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China and North Korea: The Inevitable Fate of Jang Song Thaek Under Dictatorship

Kim Jong Il's statue at Pyongyang. Photo by Flickr user: Matt Paish (CC: AT-SA)

Kim Jong Il's statue at Pyongyang. Photo by Flickr user Matt Paish (CC: AT-SA)

The purge and execution of Jang Song Thaek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has stunned the world, in particular its close neighbor and ally China.

Jang, who was in charge of North Korea's economic reform, worked closely with China fomenting economic cooperation between the two countries. In Jang's indictment, one of the accusations he faced was that he sold off the country's precious resources for cheap.

While the Chinese Foreign Ministry calmly claimed that Jang's execution was “an internal affair” for North Korea, Chinese netizens were outraged and took the change to reflect upon the inhumane nature of dictatorship.

On Twitter-likewebsite Sina Weibo, Lian Pang, a columnist and writer, criticized the Foreign Ministry's lack of backbone:

张成泽被枪毙了,某国外交部发言人说“这是朝鲜的内部事务”。好吧,那发展核武器算不算内部事务?朝鲜发生这样残酷的人道灾难,国际社会其他成员都负有道义责任。[…]如此表态只会给外界一种站在邪恶一边的观感。

Jang Song Thaek was executed and some country's foreign spokesperson said, “This is North Korea's internal affair”. OK, what about nuclear development? Is that internal? What is happening in North Korea is a human disaster and every member of international society should bear responsibility. […] The current gesture gives the world the impression that you are standing on the side of evil.

Christophfer Jing, a writer, reviewed Chinese contemporary history and questioned China and North Korea's alliance:

抗美援朝,无数中华儿女长眠异乡(战斗伤亡36万,非战斗伤亡41万,被俘2.1万),难道就为了传承白头山世袭血统金正恩这个80后暴君?朝鲜对中国的战略价值已成反作用,金家三代深谙中国,玩弄的正是中国,杀张成泽涉及与中国资源合作,一个喜怒无常的君主制,一翻脸就是中国的死敌,一有原子弹,投谁?

So many young Chinese had died in the war to support North Korea against the US (360,000 Chinese soldiers died and 410,000 Chinese civilians died; 21,000 kidnapped). We sacrificed all that to help Kim Jung Un, a post-80s generation dictator, to inherit his throne? The strategic value of North Korea to China is now bringing adverse effects. The three generations of Kim have been fooling China. The execution of Jang Song Thaek is related to his cooperation with China. Once the irrational monarch turns into China's enemy, if he has an atomic bomb, where will he aim it?

Xia Shang, a Chinese novelist, extended the criticism towards the dictatorship system:

三胖杀姑父根本不是国家事件,而是打着党名义的金家私事。张成泽作为独裁政权的捍卫者和帮凶,也不过是入瓮之君,死得其所。专制的游戏规则就是没有规则,一切均以一党一己之私利为纲。也别嘲笑白头山血统的说辞,井冈山血统依然伟大光荣正确。

The fatty's execution of his uncle has nothing to do with national interest. He turns the party into a family business. As a supporter of dictatorship, Jang Song Thaek had entrapped himself. He thus deserved to die. The only rule of dictatorship is no rule. The only consideration is the party's interest. Don't laugh at Paektu Mountain's [North Korea] claim for the legitimacy of Kim's bloodline, we have our own bloodline originating in Jinggang Mountain [the Base of the Chinese Communist Party's Red Army].

Xia Shang's subtle criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's dictatorship has resonated with many web users. Below is a selection of netizens’ comments translated by ChinaSmack:

“Top Tomb”: Power destroys people’s humanity. Anyone in the face of someone of an even higher power is no better than a dog. In a society of totalitarian dictatorship, no one has a sense of security!

mdjswc: With such bloody purges, your own end may probably lies ahead! When even your own uncle cannot escape being purged, on whom can you depend? As the old saying goes: One cannot afford to incur the wrath of the public! Kim Jong-un’s own end may be even more miserable!

Nicolai: Sigh, how similar! In such a country, even the second-in-command doesn’t know if he’ll survive to tomorrow, where he can be an honorable guest yesterday and suddenly a prisoner in the blink of an eye, let alone the ordinary citizens.

In fact, the execution of Jang has reminded many netizens of the great purge during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Anonymous Weibo user “Reincarnation-back-to-world” drew the connection explicitly:

朝鲜对张成泽反革命集团进行大清洗,是当年文革的翻版;当年文革中,灭老刘、杀贺龙、整老彭、戮林彪,挑动全国武斗;也是当年苏联大清洗的翻版;斯大林杀害苏联高级军官老百姓上千万!清洗、镇压、独裁分子都这么干!

The purge of anti-revolutionary Jang Song Thaek in North Korea is a repetition of the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, old fellows Liu [Shaoqi], He Long, Peng Dehuai, and Lin Biao were all killed and the whole nation were armed against each other. It is also a repetition of the USSR great purge. Stalin had thousands of senior officials and ordinary people killed. All dictators enjoy purge and repression.

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  • acmavm

    Hm. Looks like things may get interesting in North Korea. Is there a leader left in the government or military with enough clout that he/she could gather enough powerful supporters to overthrow the loon?

    Fatty cannot afford North Korea to become too modernized. What would he do with a nation of half starved slaves laborers who finally started tet a clue from the outside world just how much better life is on the other side of its borders? Isolation is what allowed three generations of Kims get such a stranglehold on the country.

    I can see were China might get a case of the jitters. Having a raving lunatic on your borders would give one pause. Especially as he keeps trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

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