LIFE UNDER KIM JONG UN “THE GREAT SUCCESSOR”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

LIFE UNDER KIM JONG UN

Recent North Korean escapees relate how the secretive country has changed under the “Great Successor.”

Illustrations by Dominic Bugatto. Yoonjung Seo assisted in the reporting.

English

(영어)

Korean

(한국어)

“In North Korea, life only gets better if the state helps you. But these days, the state doesn’t help. We’re on our own.”

— The bride, now 23, from Hyesan. Escaped from North Korea in May 2017

When Kim Jong Un became the leader of North Korea almost six years ago, many North Koreans thought that their lives were going to improve. He offered the hope of generational change in the world’s longest-running communist dynasty. After all, he was so young. A millennial. Someone with experience of the outside world.

But the “Great Successor,” as he is called by the regime, has turned out to be every bit as brutal as his father and grandfather before him. Even as he has allowed greater economic freedom, he has tried to seal the country off more than ever, tightening security along the border with China and stepping up the punishments for those who dare to try to cross it. And at home, freedom of speech, and of thought, is still a mirage.

In six months of interviews in South Korea and Thailand, The Washington Post talked with more than 25 North Koreans from different walks of life who lived in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea and managed to escape from it. In barbecue restaurants, cramped apartments and hotel rooms, these refugees provided the fullest account to date of daily life inside North Korea and how it has changed, and how it hasn’t, since Kim took over from his father, Kim Jong Il, at the end of 2011. Many are from the northern parts of the country that border China — the part of North Korea where life is toughest, and where knowledge about the outside world just across the river is most widespread — and are from the relatively small segment of the population that is prepared to take the risks involved in trying to escape.

Some parts of their stories cannot be independently verified because of the secretive nature of the regime, and their names have been withheld to protect their family members still in North Korea. They were introduced to The Post by groups that help North Korean escapees, including No Chain for North KoreaWoorion and Liberty in North Korea.

But in talking about their personal experiences, including torture and the culture of surveillance, they recounted the hardships of daily life under Kim Jong Un’s regime. They paint a picture of a once-communist state that has all but broken down, its state-directed economy at a standstill. Today, North Koreans are making their own way, earning money in an entrepreneurial and often illegal fashion. There are only a few problems in North Korea these days that money can’t solve.

As life inside North Korea is changing, so too are people’s reasons for escaping.

Increasingly, North Koreans are not fleeing their totalitarian state because they are hungry, as they did during the 15 or so years following the outbreak of a devastating famine in the mid-1990s. Now, they are leaving because they are disillusioned.

Market activity is exploding, and with that comes a flow of information, whether as chitchat from traders who cross into China or as soap operas loaded on USB sticks. And this leads many North Koreans to dream in a way they hadn’t before.

Some are leaving North Korea because they want their children to get a better education. Some are leaving because their dreams of success and riches in the North Korean system are being thwarted. And some are leaving because they want to be able to speak their minds.

A NEW KIM AT THE HELM

“Standing at the forefront of the Korean revolution is Kim Jong Un, great successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche [self reliance ideology] and outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”

Korean Central News Agency — Dec. 19, 2011

The young mother

젊은 어머니

From: Hoeryong, Age: 29

Escaped in 2014

I could see how young he was, and I hoped that maybe things were going to get better. We were given some rations through our neighborhood association — we even got meat and fish — at the time he took over.

The preschooler

유치원생

From: Hoeryong, Age: 7

Escaped in 2014

I remember how fat he was. He had a very fat face like a pig.

As the regime started preparing for Kim’s succession, it put out a song that everyone in the country was made to learn, called “Footsteps.” The idea was that Kim was following in the footsteps of his father and would lead the country into a glorious future.

 3:42
Watch North Korea’s music video for its song ‘Footsteps’

The money man

돈 남자

From: Hyesan, Age: 43

Escaped in 2015

We heard the song “Footsteps” and we were told to memorize it so [we] knew that he was going to be the leader after Kim Jong Il. We were told how great he was, that he could ride a horse when he was 5 years old and shoot a gun when he was 3. Of course we didn’t believe these things, but if you laughed or said anything, you’d be killed.

The university student

대학생

From: Sariwon, Age: 37

Escaped in 2013

I was in my second year at the university when this person was introduced to us as our new leader. I thought it was a joke. Among my closest friends, we were calling him a piece of s—. Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.

The drug dealer

마약상

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

I created some kind of fantasy in my mind about Kim Jong Un. Because he was so young, I thought he was going to open North Korea’s doors, but after he took power and I lived three years under him, life became harder.

MONEY TALKS

In theory, North Korea is a bastion of socialism, a country where the state provides everything, including housing, healthcare, education and jobs. In reality, the state economy barely operates anymore. People work in factories and fields, but there is little for them to do, and they are paid almost nothing. A vibrant private economy has sprung up out of necessity, one where people find ways to make money on their own, whether through selling homemade tofu or dealing drugs, through smuggling small DVD players with screens called “notels” over the border or extracting bribes.

The university student

대학생

From: Sariwon, Age: 37

Escaped in 2013

North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market. No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.

The hairdresser

미용사

From: Hyesan, Age: 23

Escaped in 2016

I had to drop out of teachers college when I was 19 because my father became ill so I needed to work. I started doing people’s hair at my house. All the women wanted perms. I charged 30 [Chinese] yuan for a regular perm or 50 yuan for a perm with better products. But it was still hard to make money. [Thirty yuan is about $4.50.]

The farmer

농부

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

We lived in the city center, but we rented some land in the foothills of the mountains and grew corn there. During planting and harvest season, we would wake up at 4 a.m. and walk three hours to reach the farmland. We’d take a little break for lunch or a snack, then work until 8 p.m. before walking home again. Doing the weeding was the hardest because we had to get rid of them by hand. And we’d buy beans from the market and make tofu that we’d sell from our house. Our profit was less than 5,000 won [60 cents at the black market rate] a day. But because the bean price fluctuates, sometimes we were left with nothing at all.

North Koreans first learned how to be entrepreneurs during the famine, when they had to make money to survive. While men had to continue to show up for work in dormant factories, women would turn corn into noodles and keep a little for themselves but sell the rest so they could buy more corn for the following day. Homeless children would steal manhole covers to sell as scrap metal. Markets began to appear and took hold. North Koreans used to joke you could buy everything there except cats’ horns.

These days, you can probably buy cats’ horns, too.

 2:03
Look inside a market in North Korea

The bean trader

콩 상인

From: Hyesan, Age: 23

Escaped in 2014

I had an aunt in Pyongyang who sold beans in the market there. I would buy what she needed from various farmers and get it to her. I’d pay people to pack up the beans into sacks, pay porters to take them to the station, get them onto the train. You have to smooth the way with money. My uncle is in the military, so his position provided protection for my aunt’s business. Of course, my aunt was the main earner in the house. It’s the women who can really make money in North Korea.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans now work outside the country, in lumber yards and garment factories and on construction sites, in China, Russia and other countries, earning foreign currency. Generally, two-thirds of their pay goes to the regime, and they’re allowed to keep the rest.

The construction worker

건설 노동자

From: Pyongyang, Age: 40

Escaped in 2015

I wanted to earn money for my family and buy a house, so I paid $100 to bribe my way into an overseas construction job. I was sent to St. Petersburg. We lived at the construction site and would work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or sometimes until midnight in the summer, then we’d go back to our dormitory to eat. We worked seven days a week, but we could finish early on Sundays — 7 p.m. — and that was nice. My whole purpose for being there was to make lots of money and go home proud of my achievement. I still remember the first time I got paid. It was 1,000 rubles. When I finished work at 10 p.m., I went to the store and saw that a bottle of beer was 27 rubles. I thought, wow I’m rich.

As the economy and the rules that govern it change, there are more and more gray areas that can be exploited. That means that illegal trade and activity have blossomed, too.

The drug dealer

마약상

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

I did so many things that I wasn’t supposed to do. I worked as a broker transferring money and connecting people in North Korea with people in South Korea through phone calls. I arranged reunions for them in China. I smuggled antiques out of North Korea and sold them in China. I sold ginseng and pheasants to China. And I dealt ice [methamphetamines.]. Officially, I was a factory worker, but I bribed my way out of having to go to work. If you don’t operate this way in North Korea, you have nothing.

The doctor

의사

From: Hyesan, Age: 42

Escaped in 2014

The salary for doctors was about 3,500 won a month. That was less than it cost to buy one kilogram of rice. So of course, being a doctor was not my main job. My main job was smuggling at night. I would send herbal medicine from North Korea into China, and with the money, I would import home appliances back into North Korea. Rice cookers, notels, LCD monitors, that kind of thing.

From the biggest cities to the smallest villages, there is now some kind of market building where people can sell their wares and keep their profits. Some are state-run, some are state-sanctioned, some are ad hoc. The markets have been retroactively legalized by the regime.

Money is now needed for nearly everything — even for the parts of communist life that the Kim regime crows about providing, like housing and schooling. Bribery and corruption have become endemic, undermining the regime by loosening controls and creating incentives that may not always be in line with Kim’s priorities.

The farmer

농부

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

Technically, you don’t have to pay to go to school, but the teachers tell you that you have to submit a certain amount of beans or rabbit skins that can be sold. If you don’t submit, you get told off continuously, and that’s why students stop going to school. The kids are hurt just because the parents can’t afford it.

The young mother

젊은 어머니

From: Hoeryong, Age: 29

Escaped in 2014

I used to pay the teachers at my daughter’s school so they would look after her better than others. I would give them 120,000 won at a time — that’s enough to buy 25 kilograms of rice — twice a year. If you don’t pay the teachers, they won’t make any effort.

The fisherman

어부

From: Ryongchon, Age: 45

Escaped in July 2017

I lived through all three Kims, but our life was not getting any better for any of us. We all have to pay for Kim Jong Un’s projects, like Ryomyong Street [a residential development in Pyongyang]. We had to contribute 15,000 North Korean won per household [more than four months’ salary] to the government for that street.

The drug dealer

마약상

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

My main business was selling ice. I think that 70 or 80 percent of the adults in Hoeryong city were using ice. My customers were just ordinary people. Police officers, security agents, party members, teachers, doctors. Ice made a really good gift for birthday parties or for high school graduation presents. It makes you feel good and helps you release stress, and it really helps relations between men and women. My 76-year-old mother was using it because she had low blood pressure, and it worked well. Lots of police officers and security agents would come to my house to smoke, and of course, I didn’t charge them — they were my protection. They would come by during their lunch break, stop by my house. The head of the secret police in my area was almost living at my house.

“Lots of police officers and security agents would come to my house to smoke, and of course I didn’t charge them — they were my protection.”

The ability to make money, sometimes lots of money, through means both legal and illegal has led to visible inequality in a country that has long touted itself as an egalitarian socialist paradise. This could be a potential source of disruption. Bean traders and drug dealers and everyone in between have the prospect of making a decent living. Those working only in official jobs, whether they be on a state-owned ostrich farm or in a government ministry in Pyongyang, earn only a few dollars a month and get little in the way of rations to supplement their meager salaries.

The rich kid

부자 인 아이

From: Chongjin, Age: 20

Escaped in 2014

Skating rinks opened in 2013, and rollerblading became a really big thing. Rich kids had their own rollerblades. We’d carry them slung over our shoulders as we walked to the rink — it was a status symbol, a sign that you have money. I bought my rollerblades at the market. They were pink, and it cost 200 Chinese yuan. That’s the same price as 30 kilograms of rice. It’s unthinkable for poor kids.

The construction worker

건설 노동자

From: Pyongyang, Age: 40

Escaped in 2015

There were long periods where we didn’t get paid. I once went for six months without getting any salary at all. We lived in a shipping container at the construction site. We were given rice and cabbage and one egg per person per day, and we had an electric coil in our container that we could cook on. We needed some protein because our work was so hard, so we started buying pigskin at the market because it was cheap. Washing was like a special occasion. But if you went to the bathhouse, you would miss out on work. Once I didn’t bathe for two months. We didn’t think anything of it. It was just the way we lived.

“There were long periods where we didn’t get paid. I once went for six months without getting any salary at all.”

The rich kid

부자 인 아이

From: Chongjin, Age: 20

Escaped in 2014

Cellphones are a big thing. To be able to afford a smartphone, you had to come from a rich family. Of course, there were some poor kids at my school, but I didn’t hang out with them. I had an Arirang smartphone that cost $400. When boys came up to talk to me, I’d check out their phone. If they had one of those old-style phones with buttons, I wasn’t interested.

The markets are the distribution point not just for goods, but also for information. Chatter, rumors, illicit foreign media.

The farmer

농부

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

Women make their living in the market, and while they’re sitting there at the stalls, they talk. So the market is a great place to learn about the outside world.

The phone connector

전화 커넥터

From: Hoeryong, Age: 49

Escaped in 2013

I watched lots of [smuggled] movies and soap operas on USB sticks from the market. I would plug them into my TV. Vendors who are selling ordinary things like batteries or rice or whatever, they hide the USBs inside under the counter. When you go into the market you say to the vendors: Do you have anything delicious today? That’s the code. USBs are also good because they are so easy to hide, and you can just break them if you get caught.

“When you go into the market you say to the vendors: Do you have anything delicious today?”

The fisherman

어부

From: Ryongchon, Age: 45

Escaped in July 2017

In the past, if you watched Chinese movies on USBs you were okay. You got put in a labor camp only if you were caught with South Korean or American movies. But now, under Kim Jong Un, you get sent to a labor camp if you’re caught watching Chinese movies, too. The police and the security services and government officials live better these days. The more people they catch, the more money they earn.

The teenage prisoner

십대 죄수

From: Hyesan, Age: 22

Escaped in 2013

I was 8 years old when I started watching foreign movies. I always liked watching romantic South Korean dramas like “My Fair Lady.” I loved the way that women were being cherished. North Korea is a very male-oriented society, men never bother about taking care of women. And I liked to look at their fancy cars and houses.

The accordion player

아코디언 연주자

From: Hamhung, Age: 25

Escaped in 2015

My mom worked in the market selling home appliances, so she had a way to get DVDs. I watched Chinese, Indian and Russian movies, and lots of South Korean soap operas. I thought that if I got to South Korea, I could do anything I wanted.

REPRESSION AND DISILLUSIONMENT

It is impossible to overstate the pervasiveness of the personality cult surrounding the Kims in North Korea. Founding President Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il and his grandson, the current leader, Kim Jong Un form a kind of holy trinity in North Korea. There is no criticizing them or questioning the system — at least not without risking your freedom and the freedom of your entire family. Your life itself could be at stake.

The preschooler

유치원생

From: Hoeryong, Age: 7

Escaped in 2014

I learned songs about the general and about the Kim family and how great Kim Il Sung was.

The elementary schoolgirl

초등학생

From: Ryongchon, Age: 7

Escaped in July 2017

We got gifts on Kim Jong Un’s birthday: candy and cookies and gum and puffed rice. I was so grateful to him for giving me all these sweets. We would stand up in class and say, “Thank you, General Kim Jong Un.”

“We would stand up in class and say, ‘Thank you, General Kim Jong Un.’”

The university student

대학생

From: Sariwon, Age: 37

Escaped in 2013

We had ideological education for 90 minutes every day. There was revolutionary history, lessons about Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un. Of course, they taught us about why we needed nuclear weapons, and they would tell us that we needed to make sacrifices in our daily lives so they could build these weapons and protect our country, keep the nation safe. I was so sick and tired of hearing about all this revolutionary history, I was so sick of calling everyone “comrade.” I didn’t care about any of that stuff.

The young mother

젊은 어머니

From: Hoeryong, Age: 29

Escaped in 2014

Everybody knew that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un were both liars, that everything is their fault, but it’s impossible to voice any opposition because we are under such tight surveillance. If someone is drunk and says Kim Jong Un is a son of a bitch, you’ll never see them again.

The doctor

의사

From: Hyesan, Age: 42

Escaped in 2014

It’s like a religion. From birth, you learn about the Kim family, learn that they are gods, that you must be absolutely obedient to the Kim family. The elites are treated nicely, and because of that they make sure that the system stays stable. But for everyone else, it’s a reign of terror. The Kim family uses terror to keep people scared, and that makes it impossible to stage any kind of social gathering, let alone an uprising.

The construction worker

건설 노동자

From: Pyongyang, Age: 40

Escaped in 2015

We had education sessions when we would go back to the main building and into a big room where there were portraits of the leaders. Everyone had to bow and buy bunches of flowers to lay in front of the portraits. There would be a speech by the boss, who was a party member. We would hear about how Kim Jong Un had done this and this and that [he] was working so hard for the party and for the nation and for the people. I believed it up until the Kim Jong Un era, but this exaggeration was just too much. It just didn’t make sense.

The money man

돈 남자

From: Hyesan, Age: 43

Escaped in 2015

Every month there was special instruction about Kim Jong Un. It came down from Pyongyang to the neighborhood associations. We were told that Kim Jong Un wanted to know everything so that he could take proper care of everyone, help everyone. Nobody believed this because if Kim Jong Un knew we had no electricity and were eating corn rice [imitation rice made from ground corn], why wasn’t he doing anything about it?

The bean trader

콩 상인

From: Hyesan, Age: 23

Escaped in 2014

There was this story going around that Kim Il Sung had asked Kim Jong Un to get him an apple. Kim Jong Un asked for a shovel because he wanted to bring the whole tree. It was the kind of joke that the secret police would create. Instead of just doing top-down teaching, they would also create stories like this [about devotion to the regime] because they thought that their propaganda would circulate better as rumors and would seem more convincing.

North Korea operates as a vast surveillance state, with a menacing state security department called the Bowibu as its backbone. Its agents are everywhere and operate with impunity.

The regime also operates a kind of neighborhood watch system. Every district in every town or city is broken up into neighborhood groups of 30 or 40 households, each with a leader who is responsible for coordinating grass-roots surveillance and encouraging people to snitch.

The young mother

젊은 어머니

From: Hoeryong, Age: 29

Escaped in 2014

People in each neighborhood association are always checking up on each other. If one family seems to be living better than everyone else, then all the neighbors try to find out how they are making their money. Everybody is sensitive because if someone seems to be living well, then people get jealous of that house. Nobody has to be asked to bring that wealthy family down and make sure that this wealthy family loses their money. When you see a family lose their house, that feels good. That’s why it’s important not to show off how wealthy you are.

The farmer

농부

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

Of course, I thought about the outside world, but if you say, “I want to go to China or South Korea,” then it can be reported by an informant to the security services. You can think it, but you can’t say it. You never know who is going to snitch on you. We often heard and saw how Chinese people had money because Chinese people used to come to North Korea to sell things, so we thought it would be nice to live there.

The rich kid

부자 인 아이

From: Chongjin, Age: 20

Escaped in 2014

There were youth leaders who would patrol around, looking for things that we weren’t supposed to be doing. If you were wearing jeans or skinny pants, or if you had a manicure or your hair was too long, you would get in trouble. They would sometimes check your phone to see if you had any South Korean songs. I got busted for this, but I got out of it by buying them a box of 20 bottles of beer.

“They would sometimes check your phone to see if you had any South Korean songs.”

For those who ran afoul of the regime in ways that money could not solve, the punishment could be harsh.

The teenage prisoner

십대 죄수

From: Hyesan, Age: 22

Escaped in 2013

When I was 16, I was staying at my grandma’s house and there was a banging on the door late at night. Two secret police officers took me to the police station and asked me: “Where are your parents?” I told them I didn’t know. It turned out that they had gone missing and I suspected that my mom’s business associates, when they realized this, planted a whole lot of stuff on her, said that she was the mastermind behind this big smuggling operation. The police yelled at me: “You’re just like your mother. You probably have fantasies about China, too.” They slapped my face about five times.

The phone connector

전화 커넥터

From: Hoeryong, Age: 49

Escaped in 2013

The first time I went to prison, I had been caught helping people make phone calls to their relatives in South Korea. I was sentenced to four months’ hard labor, building a road on the side of a mountain that they said we needed in case there was a war. The men did the digging and the women had to carry rocks and soil.

Escapees from North Korea’s gruesome political prisons have recounted brutal treatment over the years, including medieval torture with shackles and fire and being forced to undergo abortions by the crudest methods. Human rights activists say that this appears to have lessened slightly under Kim. But severe beatings and certain kinds of torture — including being forced to remain in stress positions for crippling lengths of time — are commonplace throughout North Korea’s detention systems, as are public executions.

 1:39
Clip: Kang Na-ra in the ‘Jangmadang Generation’

The teenage prisoner

십대 죄수

From: Hyesan, Age: 22

Escaped in 2013

I was interrogated again by the secret police, and they wanted to know about my mother’s business. They were slapping me around the face again. They always go for the face. I was beaten severely that time. They pushed me so hard against the wall that I had blood coming from my head. I still get a headache sometimes. While I was there they made me sit with my legs crossed and my arms resting on my knees and my head always down. If you move at all or if you try to stretch your legs out, they will yell at you and hit you. I had to stay like that for hours on end.

The money man

돈 남자

From: Hyesan, Age: 43

Escaped in 2015

In 2015, a money transfer went bad — the woman I’d given the money to got caught and she ratted on me — and I was put in detention. I spent two months there. I wasn’t treated like a human being — they beat me, they made me sit in stress positions where I couldn’t lift my head. Two times they slapped my face and kicked me during interrogation, but I was not beaten up badly. Maybe because I was not a nobody, maybe they feared that I knew someone who could get back at them.

Starvation is often part of the punishment, even for children. The 16-year-old lost 13 pounds in prison, weighing only 88 pounds when she emerged.

The teenage prisoner

십대 죄수

From: Hyesan, Age: 22

Escaped in 2013

We got up at 6 a.m. every day and went to bed at 11 p.m., and in between we would be working the whole time, shoveling cement or lugging sacks, except for lunch. Lunch was usually steamed corn. I was too scared to eat. I cried a lot. I didn’t want to live.

The phone connector

전화 커넥터

From: Hoeryong, Age: 49

Escaped in 2013

Even though we were working so hard in prison camp, all we got to eat was a tiny bit of corn rice and a small potato. By the time I got out, I was so malnourished I could hardly walk.

It is this web of prisons and concentration camps, coupled with the threat of execution, that stops people from speaking up. There is no organized dissent in North Korea, no political opposition.

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The drug dealer

마약상

From: Hoeryong, Age: 46

Escaped in 2014

If you make problems, then your whole family gets punished. That’s why people don’t want to make any trouble. If I get punished for my wrongdoing, that’s one thing. But it’s my whole family that would be put at risk if I did something. North Koreans have seen that Kim Jong Un killed his own uncle, so we understand how merciless he can be. That’s why you can’t have an uprising in North Korea.

The university student

대학생

From: Sariwon, Age: 37

Escaped in 2013

The secret to North Korea’s survival is the reign of terror. Why do you think North Korea has public executions? Why do you think they block all communications? Why do you think North Koreans leave, knowing that they will never see their families again? It shows how bad things are. All our rights as people have been stripped away.

The phone connector

전화 커넥터

From: Hoeryong, Age: 49

Escaped in 2013

If you speak out against the system, you will immediately be arrested. And if you do something wrong, then three generations of your family will be punished. In 2009, I heard there was a going to be some kind of coup launched in Chongjin and that all of the people involved were executed. When you hear about cases like this, of course you’re scared. So instead of trying to do something to change the system, it’s better just to leave.

Some people do leave, but not that many. It’s incredibly risky and logistically difficult to get around the border guards and the barbed wire. Unknown thousands cross into China each year. Some remain in China, almost always young women who get sold to poor Chinese men in the countryside who can’t get a wife any other way. Some get caught and sent back — to certain imprisonment.

The repatriated wife

송환 된 아내

From: Nampo, Age: 50

Escaped North Korea for the last time in 2016

I had lived in China for 20 years, but someone must have reported me. I was sent back to North Korea, and I spent two and a half years in a prison camp. [After she had left once more for China], I knew I couldn’t be repatriated again. I thought that it would be the end of my life.

But each year, a thousand or so North Koreans make it to South Korea. In the 20-odd years since the famine, only 30,000 North Koreans have made it to the southern side of the peninsula.

During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, almost all the North Koreans who fled were escaping out of hunger or economic need. But the explosion of markets has improved life for many. Today, more people are leaving North Korea because they are disillusioned with the system, not because they can’t feed their families.

The accordion player

아코디언 연주자

From: Hamhung, Age: 25

Escaped in 2015

I was ambitious. I wanted to be a party member and enjoy all the opportunities that come with that. My dream was to make lots of money and be a high-ranking government official. Family background means so much in North Korea, but I had family in China and I realized that this would stop me from being able to follow my dreams. I left because I didn’t have the freedom to do what I wanted to do.

The bean trader

콩 상인

From: Hyesan, Age: 23

Escaped in 2014

I wanted to progress in life, I wanted to go to university, but because my mother had defected to China, it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go any further. It looked like I would be stuck in North Korea where I was. I could have moved, lived, no problem, but I felt like I didn’t have any future in North Korea. That’s why I decided to leave.

The meat delivery guy

고기 배달원

From: Undok, Age: 23

Escaped in 2014

We were told in school that we could be anybody. But after graduation, I realized that this wasn’t true and that I was being punished for somebody else’s wrongdoing. I realized I wouldn’t be able to survive here. So for two years, I looked for a way out. When I thought about escaping, it gave me a psychological boost.

The doctor

의사

From: Hyesan, Age: 42

Escaped in 2014

I hoped to work abroad as a doctor in the Middle East or Africa. But to work overseas you have to pass security screening to make sure you’re ideologically sound and aren’t going to defect. That’s a problem that money can’t solve and that’s where I got blocked. I was very angry, very annoyed. I cursed our society. I am a very capable person, and I was a party member, but even I couldn’t make it.

The construction worker

건설 노동자

From: Pyongyang, Age: 40

Escaped in 2015

I worked for three and a half years, but I made only $2,000 during that time. We were allowed to work overseas for five years maximum, and I was hoping to save $10,000 and return home proud. I realized it wasn’t going to happen, so I started looking for a chance to escape.

The university student

대학생

From: Sariwon, Age: 37

Escaped in 2013

I was so disgusted with the system. I didn’t have the freedom to speak my mind, or to travel anywhere I wanted, or even to wear what I wanted. It was like living in a prison. We were monitored all the time by our neighborhood leader, by the normal police, by the secret police. If you ask me what was the worst thing about North Korea, I’d say: Being born there.

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China not yet ready to invade Taiwan ???

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TAIPEI TIMES)

 

China not yet ready to invade Taiwan

By Ray Song 宋磊

Peter Enav, a former Taiwan correspondent for The Associated Press, on Tuesday last week published an article on the Web site Taiwan Sentinel, entitled: “Taiwan Under the Gun: An Urgent Call to Action,” in which he warned that the three conditions required for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to consider an attack on Taiwan are close to being fulfilled.

Enav believes that as soon as the middle of next year, China’s military will have completed its readiness to the extent where it could decide to launch an invasion of the nation.

The three major conditions, as Enav sees it, are: One, China must feel certain that the “political option for unification” is now impossible; two, China’s military must be ready and able to launch an unimpeded amphibious attack across the Taiwan Strait — and feel confident that it can crush any post-invasion resistance; and three, Beijing must believe the international fallout and economic sanctions following an invasion of Taiwan would not outweigh the gain of unifying the nation with China.

These three conditions tally with the basic criteria for an invasion that have been put forward by Beijing in the past.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has said that China would experience a political and cultural renaissance that could endure for up to 200 years. Implied within this overall goal is a timetable for the unification of Taiwan.

Looking at this timetable, China would not be ready by launch an attack on Taiwan until 2021 at the earliest. In reality, while the PLA’s Rocket Force possesses long-range missile strike capability, China’s military still lacks sufficient transport and lift capability and also still needs to first shore up its core strategic interests in the East and South China seas and further increase the strength of its forces before it can consider invading the nation.

At present, it would be difficult for the PLA to muster sufficient forces to mount a successful invasion. For these reasons, Enav’s warning that the PLA would be ready to attack Taiwan by next year seems somewhat alarmist.

Furthermore, as the recent high-level economic dialogue between the US and China shows, the two countries are still at loggerheads on trade, as they have been for some time.

Economic issues never exist in isolation but are invariably part of a wider political, military and diplomatic picture. If the trade dispute between the US and China is not resolved and the relationship sours, Washington would use the prospect of warships from the US military’s Pacific Fleet forces stopping over in Taiwan to deter Beijing.

US President Donald Trump recently approved a plan by the Pentagon that allows the US Navy to conduct full-year passages through international waters in the South China Sea illegally claimed by China as its own.

The White House clearly intends to use freedom of navigation as a means to respond to Beijing’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. It is also clear that containment of China has already become established US policy. The US would not easily allow the PLA to attack Taiwan.

The US is still the only superpower and, while willing to cooperate with Beijing in many areas, Washington is increasingly wary of China and employs military and diplomatic means to contain it. Competition between the two nations is intensifying, which could benefit Taiwan.

President’s Of China-Russia Want North Korea To Nuke U.S.

President’s Of China-Russia Want North Korea To Nuke U.S.

 

I am aware that this title is a pretty brash statement yet if I did not believe that it is the truth I would not have used it. When I say that the governments of China and Russia and their current Presidents want the crazy mass murderer in North Korea, Kim Jong Un to nuke the U.S. I am referring to our military bases in the Pacific. It is no secret that the leaders of China and Russia do not want the U.S. military to be in the Pacific Ocean. We have bases in southern Japan, Hawaii and Guam as well as ports of call in South Korea and the Philippines and lets not forget the Naval Base at Long Beach California.

 

As most of you are aware, China under their Dictator President Xi Jinping has decided that all of the ‘South China Sea’ belongs to them. China is making an unprecedented push to take away all of the Sea, Air and Land rights of all of the other Nations in South East Asia. The only other nation with the ability to say no we will not allow this to happen is the U.S.. China is also making major land claims to their southwest, west and northwest. What China is trying to do is to create a situation where they control all chemical and mineral deposits in all of these regions. They also are trying to create a situation where no freight or air travel is allowed in ‘their’ region without their approval. I personally also believe that once China has secured this power that they will then insist on a ‘toll’ system where no freight or air travel is allowed without paying China’s ‘fee’s.’ If you think that what I am saying is a stretch, China’s debt to income ratio is currently at 328%. Economists have told us for years that once a country passes 100% debt to income ratio that the country is in danger of financial collapse.

 

China and Russia’s President Putin would love nothing more than for the U.S. to leave the Pacific. They both complain about the military drills each year that the U.S. and South Korea hold off of the east coast of South Korea yet China and Russia hold their own combined drills off the coast of North Korea. Yesterday in Beijing the Communist Ruling elite gave President Xi Jinping unprecedented authority making it to where if a person says any thing against their President that in doing so you have committed a crime against the Communist Party which in almost all cases will get you life in prison with hard labor or simply hung or shot. The main thing that seems to hold the alliance of Russia with China is Russia’s President Putin’s hate of Democracy and that right now Russia is selling China a lot of Russian oil. Economics and power folks, economics and power.

 

China with the help of billions of dollars from Wal-Mart each year has been spending a huge part of their GDP each year under Xi Jinping on their military buildup. Russia and North Korea have been doing the same thing, minus Wal-Mart’s help. Russia and North Korea have been starving their own people for many years in order to use that money for their leaders personal gains (the Pentagon says that Putin has salted away about $200 billion dollars for himself), I haven’t heard or read any comments on how much wealth Kim Jong Un as stolen from the North Korean people, as he starves them.

 

The Pentagon says that they believe North Korea has about 8-10 Nukes at this present time. We have the ability to shoot down many missiles in all of the regions where we have Pacific military groupings yet reality is that a missile here or there could possibly get through our defenses. Even if we are successful at shooting down every missile in doing so would cause and EMP which will knockout all electronics for many miles around in every direction. My question to our government/military is, if North Korea fires a nuke at a location, lets say Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and we shoot it down thus causing an EMP, if another missile is following 5 or 10 minutes later, will we be able to shoot it down? Will the EMP kill our defense systems leaving us wide open for a second or third missile?

 

President Trump keeps saying that he wants China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop and to dismantle their nuclear program and yes, I do believe that President Xi Jinping could easily do this if it was in his interest to do so, but it is not! If you think that President Xi Jinping or Russia’s President Putin care at all about the people of North Korea you are being delusional. China has made it very clear to the United States government that they will never allow a non-Communist government to be in place in North Korea. They have also made it very clear that if the U.S. or any of our allies do a preemptive strike again North Korea that China will come to their defense. One would think that all parties involved know that if North Korea fires a Nuke at us or our allies that we would then totally destroy North Korea. Yet if this event happened at the same time the U.S. military bases in their area of the globe were destroyed, China’s government as well as Russia’s would be more that willing to except those results.

Why China is a Ponzi scheme – Victor Shih

(I FOUND THIS ARTICLE ON GOOGLE PLUS AT THE CHINA SPEAKERS BUREAU)

 

Why China is a Ponzi scheme – Victor Shih

Victor Shih

Calculating China’s debt has been a major political game, andpolitical analyst Victor Shih claims the country’s debt “around 328% of GDP in May”, writes Livemint. The central bank overcalculated banking assets, he says.

Livemint:

Prof. Victor Shih at the University of California at San Diego thinks that the PBoC estimates of banking system assets are overstated because there could be double-counting. He has come up with his own calculations in a new brief for the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Germany (Merics’ China Monitor: “Financial Instability In China: Possible Pathways And Their Likelihood”, 20 October). According to him, overall credit to the non-financial sector (including households, Central and local governments) from banking and non-banking channels (including shadow-banking channels) was around 328% of GDP in May. For comparison, the Bank for International Settlements puts this number at 257.8% as of March. Given this huge debt burden, China’s interest payments are rising much faster than its nominal GDP. He notes tersely, “China as a whole is a Ponzi unit.” That does not leave much room for doubt.

More at Livemint.

Victor Shih is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

Are you looking for more strategic experts at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.

 

China lifts Xi’s status to most powerful leader in decades

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

China lifts Xi’s status to most powerful leader in decades


Chinese President Xi Jinping, front row center, leads other cadres to raise their hands to show approval of work reports during the closing ceremony for the 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)
 October 24 at 2:39 AM
BEIJING — The ruling Communist Party on Tuesday formally lifted Xi Jinping’s status to China’s most powerful ruler in decades, setting the stage for the authoritarian leader to tighten his grip over the country while pursuing an increasingly muscular foreign policy and military expansion.The move to insert Xi’s name and dogma into the party’s constitution alongside the party’s founders came at the close of a twice-a-decade congress that gathered the country’s ruling elite alongside rank-and-file party members. It not only places him in the first rank with past leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, but also effectively makes any act of opposing him tantamount to an attack on the party itself.

“The Chinese people and nation have a great and bright future ahead,” Xi told party delegates as the meeting came to a close after delegates approved the addition of Xi’s ideology of “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” to the party charter.

“Living in such a great era, we are all the more confident and proud, and also feel the heavy weight of responsibility upon us,” he said.

The concept Xi has touted is seen as marking a break from the stage of economic reform ushered in by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and continued under his successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. The placement of Xi’s thought among the party’s leading guidelines also comes five years into his term — earlier than his predecessors.

“In every sense, the Xi Jinping era has begun in earnest,” said Zhang Lifan, an independent political commentator in Beijing. “Only Mao’s name was enshrined in the party ideology while he was still alive. We’re opening something that hasn’t been broached before.”

For centuries, Chinese emperors were accorded ritual names that signaled either they were successors in a dynastic line or the founder of an entirely new dynasty. What Xi accomplished this week was a modern equivalent of the latter, Zhang said.

“He wants to join that pantheon of leaders,” he said.

Despite being elevated to the status of both a political and theoretical authority in the party, Xi still lacks the broad popular support of the Chinese public that Mao had enjoyed, said Zhang Ming, a political analyst in Beijing who recently retired from a prestigious university.

“This (elevation) is a result of the party’s political system and not of the sincere support of the people’s hearts,” Zhang Ming said. “If he can achieve that, he would become Mao.”

Xi has described his concept as central to setting China on the path to becoming a “great modern socialist country” by midcentury. This vision has at its core a ruling party that serves as the vanguard for everything from defending national security to providing moral guidance to ordinary Chinese.

He’s set the target dates of 2021 — the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding — and the People’s Republic’s centenary in 2049 — for the establishment of a prosperous, modern society. China has the world’s second-largest economy and legions of newly wealthy urban residents, but raising living standards for millions of people continues to be a challenge.

Zhang Ming, the retired professor, said the goals Xi laid out were lofty but mostly constituted mere rhetoric. “These goals have nothing to do with the people but are just jargon that people shouldn’t take seriously,” Zhang said. “It is not important for him to achieve these goals, just as long as his power reaches its peak.”

The move came at the close of the 89 million-member party’s twice-a-decade national congress at Beijing’s hulking Great Hall of the People, where nearly 2,300 delegates gathered to elect the party’s leading bodies and hear reports.

Although the delegates nominally have the power to vote on candidates, all choices are carefully vetted and the outcomes decided by negotiations among the top leaders.

The constitution was also amended to include references to the party’s “absolute” leadership over the armed forces, which have been modernizing rapidly under Xi, and a commitment to promote Xi’s signature foreign policy and infrastructure initiative known as “One Belt, One Road.” That initiative seeks to link China to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond with a sprawling network of roads, railways, ports and other economic projects.

___

Associated Press writers Gerry Shih and Gillian Wong contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

India (AND THE WORLD) needs to keep an eye on Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese dream’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India needs to keep an eye on Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese dream’

China is today the second largest economy in the world and easily the world’s number two power. Another several years of sustained economic growth will elevate it to superpower status. If Xi is able to firmly set his country on this track during a second five year term, elevating himself to the same rank as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping may not be too much of a stretch

EDITORIALS Updated: Oct 23, 2017 17:36 IST

Hindustan Times
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China (AP)

Over the past five years, Xi Jinping has spoken of a “Chinese dream”, moved to legitimise it through a philosophy of Xi Jinping Thought and, now, at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China bundled it altogether into a promised “new era” for his country. This seems only reasonable given the power that Xi has accumulated in his first term and the even greater authority he is expected to gain after the Congress is over. Nearly 70% of the party’s central committee will be replaced by Xi. He has already carried out the most wide-sweeping purges of the Chinese military and diluted the considerable policy space once enjoyed by the provincial and municipal party units.

China is today the second largest economy in the world and easily the world’s number two power. Another several years of sustained economic growth will elevate it to superpower status. If Xi is able to firmly set his country on this track during a second five year term, elevating himself to the same rank as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping may not be too much of a stretch.

However, this may not be as pre-determined as Beijing claims. China’s successful investment-based, export driven economic model has been running out of steam the past several years. Growth is being sustained by huge debt infusions that cannot be kept up forever. At the Congress and over the past five years, Xi has argued this has to change. But remarkably little has been accomplished in terms of structural reforms so far. One reason the Chinese leader has centralised authority back into the hands of Beijing was because Xi had to overcome powerful interests who opposed reforming the economy. He has also mobilised support by pushing a nationalist agenda which has included an aggressive foreign policy, especially when it comes to China’s territorial squabbles with Japan, Southeast Asia and, to an extent, India.

Xi has signalled that his second term will be more of the same, but with less words and more deeds. In that real economic reforms would produce a more prosperous and more stable China – and thus presumably a Middle Kingdom more at ease with the world — this would be welcome. However, if Xi continues to believe an assertive, unilateralist foreign policy must remain inherent to a new China, then countries like India will have no choice but to keep a wary eye that the Chinese dream does not mean sleepless nights for the rest of the world.

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Party of billionaire Andrej Babis wins Czech election

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Party of billionaire Andrej Babis wins Czech election

Tycoon Andrej Babis, poised to become the next prime minister, has been dubbed the "Czech Trump" by some media outlets because of his business empire and populist leanings.

(CNN)Billionaire tycoon Andrej Babis was set to become the Czech Republic’s next prime minister after his ANO party won with a significant margin in the country’s general election on Saturday.

His ANO movement received more 30% of the vote — almost three times more than the conservative party ODS, which came in second.
With 78 seats, Babis will need at least two other coalition partners in order to form a government and secure a majority in the lower chamber of Parliament. The only other possibility is to create a government with ODS, which has already ruled out this scenario.
Babis has been dubbed the “Czech Trump” by some media outlets because of his business empire and populist leanings. In campaigning, he opposed further European Union integration and adoption of the euro, and took a hard line on accepting refugees, according to Reuters.
The far-right SPD party, led by Tokyo-born Tomio Okamura, which ran a virulent anti-immigration campaign, will also have 22 seats — eight more than in the previous election. His party also promised a friendly approach to Russia, a policy shared with the Communist Party, which saw the worst result since the independence of the country with a mere 8%.
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For the first time, the Pirate party will be represented in the Czech Parliament with 22 MPs, including the leader of the party, IT specialist Ivan Bartos.
ANO, which has been governing in coalition with the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, held a double-digit lead going into the vote, Reuters said.

America’s new world order is dead:—China And Russia Are The New World Order?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JAPAN TIMES)

 

America’s new world order is dead

China and Russia have derailed the post-Cold War movement toward U.S.-led global integration

BY 

BLOOMBERG

American foreign policy has reached a historic inflection point, and here’s the surprise: It has very little to do with the all-consuming presidency and controversies of Donald Trump.

For roughly 25 years after the Cold War, one of the dominant themes of U.S. policy was the effort to globalize the liberal international order that had initially taken hold in the West after World War II. Washington hoped to accomplish this by integrating the system’s potential challengers — namely Russia and China — so deeply into it that they would no longer have any desire to disrupt it. The goal was, by means of economic and diplomatic inducement, to bring all the world’s major powers into a system in which they would be satisfied — and yet the United States and its values would still reign supreme.

This was a heady ambition, one that was based on the idea that Russia and China were heading irreversibly down the path of political and economic liberalization, and that they could eventually be induced to define their interests in a way compatible with America’s own.

Yet that project has now unmistakably reached a dead end. The new goal of U.S. strategy won’t be to integrate rival great powers into a truly global world order, but to defend the existing international system — successful yet incomplete as it is — against their depredations.

This conclusion may be difficult to accept, because it flies in the face of the enormous optimism that characterized the post-Cold War era. As the superpower contest ended, democracy and free markets were spreading like wildfire, walls were falling and geopolitical divisions were disappearing.

Even Russia and China — America’s longtime geopolitical rival and the next great power looming on the horizon — were showing interest in greater cooperation and integration with the U.S.-led international community. It seemed possible that the world was moving toward a single model of political and economic organization, and a single global system under American leadership.

Encouraging this outcome became a chief preoccupation of American policy. The U.S. sought to deepen diplomatic ties with Boris Yeltsin’s Russia and to encourage democratic and free-market reforms there, even as it hedged against potential Russian revanchism and European instability by expanding NATO to include the countries of the former Warsaw Pact.

Similarly, Washington pursued “comprehensive engagement” toward China, focused on integrating Beijing into the global economy and encouraging it to take a more active role in regional and international diplomacy. The theory of the case was that a richer China would eventually become a more democratic China, as the growth of the middle class produced pressures for political reform. America’s integration policy would simultaneously give Beijing an equity stake in the existing, U.S.-led liberal order and thereby deprive Chinese leaders of reasons for challenging it.

As President Bill Clinton’s administration described it, this approach was one of “seizing on the desire of both countries to participate in the global economy and global institutions, insisting that both accept the obligations as well as the benefits of integration.”

This strategy, which was summed up by Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick in 2005 as the “responsible stakeholder” model, reflected an admirable aspiration to permanently leave behind the intense geopolitical and ideological competition of the 20th century. Yet, as has become increasingly clear over the last decade — first in Russia, and now in China — that approach was based on two assumptions that have not withstood the test of reality.

The first was that China and Russia were indeed moving inexorably toward Western-style economic and political liberalism. Russian reform ground to a halt in the late 1990s, amid economic crisis and political chaos. Over the next 15 years, Vladimir Putin gradually re-established a governing model of increasingly undisguised political authoritarianism and ever-closer collusion between the state and major business interests.

In China, economic growth and integration into the global economy did not lead inevitably to political liberalization. The ruling Communist Party instead used dizzying economic growth rates as a way of purchasing legitimacy and buying off dissent. In recent years, the Chinese political system has actually become more authoritarian, as the government has assiduously repressed human rights advocacy and independent political activism, and centralized power to a degree not seen in decades.

The second assumption was that these powers could be induced to define their own interests the way the U.S. wanted them to. The trouble here was that Russia and China were never willing fully to embrace the U.S.-led liberal order, which emphasized liberal ideas that were bound to seem threatening to dictatorial regimes — not to mention the expansion of NATO into Moscow’s former sphere of influence and the persistence of U.S. alliances and military forces all along China’s East Asia periphery. And so, as Beijing and Moscow obtained, or regained, the power to contest that order, they increasingly did so.

Russia has, over the past decade, sought to revise the post-Cold War settlement in Europe by force and intimidation, most notably through the invasions of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Putin’s government has also worked to undermine key institutions of the liberal order such as NATO and the European Union, and it has aggressively meddled in the elections and domestic political affairs of Western states.

China, for its part, has been happy to reap the benefits of inclusion in the global economy, even as it has increasingly sought to dominate its maritime periphery, coerce and intimidate neighbors from Vietnam to Japan, and weaken U.S. alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

American officials hoped that Moscow and Beijing might eventually become satisfied, status quo powers. Instead, as Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution has written, they are behaving in classic revisionist fashion.

The age of integration is thus over, in the sense that there is no realistic, near-term prospect of bringing either Russia or China into an American-led system. This does not mean, however, that America is destined for war with Russia and China, or even that it should seek fully to isolate either power.

For better or worse, U.S.-China trade remains vital to American prosperity and the health of the global economy; cooperation between Washington and Beijing — and even Washington and Moscow — is important to addressing international diplomatic challenges such as nuclear proliferation and climate change.

What this does mean, however, is that the U.S. needs to become both tougher and less ambitious in its approach to great-power relations and the international system. Less ambitious in the sense that it needs to set aside the notion that the liberal order will become truly global or encompass all the major powers anytime soon. And tougher in the sense of understanding that more strenuous efforts will be required to defend the existing order against the challenge that revisionist power represent.

This will require taking difficult but necessary steps, such as making the military investments needed to shore up U.S. power and deterrence in Eastern Europe and the Western Pacific, and developing capabilities needed to oppose Chinese coercion and Russian political subversion of their neighbors. It will require rallying old and new partners against the threat posed by Russian and Chinese expansionism. Above all, it will mean accepting that great-power relations are entering a period of greater danger and tension, and that a willingness to accept greater costs and risks will be the price of meeting the revisionist challenge and preserving American interests.

In short, the goal of achieving a fully integrated world is no longer achievable today. Successfully defending the existing international order that the U.S. has successfully constructed and led over the years will be challenge — and accomplishment — enough.

Hal Brands is the Henry A. Kissinger distinguished professor at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

As China’s Government Rushes to Censor It’s Citizens They Show How Weak They Are: Not How Strong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE DIPLOMAT’ NEWS AGENCY AND FROM ANDY TAI’S GOOGLE PLUS BLOG)

 

China’s Weibo Hires 1000 ‘Supervisors’ to Censor Content

Weibo said it will grant each supervisor membership, a special identity label on the platform and an online subsidy equal to 200 yuan (around $30). Furthermore, Weibo said it would reward the supervisors who have the best performance each month with iPhones, other smartphones, notebooks, or other prizes.

According to the announcement, all supervisors, “who work on their leisure time,” should report on no less than 200 pieces of content (including both original posts and comments) that either are pornographic, illegal or harmful. The announcement didn’t clarify what content should be regarded as “harmful,” but it promised that Weibo would train the supervisors beforehand.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.Weibo claimed that the public recruitment, under the guidance of the Beijing Office of Cyberspace Affairs, is for “strengthening the netizens self-discipline and cleaning the Weibo environment.”

On September 28, Weibo published more detailed information on supervisors’ work, further elaborating on the qualifications and disqualifications for a supervisor. It required that the supervisors should have their identity confirmed and “some experience of reporting,” and should not take advantage of the position to retaliate or blackmail other users.

This is not the first time online Chinese communities have been seeded with censors or professional commenters. Such internet commenters, in particular, have a colloquial nickname — 50 Cent Party — based on the rumor that those hired by the Chinese government to manipulate public opinion would be paid 50 cents per post.

Weibo’s public recruitment of censors is surprising but not unprecedented. Weibo quietly posted a similar announcement days earlier. The latest announcement has only received positive comments — but that’s what censors are there to ensure, right?

For Weibo, the new measure is a strategic business move. On September 25, Beijing’s internet regulator imposed a maximum, though unspecified, fine on the Weibo (as well as two other Chinese internet giants) for “failing to properly manage its platform.” The authorities said Weibo’s users spread information that “jeopardizes national security, public safety, and social order.”

The public nature of the hiring announcement serves another purpose beyond the recruitment of censors and an attempt to rectify the situation that brought Beijing’s ire upon the company: it serves as a warning to all Weibo users and motivation to self-censor lest their fellow netizens report them.

China’s CPC National Congress Set For October 18

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA ‘SHINE’ NEWS AGENCY)

 

CPC National Congress set for October 18

THE communist Party of China will convene its 19th National Congress on October 18, a key meeting held to draw out polices for the future development.

More than 2,300 delegates will discuss the country’s accomplishments since the previous gathering, discuss a strategy for building a “moderately prosperous society” and elect new members of the top leadership.

The 19th CPC National Congress will also summarize experiences gained from uniting and leading citizens of all ethnic groups to advance socialism with Chinese characteristics, according to a meeting of the Politburo yesterday presided over by Xi Jinping, the Party’s general secretary.

It will examine the current international and domestic situation, and take into account new requirements for the development of the Party and the country as well as new expectations from the people.

The congress will draw out guidelines and policies that respond to the call of the times, according to a statement after the Politburo meeting.

The congress is being held at a time when China is striving to achieve a moderately prosperous society, and at a critical time for the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the statement said.

It will hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, be guided with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of “Three Represents” and the Scientific Outlook on Development, and thoroughly carry out the essence of Xi’s series of important remarks and the new governance concepts, thoughts and strategies of the CPC Central Committee, according to the statement.

The congress also aims to boost confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, continue to adopt an overall approach to promote economic, political, cultural, social and ecological progress, as well as to advance coordinated development of the “Four Comprehensives.”

The Four Comprehensives refers to a four-pronged strategy that aims to accomplish a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, advance the rule of law and strengthen Party governance.

A new Central Committee and a new Central Commission for Discipline Inspection will be elected at the congress.

All preparatory work for the congress is going smoothly at present, the statement said, and preparations should continue to ensure a successful congress.

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Où allons-nous par cette route où nous marchons depuis des temps si longs sans demander à personne où elle mène ?

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mellowing the harshness

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