Why China Is Losing Patience With North Korean Posturing

Pyongyang has announced a satellite launch to honor Kim II Sung. China knows the real object of such a move is to reinforce the power of newly installed Kim Jong-Un. It will also raise the stakes in the region just when Beijing is badly in need of stabili

Soldiers guarding the North/South border in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (John Pavelka)
Soldiers guarding the North/South border in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (John Pavelka)
Cheng Xiaohe

BEIJING - On March 16, the North Korean government announced that in April it would launch the Light Star satellite to commemorate the centenary of Kim Il-Sung. This immediately triggered a strong reaction from North Korea's neighbors – and beyond.

The South Korean government believes that Pyongyang's satellite launching program is essentially a test of ballistic missile technology for a nuclear weapons delivery system. They consider it an act of provocation and a violation of United Nations resolutions.

Japan stated that if the launch vehicle passes over Japanese airspace or falls on its territory, it will command its Self Defense Forces to intercept the satellite.

Russia urged North Korea to halt such confrontation with the international community, and that it was time to give up everything that aggravates tensions in the region and creates obstacles to resuming the six-party talks.

The United States thinks that not only will this action be in defiance of the UN resolutions, but that it also betrays the agreement signed only just last month between the two countries.

And meanwhile in Beijing, the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun held an emergency meeting with North Korea's Ambassador to China to express his grave concern. He insisted that all involved parties remain calm and exercise restraint in order to avoid escalation of the affair. Subtle as it is, this meeting marks a shift in Beijing's posture toward Pyongyang.

Behind the defiance

So why is North Korea defying all the world powers with such provocations? We can outline at least four reasons:

First, it's to implement the "teaching" of Kim Jong-Il. As the third generation of North Korean leaders, Kim Jong-Un's authority is essentially inherited from his father. Thus to consolidate his power base, Kim Jong-Un has to follow the will of his father. According to the Yonhap News report, the elder Kim had decided to launch the satellite before he died, and had already informed the United States last December.

Second, the act is considered a way of building the prestige of Kim Jong-Un, an attempt to assuage the doubts about his ability and experience to govern given his youth.

"One can live without candy, but one cannot survive without bullets' was the ideological basis of Kim Jong-Il's rule. His son is to continue the "military-first" doctrine to defend his legitimacy and maintain the myth of his father as a strong man.

In short, the new leader of North Korea needs a real crisis to exercise and express himself. If Kim Jong-Un can withstand the international pressure and successfully launch the satellite, it would be the biggest achievement of his political career and foster a public image of brilliant experience and uncanny skills, and feed the public worship of him.

Third, the satellite is also about shifting attention from Seoul to Pyongyang. The Nuclear Security Summit this week in South Korea is being attended by 58 heads of state and representatives of international organizations. The fact that South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak is to lead the summit diplomacy and conduct top-level talks with a record breaking 25 heads of state is just what North Korea doesn't want to see. Needless to say, the meeting is a perfect platform for criticizing North Korea's nuclear program.

Fourth, this is a way to humiliate South Korea. There is no secret about the competition between the twin countries over launching satellites, which has evolved to become a key point of comparison of their respective overall national strengths. North Korea started the satellite launching program earlier, in 1998, whereas South Korea didn't catch up until 2002, with the cooperation of Russia. Although South Korean specialists have boasted that their rocket and satellite technologies are superior to those of the north, being comparable with France's Ariane rocket, their repeated failures have made them the laughing stock of the North Koreans.

In fact, it is said that North Korea has also failed its last two launches, and is hoping to succeed at this third attempt in order serve its national dignity.

China changes tune

In 2009, North Korea launched its second satellite and encountered great disapproval from certain countries. Somehow China took a very different stance at the time. China considered that the rocket and missile launching technologies were not directly connected. It believes that the nature of launching satellites for peaceful use in space is not the same as launching guided missiles or conducting nuclear tests. China opposed the UN Security Council passing a resolution, and was even less favorable toward implementing sanctions against North Korea.

However, China's has significantly changed its attitude towards the third North Korean satellite launching. The meeting of China's Deputy Foreign Minister with the North Korean Ambassador on the same day of the initial announcement is a clear sign that Beijing is not happy.

What this implies are the following: China opposes North Korea's satellite launching; China has taken stock of the international community's reaction; the peaceful stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia region must be safeguarded; North Korea should not undermine the current situation; all relevant parties, i.e. South Korea, the US and Japan, should stay calm and exercise restraint to avoid the escalation which may lead to an even more complex situation.

That China applies rare public pressure on North Korea is based, above all, on its own interests. Later this year, China will see a change in leadership, and does not need anything, domestic or external, to make things more complicated.

Besides, although China holds the view that every country, including North Korea, has the right to explore and peacefully use space, it nonetheless disapproves of North Korea taking such risks of provoking tension on the peninsula, and in particular after it has just signed the "2.29 Protocol" with the United States.

If China does not manage to restrain North Korea, it might lose control of the region in the long run. And in the wake of the new North Korean leader's arrival to power, it is important for Beijing to try to set the tone for the future development of the two countries' relations.

If North Korea stubbornly adheres to its original plan, China may be forced to translate its concerns and worries into concrete counter-measures.

All in all, North Korea is playing a dangerous game. But it seems difficult for the regime to back down on its public vow to launch the missiles. For the moment, it is yet impossible to predict the outcome of the situation.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - John Pavelka

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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