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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Huaxi village in China the future model for Kim Jong-un's DPRK?

A new type of socialism may soon be embraced by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He may just be about to cross the river by feeling the stones, just like Chinese economic reformer Deng Xiaoping did it in 1984. For the past six months, seven North Korean officials have been staying at the Longxi International Hotel, located in the 72-story skyscraper of Huaxi Village, in China’s Jiangsu Province.

The skyscraper hotel of the small village of Huaxi
It is alleged that the North Koreans are trying to learn the ways of Huaxi Village, known for being China’s richest village but one that is still dedicated to socialism. News from Pyongyang also suggests that Kim Jong-un (김정은) is getting a greater grip on North Korea’s military. After sacking his former mentor Ri Yong-ho and promoting a so far unknown military figure, many now speculate that he may be winding down his father’s “military-first” policy to start to reform the local economy. China has been pushing North Korea to take the path of a more economic openness and reform for years.

Kim’s father, late leader Kim Jong-il, resolutely ignored China's advice and stuck to the “military-first” policy to keep complete control of the hermetic nation. The North Koreans visiting Huaxi may be a sign of his son’s more open attitude toward economic experimentation and a greater willingness to follow Deng Xiaoping’s opening of the Chinese economy starting in the late 1970s. Huaxi Village will probably remain the richest village in China for some time to come, and also a model of mixing socialism and capitalism. All the residents are shareholders of the local conglomerate and earn dividends at the end of every year according to its profitability.

The 328-meter-high Longxi International Hotel was completed in October 2011 and cost 3 billion yuan (US$471 million). The five-star hotel has 800 rooms, including suites that go for 99,999 yuan per night. Officials from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry and the North Korean Embassy in Beijing have previously visited the village, according to one resident. He also added: "I’m not quite sure whether the women workers are from the ruling Workers’ Party, but they are mostly in their 20s."

The North Korean officials have been staying in the village for six months learning how to manage a modern-style hotel - according to locals. Interestingly, all of them are women. Just what hotel they will be managing back home is up to little speculation: the Ryugyong Hotel will soon be accepting guests, and it is about time the DPRK run something that is up to international standards in all aspects.

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