Reacting to North Korea’s nuclear test today, Chinese bloggers debate a question government officials can’t vocalize for diplomatic reasons: What’s the point of being North Korea’s ally?
China, is a long-time ally of North Korea and while Beijing has condemned the nuclear test, the government never goes so far as to openly question the importance of the Sino-North Korean partnership. Today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement that it was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” (in Chinese) to Pyongyang’s move; the ministry said the government summoned the North Korean ambassador to voice complaint.
In contrast, Chinese bloggers on the country’s microblogging site Sina Weibo explored not just the usefulness of the alliance but how it might hurt China. “North Korean nuclear test” was the second top trending topic on China’s with over 300,000 posts in the last 24 hours as of 7:30 pm Beijing time. One blogger wrote, “Every Chinese person with a conscience right now is asking: Why do we support North Korea?”
A comment by writer and social critic Yao Bo caught the attention of bloggers. “Who can North Korea threaten with its nuke?…What can they do besides threaten China?… There are still people saying [a nuclear North Korea] is a good thing, and they must be mentally ill, beyond hope. Raising a mad dog to protect your house really is the logic of a patriotraitor,” Yao asked, using a term to mean a traitor who acts as a patriot. According to TeaLeaf Nation, more than 450 responded to the post, many of them agreeing: “That fatty Kim really is a mad dog,” one commented.
Debate over China’s alliance with Pyongyang also focused on the Chinese government’s efforts at diplomacy. China provides North Korea with critical aid and other financial support, but critics say Beijing is not effectively wielding its influence. In January, state-run Global Times ran an editorial calling on China to reduce assistance to North Korea if it continues more tests. Within China, some see Beijing as too weak on this issue.
One blogger wrote, “Once again [China] ‘resolutely opposes.’ China is a joke.” Another, using a slang term for China’s Communist Party, said, “The celestial empire is a eunuch.” In a comment that summed up much of Chinese netizen sentiment, Yao said, “North Korea lights off nuclear fireworks to ring in the new year. If China continues to tolerate this thug nation, we will lose big.”