The New York Times has an interesting article on how a changing China and a recalcitrant North Korea have made for a strained relationship as of late, not just among Beijing politicos but from the Chinese hoi polloi.
This apparently growing view that China has outgrown its Cold War-era BFF is underscored by things like North Korea's nuclear test during the Chinese New Year festivities.
At home and abroad, China has long been regarded as North Korea’s best friend, but at home that sense of fraternity appears to be souring as ordinary people express anxiety about possible fallout from the test last Tuesday. The fact that North Korea detonated the device on a special Chinese holiday did not sit well, either.But will this translate into anything? I'd like to remind everyone that Chinese people don't actually vote for their leaders, who can still do pretty much whatever they want. The question is when will those leaders themselves start to see the danger of North Korea's brinkmanship?
Among Chinese officials, the mood toward the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has also darkened. The Chinese government is reported by analysts to be wrestling with what to do about a man who, in power for a little more than a year, thumbed his nose at China by ignoring its appeals not to conduct the country’s third nuclear test, and who shows no gratitude for China’s largess as the main supplier of oil and food.
“The public does not want China to be the only friend of an evil regime, and we’re not even recognized by North Korea as a friend,” said Jin Qiangyi, director of the Center for North and South Korea Studies at Yanbian University in Yanji City. “For the first time the Chinese government has felt the pressure of public opinion not to be too friendly with North Korea.”
I've recently written on why Pyongyang's nuclear tests are a threat even to Chinese security, and Beijing is trying to get North Korea to reform, but North Korea is run by some obstinate people who may not have yet been convinced that preserving their regime requires changing its ways.