“Leasing of North Korean Port Arouses Suspicion”: Huanqiu Shibao on China’s Ten-Year Lease on DPRK Rajin

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North Korean border region / Sino-North Korean relations

张培 , et. al., “租借朝鲜港口遭猜忌 韩媒称中国正加速进入日本海,” 环球时报“ 3月10日2010年 [Zhang Pei, et. al., “Leasing of North Korean Port Arouses Suspicion: South Korean Media States that China Will Quickly Enter the Sea of Japan,” Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times Chinese) March 10 2010 [translation by Adam Cathcart].

据3月10日出版的《环球时报》报道,“中国100多年来首次在日本海拥有直接立足点”、“中国开辟日本海通道”,9日,中国租借朝鲜罗津港的消息迅速 使外电得出上述轰动性的结论,中国人对此将信将疑。韩国《世界日报》报道称,中国政府正在加速进入日本海,但中国进入日本海的通道一直被俄罗斯和朝鲜堵 住,因而进入日本海是中国的一个历史夙愿。On March 10, “Global Times” reported: “For the first time in 100 years, China has a direct foothold on the Sea of Japan” and “China has opened a channel to the Sea of Japan.  On March 9, news quickly spread that China had leased North Korea’s Rajin port, prompting foreign media to rash and sensational conclusions toward which the Chinese people have skepticism. A report by South Korea’s “World News” stated that the Chinese government is accelerating its entry into the Sea of Japan.  But [what South Korean media fails to understand is that] China’s passage to the Sea of Japan has long been blocked [堵] by Russia and North Korea, and therefore passage to the Sea of Japan is a long-cherished wish in China’s history.

《世界日报》介绍说,清朝因1858年同沙俄签订的《瑗珲条约》、1860年的《北京条约》丧失了100万平方公里的土地,也丢掉了所有日本海沿岸的土地。 中华人民共和国成立后,中国政府一直强烈要求朝鲜和苏联赋予[fu4yu3] 中国从珲春到日本海的出海权,即所谓的“建港出海”战略,但遭遇[zao1yu4] 朝鲜和苏联看不见的牵制,苏联和朝鲜相互找借口拒绝中国的要求。The “World News” introduced [the subject] by saying that because of the Yuanhui Treaty signed between the Qing Dynastyand Tsarist Russia in 1858 and the 1860 “Beijing Treaty,” [China] lost 100 million square kilometers of land and lost all territory abutting the Sea of Japan.  After the founding of The People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government directly and strongly demanded that North Korea and the Soviet Union confer to China the right of access to the Sea of Japan from Hunchun.  This strategy, known as “harbor building and sea access,” encountered invisible impediments [看不见的牵制] from North Korea and the Soviet Union, who each found an excuse to reject China’s requests.

The article then goes on to describe the frustrations of trying to develop the port in 1993 and then describes some of the geographical advantages of now being able to export Chinese products from the North Korean harbor:

于是,中国从1993年开始将建港出海战略转变成“借港出海”战略。由于俄罗斯的牵制和高额费用,中国开始寻找新出口,而罗津正是理想港口。从地理位置上看,黑吉两省距离日本海仅一步之遥。目前,从图们江口到兴凯湖畔的东北部边境线是我国距日本海最近的地段,最近直线距离只有4公里,从防川至图们江入海口15公里,东宁距离日本海直线距离也不过50公里。

The penultimate sentence, however, is probably the most interesting:

《环球时报》记者前不久曾到过图们江口那片中国离日本海最近的地区,在那里,作为一个中国人,你能感到有些憋屈。 A “Global Times” reporter recently visited the region near the mouth of the Tumen River, the place where China comes closest to the Sea of Japan.  [Standing] there, as a Chinese person, you can choke a bit on the injustice .

Translator’s Notes: I actually rode with the same taxi driver (surnamed Tang; the man is also a stellar photographer) who drove the above-said “Global Times'” reporter down to Fangchuan last July.  The funny thing is, part of the reason the reporter went to Fangchuan was to talk to soldiers at the border post about the impacts of the North Korean nuclear test as well as the prospects for opening up to the Sea of Japan.  The other thing that comes to mind when one travels to Fangchuan (and its gateway Hunchun), both of which I went to in July, is how the shadow of Russia and the treaties of the mid-19th century really do bear down on China in this region and render North Korea into merely an adjunct or a bit player in a much larger drama.  The narrative of national redemption and restoration into which this article taps has a long pedigree and seeks, like many rhetorical and visual devices in China, to recreate the type of breakthrough of consciousness experienced by leaders of Zhou Enlai’s generation when they recognized China’s weakness.  For Zhou Enlai, it was standing on the battlefields of Liaoyang of the Russo-Japanese War, while for Lu Xun it was watching filmstrips of Japanese troops decapitating Chinese prisoners.  What is your moment of consciousness, Chinese?  Perhaps it could be found by traversing the North Korean frontier.  However, to get into the game of territorial reparations or the rectification of injustices along that frontier, is, after all, a dangerous and nigh-inextinguishable flame.  Who originally owned the islands, after all, upon which North Korea is now pledged to build a special economic zone near Dandong?  And who owns Mount Paektu?

Fortunately there is a catch-all solution in this case: blame the Japanese media for overreacting.

Hunchun's Trilingual Market Trifecta -- photo by Adam Cathcart; click picture for more of my photos of the tri-border region

The Author

Lecturer of Chinese history at University of Leeds, and Editor-in-Chief of SinoNK.com.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Deals, Development, and Dead Refugees: Get Ready for the New Status Quo on the Sino-North Korean Border « Sinologistical Violoncellist

  2. Pingback: Emerging Chinese Narratives in the Sino-Korean Border Zone // 环球广播的中朝边区报道 | Sinologistical Violoncellist

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