Chinese envoy heads to North Korea after Trump visit


The Global Times reports (in Chinese) that Song Tao 宋涛 — the head of the Communist Party’s  International Liaison Department — will go to Pyongyang on November 17 to brief Kim Jong-un’s government on China’s 19th Party Congress, and also “visit” North Korea — in other words, discuss other matters.

  • Although it is common for China to send envoys to North Korea after important political events, this is the first such visit in two years.
  • The announcement of the visit “seems especially timely because it comes a day after Trump wrapped up his extended tour of Asia,” according to the Associated Press.
  • Don’t expect anything big: AP says Song’s visit will “be about small steps.”
  • The New York Times reports (paywall) that “specialists on international relations” say that Song will probably “urge the North to join negotiations to halt its nuclear program,” and brief him on Xi Jinping’s meeting with Trump.
  • The Los Angeles Times quotes a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson who “declined to specify whether the envoy would also discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions,” but would only say that Song will “exchange views on major issues of common concern.”
  • But is something new happening? Some commentators see signs — Ankit Panda, who covers global security for the Diplomat, tweeted about Song’s trip: “Maybe a limited agenda/mandate, but my sense is that something has changed.”

The abusive pseudoscience of LGBT ‘conversion therapy’

Homsexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, and removed from the Chinese Society of Psychiatry’s list of mental disorders in 2001. But same-sex relationships still carry a stigma:

  • This is where unethical doctors and targeted internet advertising come together to perpetuate the fake science of “conversion therapy.”
  • Parents of LGBT people in China often press their children into submitting to phony “treatments” ranging from electric shock therapy to forced drugging. Many clinics offering these procedures advertise on search engines, using search queries such as “What do I do if my son is gay?” to target likely customers.

Human Rights Watch has published a study on the abuses, including firsthand accounts of 17 people in China forced into conversion therapy. Zheping Huang at Quartz has a good summary of the report.

Zimbabwe — the China connection

The Zimbabwean army took over the country’s state-owned broadcaster on November 15, and announced that President Robert Mugabe and his family are “safe and sound,” but that the apparent coup was “targeting criminals” in Mugabe’s circle.

  • Last week, Zimbabwe’s military chief visited Beijing, prompting speculation that he visited to inform the Chinese government of his plans, but Reuters reports that China’s Foreign Ministry said the visit was a “normal military exchange.”
  • The absence of widespread violence associated with the takeover meant the transition would have little impact on Chinese businesses and construction plans in the country,” according to “Chinese observers” quoted in the South China Morning Post.
  • The SCMP also has a report on “five ways China is building influence in Zimbabwe.” These include the construction of military, medical, and computing facilities as well as the country’s new parliament building.