Katy Perry’s classic hit song is one that remains very polarizing – you either hate it or love it. If you are on the side of the former, you know how that song sticks. It goes on and on, forever repeating the chorus as you desperately resist the urge to sing the tune. For those who love the tune, keep reading, because I am certain you will enjoy the read despite our conflicting views.
Dear reader, I know you may be somewhat confused, but Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold” song is similar to the situation of China’s current position on North Korea, and the lingering of Cold War Communism. The polarizing positions people take divide all those who seek to unify the Korean Peninsula, or at the very least desire that human rights be adhered to. China is Katy Perry – once hot toward North Korea’s strategic location and political alignment, the country has slowly but surely turned cold toward the want-to-be deity of the Kim Dynasty.
Despite many of today’s law students being born after the “end” of the Cold War, the lingering tensions of the capitalist versus communist rule is one that can be felt all over the world. For example, in Canada, we can see the tension between the Conservative Party and the NDP, who both have very different political ideologies. However, our political party tensions here in the north are not nearly as palatable as what remains in East Asia. The Korean Peninsula is the meat between the sandwich breads of US-Capitalism-inspired Japan and China’s form of Communism. Each nation has some influence over its respective half – South follows more in line with Japan while North sides with China (more likely than not because of its dependency upon Chinese supplies). It has long been a depravity for the Korean people to be separated by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and separated from loved ones for decades. Yet one important thing to note is how North Korea is almost entirely dependent on China. China has supported North Korea’s exploits and survival by funneling agriculture, energy (oil), machinery, money, and the like into the country to secure the Kim tyranny. I use the word “tyranny” because most North Korean citizens are starving, pillaged, devastated, and—worse—hopeless. I have read and heard the tales of many defectors – from Camp 14’s Shin, to Japanese-Korean Masaji Ishikawa, to Paul Yoon. These people have become outspoken about the horrors that were their lives. Their testimony provides a glimpse into the hell on Earth that is the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Why do I provide all this context? Well, because one of the sole somewhat-presidential things done by a certain Troompa Loompa is the spotlight placed on North Korea and the need to end its madman leader’s reign. A disclaimer on my end: I do NOT believe what President Trump did to highlight human rights abuses in North Korea to be a well-intentioned and intelligent international relations move, but alas, more and more people are talking about North Korea and how to end the novel that was the Cold War (debatable, but that is for another article).
As time has progressed and North Korea has sunk more into the hell it is, China has developed a more capitalist mindset on running business and trade. It is imperative to the Chinese state that good international relations remain intact with the United States more so than with North Korea. This is because the vast amount of imports and exports that occur between these two superpowers. Rational Chinese leadership understood that their North Korean “little brother” was no longer worth the risk of association once Kim Jong-Un came into power. Initially, China backed the young successor who exercised his power through sheer brutality while having basketball players attend his banquet halls. However, under international pressure and scrutiny, China has had to leave its adoptive mentee behind in order to advance its own claims. The once hot supporter of North Korea and its propaganda has agreed to the international sanctions to be implemented and strictly adhered to. China was embracing its inner firework to let its colours burst in favour of international acclaim and economic strategy. However, cold went back to hot during our relaxing winter break.
Off the coast of South Korea, China has been suspected of two violations of international sanctions against North Korea by South Korean personnel. One violation was confirmed while another is being investigated as I write this article. The Chinese government has continuously claimed to maintain stability in the region and support North Korea. Despite international pressure, China resists the call for sanctioning oil due to the potential influx of thousands of North Korean refugees in their Northeastern Provinces. Without its main energy source of oil, further deprivation of the people of North Korea will occur. However, by not adhering wholeheartedly to the international sanctions imposed upon North Korea, China persists in its hot and cold stance with not only Kim Jong-Un but the entire world.
With the wishy-washy temperature of China’s relations with North Korea, there was a milestone on December 11, 2017. The rising tensions between the USA and North Korea have led to Chinese county Changbai and a couple of Jilin Province cities setting up refugee camps for defectors. On the surface, China and its higher-ranking officials deny the existence of refugee camps or sites for North Korean defectors. This is understandable, as China remains a massive rock of power in a hard place. Chinese scholars justify the need for these camps to be established based on the increasing tensions on the Peninsula. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang did not deny the existence of refugee camps in China for North Koreans, but did deny having seen or been aware of any leaked reports of their existence. Most local government officials have remained elusive on the claims of refugee camps. Although these camps are only temporary, the report stated that the refugee camps have livable conditions, being set with shelter, food, and even Wi-Fi. It is an interesting turn of events from China’s unsympathetic deportation of North Korean defectors to its harbouring of defectors as refugees. I am only slightly surprised that China has decided to create refugee camps along the border, as the past few decades have been nothing but terror for North Korean defectors residing in China.
However, it is heartbreaking to note that it is only when Troompa Loompa threatens nuclear button-pressing that China thinks of humanitarian work for the people of North Korea. As much as I can grasp that China is an ally of North Korea (and shudder at the thought), I cannot fathom a reason it has taken the re-ignition of the Cold War for the Chinese government to take action (and even then, it is the local governments doing more than the Central Party). My rationale for China’s refugee camp establishment is both to mend its reputation after its oil supply violations, and the proxy of a Jilian city being only 60 miles away from one of North Korea’s nuclear test sites. However, despite whatever rationale may be argued, I think it’s a significant step in the right direction for China to act as an ally for the actual North Korean people. Maybe China is only cold to the Kim leadership now while hot hot hot for the North Korean people.