1. China appoints a new ambassador to Seoul.
Yang Houlan gets picked for the job:
Yang is well-versed in Korean affairs, having worked as deputy chief of mission and minister counselor at the Chinese embassies in Seoul and Pyongyang. He was ambassador to Afghanistan from March 2007 to April 2009.
He would be the first Chinese ambassador to Seoul with an American university background, unlike his predecessors, who studied at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. But like Li Bin and Ning Fukui before him, Yang rises to the post after working in lower positions at both Korean embassies.
This now means, among other things, that both of China’s Korea ambassadors are U.S.-educated.
2. South Korea and China are on the cusp of several spats.
All of this could be overblown, but there is not a lot of love lost right now in the South Korean-Chinese relationship. Korean newspapers write condescending things (“China today=South Korea in 1988, if they’re lucky”) and Chinese get upset about South Korean historical issues they see as impinging upon the Chinese past, among other things. The South Korean press is wary of China’s expanding self-confidence (here in a poetically-drawn Chinese-language article). According to the Chosun Ilbo’s Hong Kong correspondent, “China is changing at the speed of light,” making business adaptation particularly necessary.
By the same token, the PRC leadership seems to clearly recognize South Korea’s importance in the project of an East Asian common community, and no one wants to lose market share. Xi Jinping’s December trip to the ROK went virtually unnoticed in the West (as opposed to his well-publicized meeting in Tokyo with Emperor Akihito), but the two countries seem to be moving in relatively close accord as regards North Korea.
The Chosun Ilbo (Chinese edition) carries a sweeping special editorial about China’s rising confidence in 2010, and how the Chinese people are “losing interest” in South Korea. One of the more interesting points made in this piece is that Chinese leaders are glad to get all the commemorations and negative anniversaries of 2009 out of the way.
Chinese netizens respond here to South Korean speculation on the notion of a Chinese renaissance that will reach the levels of the West; the original Huanqiu summary is here. I suppose this confirms that the Huanqiu Shibao is a significant periodical because it serves as a lazy way for millions of Chinese to find out what the rest of the world is saying about China.
South Korean news sites in Chinese speculate on the role played by the retiring generation of CCP leaders like Zhu Rongji and Wu Yi.
3. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Predicts North Korean Collapse, Again
Daniel Blumenthal and his research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute published an editorial last week which is worth reading. Blumenthal is a knowledgeable hawk, but this editorial is full of misconceptions. So instead we turn to as is pointed out in a solid post by Juchechosunmanse. JCM takes apart the editorial nicely with a logic based upon reading of the last few months’ news in Sino-North Korean relations.
I would add that Blumenthal may be less interested in forcing a change in Obama administration policy than engaged in a spate of publications of middling quality as a means of angling for a Northeast Asia position in whatever Republican administration comes next (assuming we are all still holding elections after the Rapture hits). A voice in the wilderness! However, it is a wilderness with a megaphone provided by Rupert Murdoch: I find it particularly interesting that what passes for conventional wisdom in some circles in Washington is almost never refuted in papers like the Washington Post or the New York Times, much less the Wall Street Journal. So instead we turn to blogs.
In other news:
– the Daily NK reports that North Koreans are buying Chinese rice around Changbai;
– Japanese scholars have dug up some new photographs of the Korean War from British archives: