A Peculiar Chess Game in North Korea《奇怪的棋局》

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 5, May 2018

By Wei Jingsheng (魏京生)

Wei Jingsheng (魏京生) was the most famous Chinese dissident in 1979, when Deng Xiaoping put him on a nationally televised trial for writing the essay, “The Fifth Modernization: Democracy.” He received 15 years in prison. After meeting with President Clinton’s Assistant Secretary for Human Rights in 1993, he was put back in jail for another 14 years. He served 4 years of his second jail term before being exiled to the United States in 1997. A number of points are new in his latest article, published in English for the first time here. In particular, the discussion of China’s President Xi obstructing the Trump/Kim summit has very serious implications for the future of U.S.-China relations, and the credibility of President Xi as an interlocutor in Korean peace negotiations. Wei Jingsheng’s piece was originally published on Radio Free Asia’s blog and dated May 17, 2018. The article, including its Beijing slang, has been translated into English below.

Chinese human rights activist Wei Jingsheng (left) and American politician US President Bill Clinton talk together in the White House, Washington DC, December 8, 1997. (Photo by Robert McNeely/White House/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

A Peculiar Chess Game 《奇怪的棋局》2018/5/17

In the past year, China, the United States, and the DPRK have launched a dramatic game around nuclear weapons and trade. First, Trump used the pressure of a possible trade war in forcing Xi Jinping into participating on the economic sanctions against North Korea, so Xi could save his own regime. Little Kim became so angry that he regarded China as a millennium enemy.

Without the aid of China, Little Kim’s days cannot be long. Ever shameless as a rogue of the third generation, Little Kim began to show his better side to the United States. By arranging an Olympic show, he moved South Korean mothers to tears, and dared peace-loving people of the world to hope. But no, many naive Americans immediately prompted President Trump to promise to meet with Little Kim for peace. Even started applying for the Nobel peace prize.

The Chinese Communist Party, accustomed to using North Korea as a bargaining chip, could not abide by this. The media was instigated into satirizing Xi Jinping, saying that since when China has ever been excluded from the North Korean nuclear issue. Xi Jinping, being extremely vain, could not stomach the irritation. So these two fools conspired and banged out a fools’ agreement, (wooden mallets 棒槌, which the Chinese use to beat clothes with while washing – meaning dumb bats.) When Little Xi negotiates trade conditions with Trump, he can use whether to continue to impose sanctions on North Korea as his bargaining chips. In private, he promised Little Kim that he would stop the sanctions at opportune times so that Little Kim could survive.

There is no need for us to guess if this is true. When you see Little Kim’s smile squeezing his little eyes into even smaller eyes, you know that he has been rewarded on the “fools’ island.” After the meeting, Xi Jinping said nothing publicly, because he knew the sanctions may or may not be lifted. Little Kim went home and said that North Korea must give up nuclear weapons. Still, Xi said absolutely nothing. Obviously North Korea has been played. Even if Little Kim could bear the sanctions, North Korea could not.

Evidently, Kim Jong-un did not study in vain in the West, and he retains the daring of his Mafia family stock. Just before Xi Jinping’s special envoy (Liu He) could take the North Korea bargaining chips to negotiate with the United States, Kim Jong-un’s representative suddenly said: It may not be necessary to meet with Trump. The subtext is: I haven’t received my rewards yet, so don’t play me like a fool. This dagger is not aimed at the White House. It is a public challenge against Xi Jinping. (叫板, a musical pitch given by an opera singer, just before breaking into song, for the musicians to set their musical instruments for accompaniment – meaning the starting key to more clamoring to come.) The White House appears unperturbed.

How this opera will play out is difficult to predict, because all three presidents are masters of unpredictable moves. This time Xi Jinping has made the mistake that is often made by lousy chess players. [Xi’s] wishful thinking was that his opponent would fall into the traps he has set, while forgetting that the other party had already set him up as a millennium enemy, and therefore not so easily fooled.

This time, Little Kim appeared calm and realistic. An eagle would spread its wings if it spots its prey. But Kim declines to be the prey – as a bargaining chip for free; even if it’s for his Big Brother. Kim has to take his rewards, either from China or from the United States. If he didn’t take his rewards he might not get off this time – the Kim dynasty could collapse. The South Korean president has been embarrassingly tossed to the side. [Moon] should feel remorse for again unilaterally trying to save North Korea. After all, the number one victim of North Korea’s nuclear weapons is South Korea.

The initiative is now in the hands of President Trump. If he accepts criticism from Congress and public opinion, he would refrain from interfering with the enforcement of the law, and reject Xi Jinping’s trade negotiations. Little Xi will inevitably fly into a rage from shame, and he would shift his anger onto Little Kim. The fragile China-North Korea alliance, which has just been resumed, will be shattered anew. Trump’s diplomacy will then be like wielding a cleaver with ample skills, (游刃有余), because both China and the DPRK would seek the help of the United States in trade and economy.

If Trump were to insist on going his own way, and swallowing Xi Jinping’s bait, then Trump would be bowing to Xi Jinping for the sake of Republican’s midterm election. If so, Little Kim has no other choice but bow to Xi Jinping, too. Because to obtain the rewards of China suspending sanctions and to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty, he must kowtow to acknowledge his allegiance and inferiority, (俯首称臣.) The resumption of the Sino-North Korea alliance will be a huge failure for the US, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan’s diplomacy. Russia, which is watching, will also join this alliance, thus reversing the recent pattern of international politics in Asia.

Of course, there are several other possibilities. In the final analysis, all three First Gentlemen are full of ideas, and are accustomed to dictating their ways. Often enough, there will be shocking developments that will cause the media to collectively drop their jaws. I dare not make any predictions on how this peculiar chess game will be played out.

The only thing I can say is that this chess game will determine the political and economic landscape of East Asia and the world at large for several decades to come. It will affect the fate of all of us.

《奇怪的棋局》A Peculiar Chess Game 2018/5/17

最近一年来,围绕着核武器和贸易,中美朝三国展开了颇有戏剧性的博弈。先是川普以贸易战为压力,迫使习近平为了保住自家的政权,参加了对朝鲜的经济制裁。气得小金把中国骂成了千年仇敌。

没有了中国的援助,小金的日子确实过不下去。也不愧是流氓三代出身。小金开始向美国示好,安排了一场奥运秀,把韩国大妈感动得热泪盈眶,也让全世界热爱和平的人们看到了希望。这不,天真的美国人立刻促使川普总统答应和小金面谈和平事宜。并且开始申请和平奖了。

习惯把朝鲜当作筹码的中共坐不住了,媒体被发动起来讽刺习近平,说是从此中国被排除在朝鲜核问题之外了。这对虚荣心极强的习近平,是个不小的刺激。于是两个棒槌在棒槌岛密谋了一番,定下了一个棒槌协议。小习在和川普谈贸易的时候,可以用是否继续制裁朝鲜作筹码。私下里答应小金,适当的时候停止制裁,让小金能够活下去。

不用猜,你看小金在棒槌岛笑得眼睛眯成了一条缝,就知道他得到了甜头。再看看事后习近平什么也不说,就知道那个甜头并不落实。人家小金回去就说一定放弃核武器,你什么都不说。明显是摆了人家一道,只不过是拿人家当筹码。小金是可忍,朝鲜也孰不可忍。

果然。金正恩在西方读的书没有白读,有股子黑手党的气魄。就在习近平的特使拿着筹码去美国谈判之前,金正恩的特使突然说:要不要和川普见面还不一定。潜台词是:俺的好处还没拿到,您老别拿俺们当棒槌。这一刀不是插向白宫的,是在和习近平叫板。所以白宫显得很淡定。

下边的戏该怎么唱,不好估计。因为这三位总统都是不按常理出牌的主。习近平这回犯了臭棋篓子们常犯的错误,一厢情愿的以为对手一定会钻进自己设下的陷阱。忘记了对方刚刚把他设定为千年仇敌,不那么容易被他忽悠。

小金这一次表现得很冷静现实,不见兔子不撒鹰,不再当老大哥的免费棋子。要么从中国拿好处;要么从美国拿好处,没有好处他这次就过不了关,金家王朝可能会崩溃。被尴尬地甩在一边的韩国总统,应该不好意思再一次单方面援助北朝鲜。毕竟朝鲜核武器的第一号受害者,就是韩国。

现在主动权在川普总统手里。如果他接受国会和舆论的批评,不去干涉执法,拒绝了习近平的贸易交换条件。小习必然会恼羞成怒,并迁怒于小金。刚刚恢复的、脆弱的中朝联盟重新破裂。川普的外交将会游刃有余。中朝两国都将在贸易和经济上有求于美国。

如果川普一意孤行,吃下了习近平的诱饵,为了共和党的中期选举向习近平低头。小金也只能向习近平低头,为了获得中国停止制裁的利益;为了金家王朝能够生存下去,他只能厚起脸皮俯首称臣。中朝联盟将是美、日、韩、台外交上的巨大失败,正在观望的俄罗斯也会加入这个联盟,从而扭转亚洲国际政治的格局。

当然,还有好几种可能性。毕竟这三位第一先生,都是颇有性格满肚子主意的独裁者。时不时会有惊人之举,让媒体惊掉下巴。这个诡异的棋局究竟会怎样走下去,我不敢妄下定论。

唯一能够告诉大家的是:这个棋局将会决定今后几十年,东亚地区乃至全球的政治和经济格局。也关系到大家的命运。

JPR Status: Opinion. The translation was updated on May 29, 2018.