New China-DPRK strategic partnership?

An insightful article from the Global Times, which includes the following:

Kim’s three China visits indicate that China-North Korea relations have recovered and developed well … As two sovereign states, China and North Korea have the right to develop friendly relations. Facts have proven that since the outbreak of the North Korean nuclear crisis in the 1990s, stable Sino-North Korean relations have played a positive role in maintaining regional peace and stability.

Some Chinese scholars hold that the China-North Korea relationship could develop into a new strategic partnership if the two make an effort to strengthen bilateral ties in the future. Such a strategic partnership would play a constructive role in the region. North Korea’s desire for peaceful development, to ease relations with other countries and build a new international environment has presented an opportunity for Sino-North Korean cooperation.

Opening up is an inevitability if a country wants to develop. China will be a reliable strategic partner capable of supporting North Korea’s political security during its course of opening up.

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Third meeting between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping

Chinese papers have already reported on Kim Jong Un’s third visit to China and to meet with Xi Jinping over the last couple of days, but I have been waiting for KCNA to report, especially since they always have the best pictures.

A selection from the lengthy report at KCNA:

At the talks the result of the historic DPRK-U.S. summit, which was successfully held amidst the unusual interest and expectation of the international community, and appreciation, views and stand on it were informed each other. And beneficial views on a series of issues of mutual concern including the prospect for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were exchanged and a shared understanding on the discussed issues achieved.

The respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un expressed thanks to the Chinese party and government for positive and sincere support and good help for the successful DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks.

Saying that he is much pleased with and values the recently strengthened strategic cooperation between the two parties and the mutual confidence getting further deepened, he expressed the determination and will to further develop the closer relations of friendship, unity and cooperation between the two parties and the two peoples of the DPRK and China.

Xi Jinping gave high appreciation and extended heartfelt congratulations to Chairman Kim Jong Un for having steered the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks successfully and put the situation of the Korean Peninsula on the track of dialogue, negotiation, peace and stability.

Voicing full support for the stand and determination of the DPRK side for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he said that China will continue to play its constructive role in the future, too.

The talks proceeded in a comradely, candid and friendly atmosphere.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China, hosted a grand banquet in welcome of the China visit by Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday evening.

At the banquet Xi Jinping made a congratulatory speech and Kim Jong Un made a reply speech.

Xi Jinping warmly welcomed Kim Jong Un‘s China visit, saying that this fully showed his fixed will to attach great importance to the strengthened strategic communication between the two parties of China and the DPRK and develop the traditional friendship of the two countries and demonstrated to the whole world the invincibility of the relations between the two parties and two countries.

After Chairman Kim Jong Un‘s China visit in March, the China-DPRK relations have entered a new phase of development and the important joint agreements of both sides are being implemented one by one and the China-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation are in new vigor, Xi Jinping stated.

Noting that Kim Jong Un has made great efforts to protect peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula by leading the Korean people and further consolidated the trend of dialogue and détente on the peninsula, Xi Jinping said he is pleased to see it and highly appreciates it.

He affirmed that China and the DPRK would learn, consult, unite and cooperate with each other as close friends and comrades to jointly open up rosier and beautiful future of the socialist cause in the two countries.

Kim Jong Un said he is very glad to meet again Xi Jinping and other close Chinese comrades at the time when a new historic current is being created in the Korean Peninsula and the region with the successful DPRK-U.S. summit. He expressed heartfelt thanks to Xi Jinping for his cordial hospitality despite the pressure of work.

Saying the picture of the DPRK and China sharing joy and sorrow and sincerely helping and cooperating with each other like family members clearly demonstrates at home and abroad that the relations between the two parties and two countries are developing into the unprecedentedly special relationship beyond the traditional ties, Kim Jong Un stated that he would make every possible effort to steadily develop the DPRK-China friendly relations onto a new high level, valuing affinity and affection forged with Xi Jinping.

He said that he would closely cooperate with the Chinese comrades at the same staff in the historic journey of defending socialism and opening up a new future of the Korean Peninsula and the region, and fully discharge his responsibility and role to protect genuine peace.

He expressed the belief and expectation that the Chinese people would surely realize the dream of China called the great prosperity of China in the near future under the leadership of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China.

To add another perspective, as Chinese analysis indicates, Kim Jong Un is relying on China to make sure the USA keeps its security promises. Or to put it more directly, the clear message is: don’t mess with the DPRK, since it has China’s backing.

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China’s socialist model enriches global governance philosophy

I rather like this piece from the Global Times yesterday:

The most discussed challenge to liberal democracy in the West nowadays is the perceived threat of China’s rise and the “Chinese model.” That China has rapidly risen in a development model different from that of the West has startled and upset the West. Does China attempt to overthrow the Western liberal order? Would it spread its development ideas, values and political system to other countries? Such worries haunt many Western scholars, politicians and media outlets.

To figure out whether China is a threat to liberalism, the Economist initiated a debate “Should the West worry about the threat to liberal values posed by China’s rise?” as if liberal values are paramount standards that couldn’t be challenged.

After the Cold War, Western liberal democracy and the market economic system, which are built on core liberal values such as individual freedom, equality and capitalism, gained their momentum. Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political scientist, even declared free-market liberal democracy would become the world’s “final form of human government.”

However, it’s absurd to hold Western liberal democracy was the “end of history.” Since the 2008 financial crisis, the Western world has undergone serious economic, political and social turbulence. Political polarization in the US, the European migrant crisis, Brexit and the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic all indicate the West has been mired in a liberalism crisis.

Fukuyama was compelled to revise his original opinion and turned to fear for the future of liberal democracy. He called to examine the deep structural reasons for dysfunctional democracy. Unfortunately, a more prevailing view is to blame external threats for the fall of liberal democracy, regardless of what deserves more attention is not threat from outside, but from within.

The West should make self-introspection for the liberalism crisis. Liberal ideas and institutions failed to solve the problems facing developing countries. Many developing governments found it hard to govern their country well after copying Western political systems and were plagued by political and social woes. More newly emerging countries have become skeptical about the Western model. In sharp contrast, the Chinese model is gaining popularity and giving hope to those countries longing for rapid development while maintaining independence.

The Chinese model has undoubtedly raised questions over liberal values, but it also enriches development philosophy. There is neither “end of history” nor “end of evolution” for development model. Now it’s the time for the West to seriously reflect upon its own problems and reconsider its values. What it needs to do is to improve and move forward, rather than be obsessed with past success. If it continues to defend its internal decay by fabricating external threats, liberal democracy and institutions will face a bigger crisis.

If you wish to read further, there is also an intriguing article about a Nigerian proposal to change to a one-party system and socialist economy in Nigeria.

Mao’s ‘contradiction analysis’ valid more than 60 years later: on the decline of the USA

Back in 1957, Mao gave a long speech called ‘On Correctly Handling Contradictions Among the People‘ (I am reading it at the moment as part of my Chinese language study). He was thinking about such matters more intensely at the time, since he had been revising part of his lectures on Dialectical Materialism, first given in Yan’an in 1937. That part would become ‘On Contradiction‘, the most important and influential writing on philosophy in China in the twentieth century.

‘On Correctly Handling Contradictions’, has many insights, including the development in a Chinese context of non-antagonistic contradictions’. But I am here interested in his deployment of contradiction analysis to understand developments in international relations.

At one point, he writes:

The United States now controls a majority in the United Nations and dominates many parts of the world – this state of affairs is temporary and will be changed one of these days. China’s position as a poor country denied its rights in international affairs will also be changed – the poor country will change into a rich one, the country denied its rights into one enjoying them – a transformation of things into their opposites. Here, the decisive conditions are the socialist system and the concerted efforts of a united people.

How true this is today, more than 60 years later.

China and DPRK working closely together

With the various coverages of the meeting tomorrow between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, a small but important detail may not have received the attention it deserves. Kim Jong Un and his team flew in an Air China plane from Pyongyang to Singapore. Kim has a plane that he can use, so why a Chinese plane? It is not any plane, but one of those used by members of the Chinese Politburo for overseas travel.

The message is clear: the DPRK has the backing of China in the current process. Indeed, since Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping met in March in Beijing (with a follow-up meeting in Dalian), there have been numerous occasions of close consultation and collaboration.

As usual, the most reliable coverage with the best photographs can be found at KCNA and Rodong Sinmun (here, here and here). Some images of the trip, from Pyongyang’s new international airport to Singapore:

I can say that I too fly with Air China, indeed that I make a point of flying – when I have to fly – only with airlines from socialist countries, as I pointed out some time ago.

 

 

The Socialist Welfare State: A Brief (and Intriguing) History

‘Do you think Europe – especially Scandinavia – is more socialist than China?’

This question used to be more common 7 or 8 years ago. But it came up recently while I was in Yunnan province, in the far southwest of China. It is of course connected with the impression that Scandinavia had a developed welfare system, which some seem to think indicates a socialist influence. And Scandinavians love to cite this one, although by now it is wearing quite thin.

The ‘Scandinavia had’ is quite deliberate in my earlier sentence, but to understand why requires a brief history.

The first country in human history to develop what I have elsewhere called a ‘domestic state’ was the Soviet Union. It happened under Stalin’s watch. In the 1920s, many regulations had been promulgated concerning education, healthcare, pregnancy preparation, maternity leave, childcare, divorce, guardianship and so on (although not unemployment benefits, since there soon was full employment) – the full gamut of matters that had been regarded until then as the domain of the ‘family’, no matter how extended it may have been. But it was only in the 1930s that they could be enacted in a realistic manner. Why? Only with the massive ‘socialist offensive’, with its twin programs of comprehensive industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation, did the Soviet Union have the economic resources to implement them in full. This is not to say that many problems did not happen, for the Soviet Union was making a tumultuous leap to becoming a superpower. As Mao put it later, ‘Progress and at the same time difficulties – this is a contradiction’ (1957). But the contradiction was a feature of a leap into the future.

What did some of the capitalist countries do? They realised that workers were increasingly drawn to the Soviet Union’s model. So the bourgeois governments borrowed some features and sought to institute what became known as the ‘welfare state’. But it was a warped version, predicated on the slogan, ‘from the cradle to the grave’. The state would take care of you, especially if matters beyond your control dealt you a bad hand.

Why warped? The way it was implemented in Europe (and even in the United States for a while with the ‘new deal’) was to neutralise any push by workers and peasants to alter the system itself. A bourgeois state would provide, so why bother with any revolutionary desires. Even more, it became a mechanism for ensuring that everyone in the state’s population remained – or could be retrained – to be productive, and thereby also remain consumers. Crucially, this altered form of the welfare state was restricted to full citizens, producing the framework for the xenophobic charge that ‘immigrants’ want to avail themselves of the benefits of a system to which they were not entitled.

This history has a further twist or two. After the symbolic ‘fall’ of the Berlin Wall in 1989, most countries that had a version of the bourgeois welfare state no longer felt the need to support it. The alternative model of the Soviet Union had imploded, so country after country systematically began to dismantle the ‘welfare state’. So-called ‘cheats’ became the target, such as the demonised ‘single mother’ with multiple offspring who ‘milked’ the system for her benefit. The rhetoric was relentless, ensuring that one plank after another of the bourgeois welfare state was removed. Even Scandinavia began to follow suit, albeit belatedly with the turn of the millennium.

Meanwhile, what was happening in China? Let us deal with the facts rather than mythology. After the communist revolution, a system had developed that may be called ‘Owenite’ (after Robert Owen’s model factories in the UK of the 19th century). Large conglomerates were established, around factories, publication houses, state-owned-enterprises (SOEs) and so on. In these conglomerates, people had everything: accommodation, jobs, dining halls, hospitals, shops, childcare facilities, funeral services … It was dubbed the ‘iron rice bowl’ – a term that originated outside China.

But they were grossly inefficient, sucking up resources, breeding familial corruption and giving little back to the overall system. In the 1980s and into the 1990s, Deng Xiaoping bit the bullet: the conglomerates would have to face the realities not of a ‘planned economy’ but of a ‘socialist market economy’ that has its own distinct Chinese articulation. Many went bankrupt, since they could not manage in the new order. Others thrived, like the Xinhua News Agency. In the process, mistakes were made: workers lost their jobs and were not compensated; farmers lost the healthcare to which they had become accustomed; retirees could no longer rely on the conglomerate to provide for them.

China first had to get its economic act together. As it did so and the resources became available, a whole new system began to be implemented. Farmers who had lost healthcare found a different model in its place. Retirees began to notice that the state was offering a leaner and more efficient system for their security. Workers who had lost their jobs were compensated. In short, a new model of the socialist welfare state was being systematically and carefully rolled out, with an eye on accountability and efficiency. But it goes much further, with a concentrated effort to lift the final 30 million people out of poverty. In short, it is clear that the socialist state has to ensure that it has the resources before implementing such policies.

The upshot: in the current situation we find ourselves at an important crossroads. As the neo-classical model of a capitalist market economy seeks to dismantle ever more vestiges of a bourgeois welfare state that was a response to the appeal of the Soviet Union (of increasingly distant memory), China is gradually and patiently implementing a whole new version of a socialist welfare state.

It should be no surprise that over 87 percent of people in China approve of the direction in which the most powerful socialist country in human history is headed, even while fully aware of the many problems they face.

Australia’s split identity

While I do not pay much attention to the sheer childishness of what passes for ‘politics’ in Australia, I am intrigued by its split identity.

Let me put it this way: about 60,000 years ago a planned migration took place. Those who became the first peoples in Australia came from south-east Asia, heading southward across a series of islands to the mainland. They were homo sapiens, while Neanderthals still roamed Europe. But their arrival made it clear that the country was part of south-east Asia.

Some 240 years ago – by comparison a very short period of time – some Europeans arrived, tried to wipe out the most ancient continuous culture in the world, and tried to shape this part of the world as a western European outpost. It worked for a while, when the immigrants were mostly from the UK. For example, after the Second World War, the total population was 7 million, of which the vast majority were from the UK.

Since then, the shift has been dramatic. Waves of wider European immigration took place, and after 1972, more and more people emigrated from the Middle East, Africa and especially Asia. At the time of writing, the population is almost 25 million. Now those of English ancestry are a clear minority, and in the not too distant future those of European ancestry (like me) will also be a minority.

Why? Each year almost 200,000 immigrants move to Australia – apart from those who come to Australia to study and work. Of these, more than half come from Asia. Indeed, as I write, more than 2 million people who are Australian citizens were born in Asia, let alone those born in Australia of Asian parents over the last few decades.

Anecdotally, earlier this year I attended one of many citizenship ceremonies held each year. About 500 people were present, of which perhaps ten percent were white and most likely of European extraction. The vast majority were from everywhere else in the world.

Some time soon, the country may well revert to its former identity, but in the meanwhile it faces a continuing problem of split identity. Is it a ‘western’ European country that somehow – by a quirk of geography – found itself in another part of the world? Or is it really part of Asia, or perhaps the Asia-Pacific?

Or as a rather insightful article in the Global Times put it, with more immediate relevance:

Canberra must pursue an independent policy toward China. The key issue is Australia’s self-positioning. On the one hand, Australia identities itself as an Asia-Pacific country because Asia is the fastest-growing economic region, so involving itself in Asia’s industrial chain will bring tangible benefits to Australia’s economy. If Australia wants to follow that strategy, it has to carefully deal with its relations with China to enhance bilateral ties.

On the other hand, Australia is used to seeing itself as a member of the Western camp, acting as a US ally over political issues. But politics is bound to affect economic ties and economic problems between the two countries are essentially a political issue. Rethinking its identity will help Australia adopt an appropriate policy to deal with Chinese issues.

 

This article puts it in economic and political terms, but I would add cultural identity in light of the rapidly changing demographics.