North Korea tested a nuclear weapon this month, and China officially said it was “firmly opposed” to the test, which is considered harsh language in some quarters — as if North Korea’s patron was finally fed up with these dangerous antics and was going to bring the hammer down.
Well, not quite. China also expressed unhappiness when North Korea first tested a weapon in 2006, calling it “brazen.” [Seven years later] after Pyongyang’s 2013 test, Asian analysts noted that China’s patience was “wearing thin.”
China shares an 880-mile border with North Korea, a nation of 25 million people who mainly live in dire poverty. The global power also shares a communist ideology, though both nations have evolved beyond Karl Marx to meet their particular needs. While it uses North Korea as a bargaining chip in international relations, China also has legitimate concerns about keeping the nation from falling apart, a scenario often raised to argue against putting more sanctions on the Kim Jong Un regime.
Yet China cannot continue to indulge its unruly neighbor, like a permissive parent who winks at a teenager’s destructive antics. The current gyrations in China’s financial sector, reflecting deep-seated weaknesses in its economic model, should make it behave with more caution on the world stage.