By Wang Hongguang (former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Area Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army)
BEIJING, December 2 (ChinaMil) -- Professor Li Dunqiu from China’s Zhejiang University, an expert on the issue of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), recently published an article in Global Times, saying that “some scholars suggest China giving up the DPRK, which is extremely serious.”
I don’t agree with professor Li because right now, there is no such thing as “giving up the DPRK” in China.
First of all, I totally agree with professor Li when he wrote that “China and the DPRK are two independent countries”, but I cannot say the same about his statement that “the two countries have consistent fundamental interests”.
China and the DPRK have their respective national interests. For instance, the DPRK’s possession of nuclear weapon and China’s request for it to give it up are based on different national interests. When it comes to major issues of principle, it’s unnecessary for China to sacrifice its own interests for those of the DPRK.
The DPRK’s possession of nuclear weapon already causes severe threats of nuclear pollution to China’s border areas. To ensure the safety of Chinese civilians living there, China shall not only rigorously criticize the DPRK’s action, but also has every reason to demand that the DPRK’s nuclear facilities be far away from China without posing any nuclear threat. Can we say “the two countries have consistent fundamental interests” on this point?
Besides, the DPRK’s possession of nuclear weapon may instigate Japan and the ROK to do the same. If Russia, China, the ROK, the DPRK and Japan all hold nuclear weapons in the small Northeast Asia, plus the nuclear shadow from the U.S., is there any chance for peace and stability in this region?
That China has adhered to its stance on a series of issues of principle and opposed the DPRK’s actions detrimental to China’s national interests cannot be interpreted as “giving up the DPRK”. China used to clean up the DPRK’s mess too many times, which Professor Li shall be more familiar with than me, but it doesn’t have to do that in the future.
Second, professor Li said that “since the DPRK has a socialist political system, it can hardly have any other geopolitical choice than China”. As a matter of fact, the DPRK has long abandoned Marxism and Leninism as the guiding thought for its party building. It has nothing in common with China ideologically, and it’s neither a proletarian party nor a socialist country in the real sense.
In its 1972 Constitution, the DPRK stipulated that “we shall innovatively apply Marxism and Leninism to the main thoughts of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) as our guideline”, but at the 6th Congress of the KWP in 1980, it turned from Marxism and Leninism to “the revolutionary thoughts of Comrade Kim Il-sung as the only guideline” and regarded him as “the benefactor and father who granted lives to the people”, when the DPRK had given up Marxism and Leninism.
In the Ten Major Principles of party building (overriding the Party Constitution and the Constitution) of 2013, the KWP made it clear that under the guiding thought, “the system of sole Party leader shall be deepened and carried on for generations to come”, and that “the lineage of Mount Paekdu (the Kim lineage), which is the lineage of the Party and the revolution, shall be continued and kept absolutely pure”. Do we see any trace of Marxism here? There are many other similar examples that I hope the expert can tell the ordinary people, so that they can draw a conclusion on their own!
What exists between China and the DPRK is the relationship of national interests, namely national relations, but not a comradeship between socialist parties. It is the DPRK that gave up this comradeship. No common goal, no common road.
The proletarian thought for party building is much more advanced and wiser than the capitalist thought, more progressive than the feudal tyrannical thought, and complies with the trend of social development. In China, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the ruling party, all democratic parties participate in governing the state, and the collective leadership and top leaders of the Party and the state in all generations are selected through consultation and election. In contrast, the DPRK has had three generations of hereditary leaders. Is there anything in common between the two countries here?
The CPC and the Chinese government have always regarded the DPRK as an equal just like any other Party and country that is in a friendly relationship with China. That is the normal relationship between parties and countries.
Furthermore, harmonious co-existence between countries of different political systems can be found all over the world. That “the DPRK can hardly have any other geopolitical choice than China” is the result of its own reclusive policy. China is not to blame for it, nor should it take responsibility for it.
Third, while western countries all demonize the DPRK and interfere in its internal affairs in the name of “human rights”, China refuses to take a part.
It is an indisputable fact that the DPRK has kept away from the international community with rigorous internal control and high alert toward the outside world. Every country has the so-called “human right” issue, including the U.S. itself, which is proven again by the recent incident that a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, shot a 12-year-old black teenager who hold an imitation gun, spurring a nationwide riot.
Frankly speaking, China has no idea about the human right situation in the DPRK. We cannot come to a conclusion based on the statements of a few DPRK defectors, and the United Nations even passed a motion to try the DPRK’s leaders. With no fact-based knowledge about its human right status, there is no basis to judge the DPRK in that regard, and it is natural and reasonable for China to vote against the trial.
China and the DPRK signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1961, which has been renewed twice.
According to the treaty, “once a party is under armed attack by any other country or countries and is in a state of war, the other party shall provide immediate and full military and other assistance.” Being valid till 2021, this treaty already provides the DPRK with actual protection both politically and militarily.
It is also stated in the treaty that “the two parties shall continue to consult on all major international issues concerning the common interests of the two countries.” But has the DPRK consulted with China on its possession of nuclear weapon?
The treaty also states that “the two parties shall continue to make every effort to safeguard peace in Asia and the world and the safety of people in all countries.” If the DPRK is truly committed to the treaty, it wouldn’t have launched a rocket projectile on the route of a Chinese civil plane when it was about to fly over the DPRK, putting the 200-odd crew and passengers in extreme danger. If the DPRK truly honors the treaty, it wouldn’t have captured Chinese fishermen on the high seas near the DPRK, seriously threatening the safety of their lives and property.
The DPRK also repeatedly announced to revoke the Armistice Agreement signed in Panmunjeom, putting itself and the ROK (the U.S.) in a quasi-war state. While the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is still valid, where does the DPRK put China once it enters a war with the ROK (the U.S.)? Can we call this China “giving up DPRK” or is it DPRK’s arbitrary action?
This isn’t about whether the DPRK listens to China or not. The Treaty is there, and what the DPRK did has harmed China’s fundamental interests. I don’t understand how the professor came to the conclusion that “the two countries have consistent fundamental interests”.
Fourth, it is undeniable that as a “strategic barrier” for China, the DPRK is much less important in the era of globalization and informatization both in the geopolitical and geo-military sense.
Historically speaking, the Korean Peninsula was never the main strategic direction for the regime of the Central Plains, but anything happening there would involve the main strategic directions and usually encumber the Central Plains regime, so it was of great importance.
However, in the 21st century, it is of course politically important that the neighboring countries, including the DPRK, are friendly toward China. Which country doesn’t want to be surrounded by kind rather than unkind neighbors? China has always treated its neighboring countries kindly, which was regarded by the international community and some Chinese people as a sign of weakness. Nevertheless, even though we are surrounded by bad neighbors, they cannot stop China’s steps on the way of modernization. China is on the rise.
From a military perspective, it’s only 500 to 600km from the 38th Parallel in the north of the Korean Peninsula to the Chinese border, which is at best the depth of a modern battle. During the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea, it took China only three major campaigns and two-plus months to drive the “United Nations Command” that approached the Chinese border back to the south of the 38th Parallel. The information-based warfare in modern times requires larger space and shorter time, then how useful can the so-call “strategic barrier” be?
Professor Li believes there will be three kinds of results if China “gives up the DPRK”. First, the DPRK will turn to a third country; second, it will collapse; and third, it will plunge into another war on the Korean Peninsula. Such an exaggeration is a little scary.
First of all, the DPRK is never in the arms of China, how can it turn to a third country?
As an expert on the DPRK and the ROK issues, professor Li must be well aware of the following facts. When the Kim Il-sung administration started the Korean War, it didn’t fully take China’s advice. In the 1960s and 1970s, the DPRK was even colder to China than to other countries. After China established diplomatic ties with the U.S. and especially after its reform and opening up, the DPRK has kept making carping comments on it, which didn’t improve until the upheaval in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Second, the collapse of a state doesn’t depend on external forces. If an administration isn’t supported by the people, “collapse” is just a matter of time, and neither “wooing” nor “giving up” would make a big difference. We shall not take the China-DPRK relationship as the tributary relation that once existed in the past.
China isn’t a savior, so it cannot save the DPRK if it is really going to collapse. All that China can do is to make preparations accordingly. Even if the DPRK’s collapse affects northeast China to some extent, that will in no way disrupt China’s journey of modernization.
Third, we must be fully aware that China cannot influence the situation on the Korean Peninsula. When the six-party denuclearization talks cannot continue, how can China be responsible for war there?
If the DPRK decides to “burn the boat and start a war again”, the warring parties won’t target China and China shall keep its distance. Whoever starts the war shall take the responsibility. It is clear to all that there isn’t a “socialist camp” today, and the Chinese people don’t have to fight for any other country.
In sum, the party-to-party and bilateral relations between China and the DPRK shall be carried out on the basis of normal contacts between states and parties. Focusing on China’s national interests and with allowances for those of the DPRK (and any other country for that matter), China shall take a clear and firm stance on matters on its own discretion. To uphold fairness and justice, establish the image of a responsible power, and neither “woo” nor “give up” the DPRK - this should be the basic attitude of China.