Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Perhaps. A Chinese tycoon is seeking to buy a big chunk of land in Iceland for tourism development (free registration required to access the link).
Opponents have questioned why such a large amount of land – equal to about 0.3 per cent of Iceland’s total area – is needed to build a hotel. They warned that the project could provide cover for China’s geopolitical interests in the Atlantic island nation and Nato member.

While home to just 320,000 people, Iceland occupies a strategically important location between Europe and North America and has been touted as a potential hub for Asian cargo should climate change open Arctic waters to shipping.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


As someone who has spent a bit of time examining the Chinese presence--political, commercial, military--in Korean port cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (read all about it here), I found this article to be interesting.

I don't recall that the Qing Empire sent many gunboats to Wônsan (they were a frequent sight in Inch'ôn) but steamships from the China Merchants Steamship Company visited the port from time to time and the small Chinese commercial community there did a thriving business that far exceeded what their numbers would warrant.

Now the Chinese navy is back. Plus ca change ....

On the other hand, this didn't happen back in the 19th century:

Members of the flotilla of navy ships of the Chinese People's Liberation Army headed by Vice Admiral Tian Zhong, commander of the North Sea Fleet of the Navy, laid a floral basket before the statue of President Kim Il Sung in the city of Wonsan in Kangwon Province of the DPRK.

They placed the floral basket in the name of the flotilla before the statue and paid high tribute to Kim Il Sung with deep reverence for him. -

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


The PRC tests its first aircraft carrier.
China’s first aircraft carrier began sea trials on Wednesday, the state-run Xinhua news service reported, a highly symbolic step in what is certain to be a years-long effort to create a carrier presence in the Pacific waters off its coast.

The carrier, once known as the Varyag, left Dalian, its northeast China port for what analysts said would be a test of its rudder, propulsion system and other basics.
I'm sure folks in Taibei and those that border the South China Sea are thrilled.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


an NYT story on the difficulty foreign reporters have in making sense of the DPRK.
North Korea might be struggling with an unprecedented crystal meth epidemic. Reporting a story on the drug trade between North Korea and China, I spoke with dozens of sources: defectors, academics, policemen and even one North Korean crystal meth dealer, and I heard estimates that anywhere from zero to 50 percent of the population have tried the drug.

I painted a picture of the drug’s abuse for my article: part escape from the desolation of North Korean life, part medicine in a country with practically no healthcare infrastructure. Yet after months of research I have to admit that I have no idea what is actually happening inside North Korea.
This is all well and good (and has been oft repeated) but the author hides the lede which I think is most important:
I have no idea how many of my U.S. college classmates tried crystal meth, and I spent four years among them in one of the most open societies in the world.
The fact is, we actually have a considerable amount of information about the DPRK from official sources, defectors, foreign visitors, intelligence sources etc. etc. But at the end of the day trying to come to a valid conclusion about any society, nation, or group of people is much, much harder than it might seem.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Some video footage of the latest incarnation here. Somehow I am reminded of this. I wonder what the folks out in District 12...oops, I mean Chôngjin, think of all of this.