Jian Business Plan

While the borderlands have a long history of failed economic integration projects, the simultaneous opening of a third economic cooperation corridor near Manpho (in addition to Sinuiju and Rason) and a sudden rise in bilateral agreements might mean Beijing’s patience with “maximum pressure” is wearing thin and that Chinese businesses want to reestablish ties with Pyongyang before Seoul does.

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As a result, the Chinese infrastructure build-up stops right at the border with the DPRK, setting the stage for future economic opportunities once the DPRK follows the Chinese-style “open and reform” model, as Christina Kim’s “economy of anticipation” theory posits.[8] As part of this strategy, authorities in Jilin Province have developed linkages between the provincial capital Changchun and the city of Jian, which faces the North Korean city of Manpho.

Once finished, the Jian-Tonghua highway will shorten travel time from two hours to around forty minutes,[9] which will not only help local powers turn Jian into a manufacturing hub for herb-based drugs,[10] but also facilitate economic integration with North Korea.

As interviews with North Korean officials unsurprisingly confirm,[6] China remains the most likely partner for these SEZs, although these initiatives have been met with skepticism by Chinese investors due to both the long history of failed deals between China and North Korea and the stringent sanctions regime, which bans the creation of joint ventures with North Korean companies.

Prospects for future North-South economic cooperation might eventually—and paradoxically—offer Pyongyang leverage to obtain more investment from China, which is keen to maintain its difficult but unique relationship with the DPRK.

Indeed, as DPRK-China economic cooperation is run by small-scale, profit-seeking private companies established in the borderlands and northeast China, Pyongyang has few opportunities to develop its depleted infrastructure or shift from natural resources extraction to more value-added production, as Kim Jong Un has repeatedly called for.[2] Until the March 2016 UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2270, the share of coal and unprocessed minerals in total North Korean exports nearly reached the 50 percent bar,[3] a situation that Pyongyang was ill at ease with, to say the least.[4] Flooding the Zones In order to escape from the unenviable situation of being a quasi mono-exporter of natural unprocessed resources towards an almost exclusive and rather self-interested trade partner, the DPRK has bet on the development of SEZs, especially after Kim Jong Un took power in 2011.

In contrast with the SEZs that pre-dated Kim Jong Un (namely Rajin-Sonbong, Kaesong, Hwanggumpyong-Wiwha Islands and the Mount Kumgang Special Administrative Region), the remaining 24 SEZs opened between 2011-2017[5] were not developed in collaboration with foreign state actors, but are North Korean initiatives.In particular, the recent opening of a bridge connecting the Chinese city of Jian (集安) and the North Korean town of Manpho (만포, 满浦) suggests that both the DPRK and China seem to be willing to open what would be a third economic cooperation corridor, in addition to the main Dandong-Sinuiju axis and the already existing Hunchun-Rason routes linking North Hamgyong Province with the Yanbian Korean Prefecture of Jilin Province.This was revealed during fieldwork interviews I conducted in Jian and the borderlands in 2018.Interestingly, these recent SEZs most often focus on higher value-added activities such as tourism, logistics and manufacturing based on comparative geographic advantages such as the availability of natural resources.It can be argued that instead of serving as “testing grounds” for further economic reform, as is the case with many SEZs, North Korean zones are most likely used as platforms for technological upgrading through foreign direct investment and technology transfers.After postdoc training in Rockefeller University, he became a faculty at St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis since 1998. He currently has 2 R01 grants, 2 Do D grants and one MRC grant.In the current context, however, the relative importance of this project suggests that it has at least a tacit nod from Beijing, and thus constitutes a political signal that China is ready to enter the North Korean market, should sanctions be lifted.Conclusion The months that followed the Singapore Summit saw visible increases in plans for China-DPRK cross-border economic interaction.While the old railway bridge linking Jian and Manpho is currently crossed up to twice a day according to locals,[11] a nearby two-lane bridge was opened in April 2019 following the construction of customs areas, housing and warehouses, and should be able to handle a larger volume of traffic.[12] On the other side of the border, construction at the end of the bridge is in progress, with large boards displaying an artist visualization of the future area.Manpho and the Jian-Manpho bridge, June 2018 Although several existing bridges have been expanded, the creation of a wholly new bridge, to my knowledge, is unprecedented in recent times.


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