Xi Jinping Follows Hu’s Footsteps to Pyongyang

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping arrived in Pyongyang on June 17 for a three-day visit. North Korea is the first destination of Xi’s foreign trip since being made vice president in March, slating Xi at the front of becoming President Hu Jintao’s likely successor when he completes his final term in 2012. Hu Jintao, while he was a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Member of the Secretariat, led a CCP and government delegation to the DPRK in 1993 (Wen Wei Pao, June 17).

Xi’s visit also marks the highest level delegation to the DPRK since President Hu Jintao’s visit in 2005. Chinese analysts generally view the visit as intended to deepen the traditional Sino-DPRK friendship, take a step forward in promoting good neighborly relations in a bid to search for a common solution to the nuclear problem. Xi caught international spotlight when he first visited North Korea as head of the CCP delegation while serving as party secretary for Zhejiang province in 2006. This time Xi is in position, as the presumptive leader of China’s Fifth-generation leadership, with the opportunity to lay down the framework for the future of Sino-DPRK relations for the coming 5 – 10 years (Wen Wei Pao, June 17).

Zhou Yonshen, a professor at the Foreign Affairs College, indicated that in recent years while China has been actively engaging the international community, North Korea remained isolated and the two sides having developed differently. How the two sides will maintain their traditional partnership while advancing the two sides own national interests is a test for Sino-DPRK relations, “from this angle, it can be said that Sino-North Korea relations entered a critical juncture” (Wen Wei Pao, June 17).

Jin Linbo, a research fellow at the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations, noted that there has been a gradual diminishment in the Sino-DPRK relationship, in recent years as China has reoriented its foreign policy goals to focus on its own national interests. In this context the Sino-DPRK special relationship can be said to be normalizing to one that is state to state, Jin noted that “this is in China’s interest and also in the DPRK’s interests” (Wen Wei Pao, June 17).