China’s recent efforts to wield influence over its ally North Korea include a highway connecting the two economies and supporting trade in products ranging from crabs to coal. The latest Chinese overture is a wax model of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, which Chinese officials presented to a North Korean delegation on July 9.
The eerie ceremony comes about a month after Chinese leader Xi Jinping, while visiting the US, committed to the denuclearization of North Korea. In April, without naming Pyongyang directly, Xi implied that the North Korean government was sowing chaos in the region.
The gesture is a reminder that, nuclear skirmishes aside, North Korea’s friendship is vital to China. China fears that a destabilized North Korea might lead to a flood of refugees into China, or worse, American troops on China’s doorstep. No wonder then that Beijing’s top priority is to prop up Pyongyang and maintain steady relations—with wax models.