January 17, 2019

When Xi Met Kim: How China and North Korea Depicted It

When Xi Met Kim: How China and North Korea Depicted It


Kim’s Confident Debut

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This image of Mr. Xi appearing to offer a toast to Mr. Kim appeared in North Korea’s state media, but not China’s.

Credit
Korean Central News Agency

While the Chinese news media published less flattering images of Mr. Kim, the North Korean media made sure he came across at home as charismatic, showing him smiling and offering a forceful handshake to Mr. Xi.

The state-run media showed photos of Mr. Kim’s extensive motorcade as well as Mr. Xi appearing to offer a toast to Mr. Kim. Those images did not appear in the Chinese media.

Mr. Kim, making his debut on the global stage, was most likely eager to show he was a respected figure who could hold his own with one of the world’s most powerful leaders. In North Korea he was depicted, without exception, as strong and in charge.

Ideological Brethren

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Both countries’ state media — including Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency, which released this photo — depicted China and North Korea as ideological comrades.

Credit
Korean Central News Agency

Mao Zedong once said China and North Korea, longtime Communist allies, were as “close as lips and teeth.”

But relations between the two countries have been strained in recent decades. However, there was no hint of that tension in the coverage of Mr. Kim’s visit this week.

The Chinese and the North Korean news media portrayed the two countries as ideological comrades. Mr. Kim was welcomed in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, as a military band played. News reports said he and Mr. Xi watched an art performance together, joined by their wives.

Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York, described the pageantry as a “renaissance of the old socialist-style, big-leader rituals.”

“They certainly didn’t just sneak him in the back door,” he said of Mr. Kim. “It looked like he got pretty close to the full monty.”

Personal Chemistry

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Mr. Kim waving before departing on Tuesday from a Beijing railway station, in a photo released by KCNA.

Credit
Korean Central News Agency

Both men seemed eager to convey that they have a renewed commitment to working together, and a personal chemistry that will unite them.

Mr. Xi showed considerable warmth toward Mr. Kim, smiling widely and offering affectionate embraces. Mr. Kim returned the fondness, waving enthusiastically as he departed.

The budding alliance between the two leaders may put new pressure on President Trump, who is expected to meet with Mr. Kim in the coming weeks. While the location for a meeting has not yet been decided, some analysts say that Mr. Xi may be angling to have it in Beijing.

“That would make Trump like the three-wheel bicycle,” Mr. Schell said. “He would have to go to Beijing again, and almost be the supplicant to these old allies that have patched up their marriage.”



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