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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Much More Than a Stamp

October will see the 60th anniversary of Chinese intervention in the Korean War.  As a result of concerns over the presence of US troops in the south and the need to safeguard the communist movement in North Korea (the DPRK), the CCP's politburo authorised the movement of Chinese troops over China's border with the DPRK at the start of October 1950.  Later in the month, the forces were officially designated as 'volunteers', thus allowing China to claim that there was no official Chinese intervention in the Korean War.

A Xinhua story highlights reports from North Korea's official media that the DPRK has issued a special set of commemorative stamps to mark the anniversary of Chinese involvement, with fitting 'revolutionary' slogans written in Korean and Chinese on each one.  This move by the North Korean government is an excellent example of the country's constant efforts to remind China of its historical links with the DPRK.  In 1950, China had no desire to maintain good relations with America or US-linked parts of the Asia-Pacific region.  This explains why the PRC decided to send troops in North Korea to resist American aggression in the first place.

However, in today's world, the diplomatic ball-game is altogether different.  While China's support for the DPRK remains, Chinese foreign policy is no longer structured around the 'capitalism vs. communism' method of considering international relations.  Rather, the PRC is positioning itself as more of an intermediary between North and South, with Chinese officials having recently made visits to both countries in attempt to re-start talks for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.  Perhaps keen to avoid allusion to its past attitudes to international diplomacy, China may not be totally appreciative of this latest nod to Sino-North Korean ties, even if it only takes the form of commemorative stamps.  By the very nature of its ruling party, the PRC is in many ways ideologically 'locked in' to backing North Korea- an unenvious position for a country that would rather not see a souring of relations with countries like the USA.  These stamps are another reminder of this less than desirable state of affairs.

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