lundi 20 novembre 2017

The Chinese Ogre

Australian Furor Over Chinese Influence Follows Book’s Delay

An uproar followed an Australian publisher’s decision to postpone the release of a book by Clive Hamilton, who says Beijing is actively working to silence China’s critics.

SYDNEY, Australia — The book was already being promoted as an explosive exposé of Chinese influence infiltrating the highest levels of Australian politics and media. 
But then, months before it was set to hit bookstore shelves, its publisher postponed the release, saying it was worried about lawsuits.
The decision this month to delay the book, “Silent Invasion: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State,” has set off a national uproar, highlighting the tensions between Australia’s growing economic dependence on China and its fears of falling under the political control of the rising Asian superpower.
Critics have drawn parallels to decisions this year by high-profile academic publishers in Europe to withhold articles from readers in China that might anger the Communist Party.
But the case has struck a particularly sensitive nerve in Australia, where the book’s delay is the latest in a series of incidents that have raised concerns about what many here see as the threat from China to freedom of expression.
“The decision by Allen & Unwin to stall publication of this book almost proves the point that there’s an undue level of Chinese influence in Australia,” said Prof. Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University. Allen & Unwin is one of Australia’s largest publishers.
In the yet-unpublished book, the author, Clive Hamilton, a well-known intellectual and professor at Charles Sturt University in Australia, describes what he calls an orchestrated campaign by Beijing to influence Australia and silence China’s critics.
In one chapter, according to Mr. Hamilton, the book asserts that senior Australian journalists were taken on junkets to China in order to “shift their opinions” so they would present China in a more positive light.

Mr. Hamilton says the company that was set to publish his book expressed concerns about possible lawsuits by Beijing.

In another chapter, he said the book details what he calls links between Australian scientists and researchers at Chinese military universities, which he said had led to a transfer of scientific know-how to the People’s Liberation Army.
The book had been scheduled to be published in April, and Mr. Hamilton had already turned in a manuscript. 
But Allen & Unwin, based in Sydney, suddenly informed him on Nov. 2 that it wanted to postpone publishing because of legal concerns.
Mr. Hamilton responded by demanding the return of the publication rights, effectively canceling the book’s publication by Allen & Unwin. 
Mr. Hamilton says he will seek another publisher.
Mr. Hamilton said the decision had been made for fear of angering Beijing, and shows China’s ability to limit what information Australians can see — exactly the sort of influence that he said he warned about in his book.
“This is the first case, I believe, where a major Western publisher has decided to censor material critical of China in its home country,” Mr. Hamilton said in an interview. 
“Many people are deeply offended by this attack on free speech, and people see a basic value that defines Australia being undermined.”
In a statement, the publisher said it decided to hold off publishing the book, which would have been Mr. Hamilton’s ninth with the company, until “certain matters currently before the courts have been decided.”
It did not specify what those matters were.
“Clive was unwilling to delay publication and requested the return of his rights,” the statement said.
However, Mr. Hamilton has disclosed an email that he said was sent to him on Nov. 8 by Allen & Unwin’s chief executive, Robert Gorman
The email explained the decision to delay the book’s release: “April 2018 was too soon to publish the book and allow us to adequately guard against potential threats to the book and the company from possible action by Beijing.”
“Our lawyer pointed to recent legal attacks by Beijing’s agents of influence against mainstream Australian media organizations,” the email said.
The contents of the email have been widely reported by the local news media. 
When asked for comment, Allen & Unwin declined to confirm or deny its authenticity. 
Mr. Gorman has not gone public to deny the email’s authenticity.
Mr. Hamilton said the publisher was probably referring to two defamation cases that are currently in the courts aimed at two Australian media companies: the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a major television company, and Fairfax Media, a newspaper publisher.
One of the suits was filed by Chau Chak Wing, a Chinese-Australian businessman who has been a major donor in Australian politics. 
Chinese fifth column: Chinese agent Chau Chak Wing.

Chau is seeking damages from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a TV news report that the suit says damaged his personal and professional reputation.
That report, which was shown on a popular current affairs program, said the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the domestic spy agency, had warned political parties against accepting contributions from two ethnic Chinese, of whom one was Chau, because of ties to the Chinese government.
Chau has long said his campaign contributions are entirely "legal" and "unrelated" to the Chinese government.
The news report prompted a heated debate in Australia over how vulnerable its democratic political system is to foreign influence, especially from China.
The question of Chinese interference is a delicate one for Australia, an American ally that has embraced Beijing as its largest trade partner and welcomed Chinese investors, immigrants and students in large numbers.
“The book shows in great detail the problem of Chinese influence in Australia is much deeper than we thought,” said Mr. Hamilton, a prolific author who in 2009 received the Order of Australia, one of the country’s highest honors, for “service to public debate and policy development.” 
“I think some of the material I’ve uncovered have been a shock even to our intelligence agencies,” he said.
James Leibold, a professor of politics and Asian studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, said the decision to withhold such a book, especially one written by a noted author like Mr. Hamilton, underscored China’s growing ability to pressure publishers and other media companies.
Last month, Springer Nature, one of the world’s largest academic publishers, came under criticism for self-censorship after it bowed to Chinese government requests to block hundreds of articles on its Chinese website that touched on delicate topics like Taiwan, Tibet and Chinese politics.
In August, another publisher, Cambridge University Press, admitted to removing some 300 articles from the Chinese website of China Quarterly, an academic journal, that mentioned issues like the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
Experts say Allen & Unwin, the Australian publisher, has gone a step further by delaying access to a book to readers outside of China.
“Australia is a bellwether,” said Professor Medcalf of National Security College. 
“If dissent can be stifled here, then it can be stifled anywhere.”

Free Tibet

Tibet flag mars China’s U20 debut in Germany
By Neil Connor

A Chinese agent attempts to tear away a Tibetian flag which was raised in protest of China's politics regarding Tibet at the match between TSV Schott Mainz and China's U20 team at the regional sports facility in Mainz, Germany.

Mainz, Germany -- China’s Under-20s football team stormed off the pitch during a match in Germany after demonstrators unfurled Tibetan flags.
The team – which is coached by former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai - only agreed to continue playing in the televised match against TSV Schott Mainz after the protesters took down the flags.
The incident left football chiefs in China and Germany red-faced as they seek to salvage a series of matches aimed at preparing China’s young footballers for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
The TSV Schott Mainz game was the first of 16 friendlies the young side is to play against lower clubs in Germany until May -- with the next game against FSV Frankfurt on Saturday.
Ronny Zimmermann, vice-president of the German Football Association (DFB), which has organised the matches, said: "We cannot ban the protests, there is the right to freedom of expression here and certain rules apply.
"However, we also want to be good hosts and as a result we are not happy with this incident.”
Sun, who was signed for Man City for £2 million in 2002 and was the first Chinese player to score a Premier League goal, sought to deflect attention from the walkout back towards the football.
"The team came to Germany to improve their football and to gain experience," he said.

Protesters hold the Tibetan flag ahead the friendly football match TSV Schott Mainz vs China's Under-20 team on November 18, 2017.

The German FA is seeking to avoid a similar embarrassing situation during the remaining games and will be holding talks with the Chinese delegation .
Three teams in Germany’s fourth-tier Regionalliga Suedwest league have refused to face the Chinese after their fans protested, but the other 16 clubs will each be paid 15,000 euros (£13,300) for the matches, reports say.
German media said the game was delayed for 25 minutes after the Chinese walked off.
The team eventually returned to the pitch after the flags were removed by the protestors, but the Chinese lost the game 3-0.
Rights groups say Tibetans chafe under China’s oppressive rule.

dimanche 19 novembre 2017

Chinese Peeping

Chinese are spying on Victoria’s Secret lingerie show
By Oli Coleman

China has watchful eyes on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show debacle in China is becoming increasingly bizarre.
While staffers for the lingerie giant scramble to get Monday’s show in Shanghai back on track after a string of problems obtaining visas for models and performers such as Katy Perry and Gigi Hadid — both of whom were denied — as well as permits for press, they’ve been even more hampered by the fact that e-mails of VS show staffers and production crew are being monitored by Chinese authorities.
TV and media-industry insiders who are desperately trying to figure out what’s going on amid the production chaos are getting frustrated by messages from colleagues in China simply saying that they can’t speak frankly about the issues with the government because their communications are being watched.
As The Post has reported, Perry — who was booked to perform during the glitzy annual show — had her visa application declined because she once showed support for Taiwan (which is in an independence struggle with China) during a Beijing concert.
Victoria’s Secret Angel Hadid has been rebuffed by officials because she once drew criticism for posing insensitively with a cookie shaped like the Buddha. 
Plus, fellow Angel Adriana Lima’s visa application has been imperiled by an unknown “diplomatic issue.”

Said a source about the VS undie surveillance, “They want to discuss what’s going on as far as replacements for those denied visas and alternative arrangements, but they have to be tight-lipped because it seems that the government is watching their e-mails,” said a source.
Media traveling to China for the event have also been thwarted by the authorities. 
We’re told that many fashion bloggers have been denied visas, and TV producers have discovered that they need permits to shoot outside of the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where the show — which will, fingers-crossed, air on CBS later this month — is taking place. 
As one source put it, “If you’re going to China you want to show that you’re in China!”
Victoria’s Secret didn’t get back to us.

Why China Can't Conquer Taiwan in a War

The United States should focus on helping China’s neighbors deny China sea and air control in the region
By Zachary Keck

With Xi Jinping having consolidated his power at the 19th Party Congress, and the United States increasingly distracted at home, it may seem like a given that China will reestablish its predominance over the India-Pacific region. 
A new study casts doubt on this, however, arguing that Beijing doesn’t have the military power to defeat its neighbors. 
In fact, it probably can’t even conquer Taiwan.
The new study by Michael Beckley, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tufts University, was published in the academic journal International Security. 
In the article, Beckley argues that China’s neighbors could thwart Chinese military aggression through anti-access/area denial strategies with only minimal U.S. assistance.
“My main finding is that there is a budding balance of military power in East Asia, which the United States can reinforce at moderate risk to U.S. forces,” Beckley writes in the article. 
“Furthermore, this balance of power will remain stable for years to come, because China cannot afford the power-projection capabilities it would need to overcome the A2/AD forces of its neighbors. The main reasons are that power projection forces are more expensive than A2/AD forces by an order of magnitude.”
A2/AD is most commonly discussed in relation to China’s efforts to deny America the ability to intervene in any regional conflict or make it so costly that Washington is deterred from doing so. Some observers, including James HolmesToshi Yoshihara and Andrew Krepinevich, have argued that the United States and its Asian allies should this strategy around on China. 
Instead of seeking to maintain command of the sea and air as America has traditionally done, these scholars suggest Washington and its allies could simply seek to deny China the ability to achieve its goals. 
As Beckley puts it, “Under this strategy, the United States would abandon efforts to command maritime East Asia and, instead, focus on helping China’s neighbors deny China sea and air control in the region.
Beckley’s main contribution is to test the viability of this strategy for a number of foreseeable conflict scenarios. 
One of these, of course, is a Chinese invasion of the Taiwan strait. 
While amphibious invasions have always been the most difficult military maneuver to pull off, they are especially difficult in an era of precision-guided munitions that can pick off an invading force while they are still at sea.
To have any chance of successfully invading Taiwan, then, China would have to establish total air superiority and command of the sea in the area. 
As Beckley explains, “If Taiwan retained substantial air defenses and offensive strike platforms, a Chinese amphibious invasion would be impossible, because Taiwan could pick off PLA landing craft as they motored across the Taiwan Strait.” 
Although China has amassed an incredibly large missile force to destroy Taiwan’s defensive capabilities at the outset of a conflict, it would still need to take Taipei by total surprise to be successful. 
If Taiwan had some advanced warning of an attack, it could disperse its aircraft to some thirty-six military airfield across the islands, while also relying on a number of civilian aistrips and even some highways that double as emergency air bases. 
Taiwan also has a bunch of road-mobile missile launchers and anti-aircraft weaponry, as well as a number of ships and submarines capable of attacking Chinese forces with cruise missiles.
As Beckley points out, there is little reason to believe that China would be able to knock out all of these defenses in a surprise first strike. 
To begin with, Taiwan has sophisticated early warning air defense systems. 
Moreover, the United States has not even been able to achieve this level of destruction against much lesser enemies like Iraq during the First Gulf War or Serbia in 1999.
But if China was far more successful than the United States had been in those conflicts, Beijing’s ability to execute an amphibious invasion is still far from certain. 
For instance, Beckley notes that only ten percent of Taiwan’s coastlines are suitable for an amphibious landing, which would allow Taipei to concentrate its forces on a few key areas. 
Chinese forces trying to land would likely be severely outnumbered.
Thus, even using the the most optimistic assessments (from Beijing’s perspective), China would have its hands full trying to conquer Taiwan.
Consequently, Beckley writes, “the United States would only need to tip the scales of the battle to foil a Chinese invasion, a mission that could be accomplished in numerous ways without exposing U.S. surface ships or non-stealth aircraft to China’s A2/AD forces.” 
More specifically, by the U.S. military’s own estimates, America would need “10,000 to 20,000 pounds of ordnance to decimate a PLA invasion force on the beaches of Taiwan.” 
This could be done, Beckley notes, using a single B-2 bomber or an Ohio-class submarine.
Beckley goes on to demonstrate that China would have difficulty gaining control over the East and South China Sea, given the nearly certain resistance it would face from countries like Vietnam and Japan. 
Thus, China’s ability to militarily dominate the region is more unlikely than is commonly appreciated. 
That being said, China’s strategy to date seems to be to win without fighting. 
So far, this has been relatively successful.

samedi 18 novembre 2017

The Necessary War


A top NATO official has warned of a shift in global military strength from the Western military alliance to China and Russia, a move he said could make a global conflict more likely.
In an address to the Atlantic Council, a NATO-affiliated think tank, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier reportedly said Thursday that the "risk for a major interstate conflict has increased" as non-Western powers, especially Russia and China, rocked the U.S.-led balance of power with their own push for greater military and economic clout. 
Both countries have undergone significant campaigns to revamp and modernize their forces, unsettling the transatlantic coalition.
"China is leveraging its economic power to increase defense spending as a foundation of the growing global power strategy," Mercier said, according to The Hill.
"The neighboring India is following the same path and could reach a comparable status in the medium term. At the same time, Russia is resurfacing with the will to become a major power again, challenging the established order in the former Soviet space," he added.
Mercier's remarks came in direct response to NATO's latest Strategic Foresight Analysis report, which was published last month with the stated goal of analyzing current international policy trends to shape the multinational coalition's strategy through 2035. 
The report claimed that "one of the biggest changes in the world is the increased risk of major conflict" since the release of similar reports in 2013 and 2015.
NATO blamed this on the "actions of a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and a more assertive China in the South China Sea using both hard and soft power to achieve political ends." 
Economically, things were changing too, with the report finding that "the global economic power shift away from the established, advanced economies in North America, Western Europe and Japan is likely to continue to 2035 and beyond."
"As power is shifting away from the West toward Asia, the West’s ability to influence the agenda on a global scale is expected to be reduced," the report read.
In September, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Marine General Joseph Dunford, told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his reappointment hearing that, while he considered North Korea the foremost threat to the U.S. "in terms of the sense of urgency," Russia led "in terms of overall military capability" and he expected China would become "the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam November 10, 2017. In addition to empowering their own nations, Putin and Xi have sought greater ties with one another in order to present a united challenge to U.S. and Western interests.

China's increasingly important role on the international stage was put in the spotlight last month during the quinquennial Communist Party Congress, which made Xi Jinping's consolidation of power and influence apparent for the world to see. 
Xi has rapidly reformed his country's military, which boasted the largest standing army on Earth, to create a 21st-century fighting force capable of protecting Beijing's initiative to establish trading routes across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, as well as countering the U.S. presence in the Pacific.
Meanwhile, Russia's military rise has been viewed as particularly challenging to Western interests, as the country has already begun to replace the U.S. as the leading power broker in the Middle East and has expanded its influence in Europe. 
Following Vladimir Putin's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, NATO assumed a more militant stance toward its rival, and the two have embarked on a major arms race across the region.
Xi and Putin have also sought to establish greater ties with one another in order to provide an alternative to the Western status quo. 
China and Russia have conducted joint drills across the world, from East Asia to the Baltics, and the Chinese Defense Ministry announced Friday that China and Russia would team up for an anti-missile exercise as both countries express opposition to the U.S.'s installation of the Terminal High Altitute Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, according to Reuters.

The Finlandization of South Korea


A detente between China and South Korea may be good news for the Korean economy and a necessary step towards resolving the North Korea issue, but at the same time it threatens to degrade regional security for years to come.
When South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Xi Jinping agreed on November 11 to “normalise exchanges”, they ended a conflict that began more than a year ago with Seoul and Washington’s decision to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea.
Beijing, which claims the system’s radar can be used by the United States to spy on China, retaliated against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system with unofficial sanctions against the South. 
Seoul has now agreed to accept military constraints in return for the lifting of those sanctions, creating a worrying precedent for Beijing’s rivals in the region.
South Korean protesters try to block two US military vehicles hauling THAAD missile defence systems in Seongju. 

The military constraints are known as the “three nos”, meaning Seoul agrees there will be no further anti-ballistic missile systems in Korea, no joining of a region-wide US missile defence system and no military alliance involving Korea, the US and Japan. 
This is an enormous sacrifice but for reasons both economic and political Moon had few other options.
Economically, after being suffocated for 16 months by China’s “doghouse diplomacy”, many South Korean businesses were left gasping for air. 
Hyundai’s sales in China dropped 64 per cent in the second quarter of 2017 from a year before, Lotte’s supermarket sales in China fell 95 per cent over the same period and Chinese tour groups to South Korea were banned outright, which alone led to an estimated revenue loss of US$15.6 billion this year, according to Hyundai Research Institute.
Politically, a better strategy might have been playing both ends against the middle by fostering better ties with Japan and the US but this would have alienated Moon from his base and may not even be something he wants at the moment.
“Moon Jae-in is on the political left, which tends to believe ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, so they dislike Japan and feel closer to China for historical and political reasons,” said Joseph E. Yi, associate professor of political science and international studies at Hanyang University. 
“The left-wing in Korea is very anti-Japan and has a post-colonial outlook, seeing China and Korea as opponents of Japanese colonialism.”
It all depends, Yi said, on how one views the past. 
If Koreans view themselves and Chinese as victims of Japanese oppression, they will be more likely to sympathise with China. 
But, he noted, the problem with this perspective is that Japan today is not the country it was 60 or 70 years ago – neither is China.
As such, Korea and Japan are arguably better allies, according to the political philosophy of liberalism, which suggests liberal democracies should ally against non-liberal states because whatever their differences, their goals ultimately overlap.
China’s economic retaliation is an example of this, since it constitutes a violation of its free trade agreement with Korea, whereas Japan, which also has a free trade agreement with Korea, has honoured its part of the deal.
But liberalism is the philosophy of Korea’s political right, while its political left is defined by social constructivism, or the theory that decisions and knowledge are based not on liberal like-mindedness or realpolitik, but on certain narratives.
“If you see Japan as an unrepentant, evil colonial power then you’d rather ally with China against Japan,” Yi said. 
“So when Moon met Trump, instead of trying to develop a stronger alliance between Korea, Japan and China, Moon introduced a comfort woman, and they had Dokdo shrimp.”
Comfort women is the euphemism given to the tens of thousands of Korean women forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese brothels during the second world war; Dokdo shrimp are caught in waters around islets at the centre of a territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan – Tokyo lodged a protest about both issues after the Trump visit.
“[Moon is] focused on redemption against the past,” Yi said. 
“He wants the Japanese prime minister to apologise, and I think this kind of focus on the past shapes politics in an unhealthy way.
“The ‘three nos’ creates a precedent that links economics to political and national security. Korea would never do that if it was any other country, like Vietnam or Japan, but they’re doing it for China because the only other way is to ally with Japan and that’s not an option for the left.”
South Korean actress Jun Ji-hyun, centre. 

Already, however, the first signs of an economic thaw are visible. 
Two days after Moon and Xi’s agreement, South Korean actress Jun Ji-hyun appeared in an ad for health products on China’s biggest online shopping website, Taobao by Alibaba, the owner of the South China Morning Post.
Also, during their November 11 summit in Vietnam, Moon and Xi agreed that Moon would visit China in December, and Moon invited Xi to attend the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 
During the same trip, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested he and Xi visit each other next year to mark the 40th anniversary of their nations’ friendship treaty.
Xi Jinping gives his speech to the 19th National Congress. 

This raises further questions about China’s efforts to isolate Japan and constrain South Korea’s military options. 
According to Donald K. Emmerson, director of the Southeast Asia programme at Stanford University, China’s 19th National Congress, which was held from October 18-24, provides some answers. 
For one thing, the recent congress has further cemented Xi’s hold on power. 
That shift, Emmerson said, coupled with China’s economic means, provides Beijing the capacity for expansion.
So capacity is there, what about desire?
Xi opened the congress with a speech that lasted more than three hours, in which he said China had entered a “new period” and must now “take centre-stage in the world”. 
Emmerson said this language suggested that while Beijing’s expansionist ambitions might not extend to Europe, “China wants dominance in its immediate periphery”.
The South China Sea, for example, is administered in domestic Chinese law through the province of Hainan, which means Beijing sees the South China Sea as a Chinese lake. 
Subsequently, when former Philippine president Benigno Aquino filed a suit against China at the United Nations, China refused to take part and denounced the tribunal’s decision, which was not in China’s favour. 
China then blocked fruit exports from the Philippines and discouraged tourists from visiting.
“China was furious,” Emmerson said. 
“They denounced the Philippines and punished it economically, kind of an equivalent to what happened to Lotte in [China] after the THAAD incident in South Korea. The idea is to do economic damage until the state in question behaves properly, according to Beijing.” ■

vendredi 17 novembre 2017

Donald Trump is a moron

Trump hails China's North Korea envoy as 'big move' but experts doubtful
By Ben Westcott

Donald Trump has hailed the Chinese government sending an envoy to North Korea Friday as a "big move" in the wake of his five-country trip to Asia.
In a Tweet late Thursday, Trump appeared to suggest it could lead to developments in the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
"China is sending an envoy and delegation to North Korea - A big move, we'll see what happens!" Trump said.
The US leader has just finished a two-week tour of Asia, including a stop in Beijing, during which he called for greater diplomatic pressure to be put on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, is due to arrive in North Korea on Friday, state news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday. 
It's the first time a senior official has made a public visit to North Korea this year.
Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said the visit was unlikely to be an attempt to strong arm Pyongyang over its nuclear program.
Officially the visit is about party to party ties. 
Song will inform the North Korean Workers' Party of the outcome of China's 19th Party Communist Party Congress in October, where Xi Jinping was given a second term as leader.
"It has become a sort of routine for the Chinese Communist Party to send a special envoy to its fellow communist and socialist countries to brief them on China's Party Congress," he said.
"China did so after the conclusion of the 2007 and 2012 party congresses, so this is not really unusual."

Zhao, however, said it was "very likely" the North Korea nuclear program would come up as part of their discussions.

Repairing ties
John Delury, associate professor at the Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, said China would take the temperature of North Korea's ruling elite and reopen communication channels apparently shut as ties had soured.
"Everyone's looking for a breakthrough on the impasse over the nuclear missile program and obviously that's part of the mix but ... the main focus is on improving the Xi, Kim channel somewhat and seeing what can be done," he said.

There were indications in early November the two formerly close allies were working to repair ties, when Xi wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "promote the relations between the two parties."
"Even just at a basic level of getting a sense of where Kim Jong Un is at and what are the possibilities," said Delury. 
"We're in the very delicate stage and you need to get a read, you need to have lots of conversations. The Chinese channel is one of them."
Zhao said there was unlikely to be any major breakthrough during the Pyongyang visit on reining in North Korea's nuclear program: "It could well be routine exchange of their long standing positions."
Delury said it would be key to monitor how Song is received by the North Koreans and who he meets:
"The way that the North Koreans report the visit, who he meets, and the tone of the reporting will tell us something about whether it was positive and some progress made, or whether it was a surly exchange," he said.