In a recent post I characterized a rather strange story in the Chinese press that held up an idealized view of North Korea. Why was Xinhua holding up the DPRK as a kind of patriotic utopia, and what would be the response of the largely young readership of the Huanqiu Shibao, a publication known for its nationalism?
Well, 39 pages of comments later, I have a few thoughts, just excerpts, from the scrum (translations are far from exact!):
“Of course North Korea is screwed up; America, South Korea and Japan daily write words to undermine and destroy North Korea, saying that North Korea is hungry, that Kim Jong Il is already dead…I don’t know whether there was a famine or not, but if your [Western] media doesn’t portray Kim Il Song closely and repeatedly, isn’t it easier to believe? So how can you [e.g., the West] tell us what is going on in North Korea? You don’t need to use American and Japanese second-hand reports that just serve to destroy people’s character! And sure, North Korea is poor, but is China poor or not? China, compared to Europe and the U.S., still has a big difference, whereas the [economic] difference with North Korea is much smaller. Truly, you don’t see poor people there, but we are supposed to think that everyone is poor? Isn’t this a joke?”
[The same commenter goes on for a while, recalling “during the three years of natural disasters” (e.g., 1958-61, the Great Leap Forward) that Chinese peasants from Shandong and the Northeast went to North Korea in search of food — which is true!]
“Our past is truly North Korea’s present; we have advanced but still have difficulties. Our corruption and trends toward a dual-class society are much worse than North Korea, but economically we have developed much faster than North Korea. And who has departed further from communism? It’s hard to say clearly. In looking at North Korea, we must take our own shortcomings under consideration and remove them!”
and then there is this off-the-handle, stream of consciousness post which I can only approximate, but I think it’s a bit of genius:
Chinese people today, you can’t report nasty words, so instead find someone to study Lei Feng — as today’s people find that Lei Feng’s name has become representative of something handsome indeed — and every day in the Chinese news you find whatever pollution/rape/murder/secret societies with no cure. In this society you can’t study, can’t find work, can’t stay married, can’t buy an apartment, can’t have a kid or raise a kid, old people can’t die, and the places and values of 30 years ago are all stuffed full of cash or anger. So imagine instead a place with no pressure to work, where all you need to do is study, where the country takes care of all your housing and your marriage to make it all OK…And sure, there today there is no money, there are no rights, no work, no place to live, no car or garage, no daughters to give; and bright people have no use for kindness because it has become an old and useless word…The life of the past was bitter, but it had meaning (Serve the country, serve socialism as the highest logic).
We used to be patriotic, now we have all become selfish…Foremost, we should earnestly study how North Korea opposes America’s shitty power.
Doesn’t North Korea make America scared?
and the more critical comments
Self-deception, turning black into white — ha! This is truly a joke, truly funny.
In the 1960s, Japanese left-wing cultural figures also thought China was a kind of heaven.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Xinhua stories that look at North Korean society, nurturing a kind of implicit “revolutionary nostalgia,” serve instead as a platform for discussion of the Cultural Revolution. Many comments deal with China’s 1960s.
There is also a dispute going on within the comments about the interviewed student in the original article; faced with accusations that her remarks were basically planted, her classmates arrive on the BBS to defend Chen Mo’s naive impressions of the DPRK.
Further comments on the story, along with plenty of calls for “civilized behavior” (e.g., placeholders for deleted comments), are here on the Huanqiu’s site.
Anti-Chinese Propaganda for North Koreans — (October 27, 2009)
North Korea Test Fires Two Missiles: Chinese Media Reports on DPRK — (October 12, 2009)
Reports of North Korean Chemical Weapons Wafting into Chinese Dandong –(October 10, 2009)
More Data on North Korean Succession Struggles (September 30, 2009; includes translations from the French press)