Xi, Kim, China and the NorthSHIN KYUNG-JIN
The author is a Beijing bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Two years ago, while covering the wave of protests of 2 million people in Hong Kong, I had to return to Beijing after ten days as another story broke. Chinese President Xi Jinping was making his first visit to Pyongyang. People’s Daily published on its front page that Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan watched large-scale mass gymnastics and an art performance in North Korea. A photo of the couple at the podium in the Pyongyang May 1st Stadium was featured. The article recorded the performance as follow: It illustrated the characteristics of the North Korean people and sang about the development and accomplishments of North Korean socialist projects and described the desire of the North Korean people for a beautiful life in four verses, “Socialism is Our Hometown,” “Echo of Victory,” “For a Better Tomorrow” and “Invincible Friendship and Unity.”
That day, CCTV news reported about the performance for 10 minutes and 30 seconds. The portraits of Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping were in the news. The Rodong Shinmun reported that the title of the performance was “Invincible Socialism.”
Two years have passed. On June 29, CCTV aired a 19-minute and 23-second report on the “The Great Journey,” commemorating the centennial of the founding of the Communist Party of China held in Beijing’s National Stadium on the previous day. On the electronic display board, the phrase “the unforgettable sacrifices of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army” was translated into “Shoot the cannon at me,” a line from Chinese movie “Young Hero.” The scene of young people in red shirts lining up in the spectator seats and waving the five starred red flags reminded me of Pyongyang two years ago.
I watched the full version of the performance in the evening on television on July 1. It was a grandscale historical drama without mentioning the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen incident. On May 15, 2019, I covered the performance of “Asia Culture Carnival” at the same gymnasium. It was an event that was a part of the Asian Civilization Dialogue Convention. The scale and splendor were on par with the Great Journey, only with less red.
Since May 2018, Xi met with Kim Jong-un five times, three times in Beijing, and once each in Dalian and Pyongyang. They talked at dozens of dinners and in one-on-one meetings. What did the two leaders talk about? Are there transcripts of the conversations? What was the outcomes of the meetings?
Soon, it will be the 60th anniversary of the signing of the aid treaty between North Korea and China.