December 01, 2023

North Korea: The house that Mao helped to build

Many of North Korea's worst excesses derive from its Maoist roots

Chinese officials, in both Washington and Beijing, tend to shake their heads in feigned disbelief and cite the Mandarin phrase “mei banfa” (沒辦法) when speaking about their petulant North Korean ally.  This term loosely means “no way” or “nothing can be done.” It also, however, gives the implication of releasing the speaker from any responsibility for an obviously messed-up situation. 

The Chinese public, on the other hand, tends to have a strongly negative view of their northern neighbor, which can be at odds with the leadership’s reluctant tolerance of its incorrigible buffer state. This lack of fondness for North Korea among the Chinese man-in-the-street was clearly demonstrated by a recent anti-Kim Jong-un demonstration in the northeast city of Yangzhou.