Anyone who has seen a police drama - from Dragnet to Law and Order and anything in between - has seen the "good cop, bad cop" routine. One officer antagonizes the suspect, while the other plays it cool, pretends that his partner is "out of control," and extracts the confession. Well, "good cop, bad cop" works in international politics, too, and there's no better example of that than Communist China and its third item). Sadly, even some in the Korean and Chinese democracy movements (Epoch Times: Chinese) have fallen for the routine. I remain unconvinced; there's far more reason to believe Communist China sees the nuclear test as an opportunity rather than a headache.
Prior to the nuclear test, anti-Communism was slowly gaining currency in Washington. The Defense Department issued a report highlighting Communist China's military buildup and geopolitical antics. Less than two months later, Canadians David Kilgour and David Matas released a damning report on Communist organ harvesting. Communist espionage operations were getting enough attention to inspire a Congressional investigation. Last but hardly least, news leaked out - complete with videotape - on a horrific outrage in occupied Tibet where Communist border guards used fleeing Tibetans for target practice.
Then, on October 9, North Korea re-arranges part of the Earth's surface, and the ensuing political earthquake levels all of the above.
Am I saying Zhongnanhai knew what was coming before the twenty-minute heads-up from Pyongyang? Not necessarily. The cadres are smart enough to ensure "plausible deniability" - especially in the modern media environment where they can't prevent their invasion plans for Taiwan from hitting the front page of the Epoch Times. More to the point, Communist China didn't need to know the exact timeline of the NK nuclear program to use it as a card against the United States.
However, given the whispers that the test "embarrassed" the Chinese Communist Part in the middle of its latest plenum, it should be noted that the timeline was in fact quite fortuitous for a regime eager to keep its cold-blooded Tibet murder off the political radar. Moreover, if one is prone to track specific timelines, the fact that North Korea's earlier missile test came one day after Mr. Kilgour's announcement of what was in his and Mr. Mata's report and two days before the report's release cannot escape one's attention.
In reality, what matters here is not the exact timing of North Korea's tests. Rather, it's the events that have occurred after it. While the United Nations Security Council has spoken, it has hardly acted. In fact, only Japan has taken concrete action directly resulting from the test. The United States, by contrast, has merely been building upon its already active (and praiseworthy) program to interdict North Korean shipping - better known as the Proliferation Security Initiative. Communist China, by contrast, hasn't lifted a finger (second item).
The reason for this is simple: Communist China does not have the same interests as the democratic world. The free world wants to prevent North Korea from harassing its neighbors and arming terrorists with nuclear weaponry. Communist China, by contrast, is already doing both of these things, so having Kim Jong-il do them on its behalf allows it to accomplish its objectives without any consequences.
So what can we expect from Communist China? We can expect more of the same: more boilerplate rhetoric, more visits to Pyongyang, more messages from Kim Jong-il through Beijing, and more stories about how much the cadres want nothing to do with the Stalinist regime's antics, written by people who really should know better.
In the long term, the democratic world is playing into Communist China's hands. Already, the "academic community" in Beijing is dropping hints that northern Korea was once "Chinese" territory (third item); similar hints were dropped regarding Tibet before the Communists removed it from the fraternity of independent nations. For a regime using radical nationalism to distract the attention of ordinary Chinese from rampant corruption, constant land seizures, and nearly six decades of brutality, annexing northern Korea - with the requisite payoffs to Kim Jong-il and his cronies - is a lot easier than taking on Taiwan, especially if the regime has managed to convince the rest of the world that Kim et al are dangerous loners.
As Kevin Spacey's character from The Usual Suspects put it: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist" - and just like Kaiser Soze, Communist China is convincing the world the devil is actually someone else. Kim Jong-il's regime lives or dies only on Communist China's sufferance. It is in Beijing, not Pyongyang, where the epicenter of evil resides, and it must be rooted out. The free world will never be secure until China is free.