News of an earthquake in North Korea spread quickly in China, with parts of the country actually experiencing the effects of the quake itself. Shortly after news of the quake was reported, it became apparent that it was man-made – a nuclear test. Chatter on Chinese social media quickly took off, many speculating about the implications of the blast.
Writer and critic Yao Bo took to Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, asking, “Who can North Korea threaten with its nuke? It can’t reach America, and it doesn’t have any grievance with Japan. They share a language and culture with the South Koreans. What can they do besides threaten China? There are still people saying this 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 [slang for a traitor who pretends to be a patriot].”
Many of the more than 450 people who responded to his post agreed. Wrote one, “Let’s stop giving them aid.” Another commented, “That fatty Kim really is a mad dog.” China has long considered North Korea an ally and has openly supported the dictatorship for decades. However, in documents released by Wikileaks in 2010, it was revealed that there is a growing frustration with North Korea in the Chinese government, and some desire to abandon the troublesome ally.
The relationship between China and North Korea is complicated, and China does benefit in some ways. Remarked one Weibo user, “The Celestial Dynasty [Internet slang for China] doesn’t come off looking so bad in comparison to this awful regime.” North Korea also serves as a buffer between South Korea, a strong U.S. ally with a large U.S. military presence, and China. The alliance between the two countries has been beneficial enough to justify China’s continued lobbying for North Korea in the international community.
Yet North Korea has continued with its nuclear tests, despite international sanctions and censures by the UN Security Council, further testing China’s patience. Even Hu Xijin, editor of China’s party-line, state-run news organization the Global Times, remarked on Weibo, “North Korea just experienced a ‘man-made earthquake,’ which is likely a nuclear test. North Korea is headed down the wrong path. Its people will pay the price for the country’s mistakes. The legitimacy of North Korean rule should be reconsidered.”
These statements may be yet more rhetoric. China’ s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly called for the protection of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula through dialogue, not sanctions or intervention. But the real impact of the earthquake in China might be enough to change some minds on North Korean matters. Whatever China’s official reaction, its Web users have come out in force to condemn the nuclear test and demand a change in their country’s policy on its volatile ally.