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

Categories: East Asia, China, North Korea, South Korea, History, International Relations, Politics
Kim Jong Il's statue at Pyongyang. Photo by Flickr user: Matt Paish (CC: AT-SA) [1]

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

The purge and execution of Jang Song Thaek [2], 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 [3], 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 [4] the Foreign Ministry's lack of backbone:


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 [5] Chinese contemporary history and questioned China and North Korea's alliance:


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 [6] the criticism towards the dictatorship system:


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 [7] [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 [8] 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 [9]. Anonymous Weibo user “Reincarnation-back-to-world” drew the connection [10] explicitly:


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] [11], He Long [12], Peng Dehuai [13], and Lin Biao [14] 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.