June 02, 2023

Occupational hazards: what Xi Jinping sees in Kim Jong Un

Beyond the power imbalance, the two leaders have quite a bit to talk about as equals

If Xi Jinping indeed arrives in Pyongyang next month for his long-awaited first state visit to the DPRK, readers are likely to see torrents of speculation about Xi’s personal relationship with Kim Jong Un. Does the Chinese leader see Kim as a true comrade, an equal of sorts in the arena of Party-Party relations, or as a wayward tutee who needs to be lectured?

A biographically-oriented approach might suggest that Xi looks down on Kim Jong Un for Kim’s having been granted supreme leadership in North Korea without having to struggle with rural poverty and county-level administration, or work his way up the Party ladder in the way that Xi did.