. In the European tradition, this is often understood (as appeared again in a recent workshop I attended) as the full and ultimate power of a sovereign, whether an individual or a government. This is peculiarly truncated understanding, since it leaves out another factor: sovereignty is always constrained by borders. In words, sovereignty is the authority of a governing power to rule its own territory, while not interfering with another state. This sense comes out strongly in the Chinese tradition, but it is also important for formerly colonised countries. In fact, the truncated European version can be seen as a justification for imperialism, since the ultimate power of a ruler has no borders.