Gallows Humor: China to the US, “You Bomb, We’ll Rebuild”

April 21, 2017 7:00 AM

The liveliness of the Chinese online chat world is well-known. One of its interesting features at the moment is the appearance of open contempt for North Korea, often in hilarious form. And posts are staying up, which could be its own subtle signal. A student of mine passed me this joke in the form of a discussion between the Americans and Chinese over what to do with respect to North Korea, with a few comments in brackets. The cynicism is delicious. Thanks to Jason Kuo for the translation, which is rough and tries to capture the colloquial. The original Chinese version is copied below. Readers’ own submissions are welcome in the comments.


One of my buddies (a retired military attaché) explained what happened between the US and China with regard to the other side of the Yalu River.

China: If you would like to bomb, you better wait until the end of spring. By that time, nuclear pollutants would follow the wind to the southeast [of North Korea] instead of coming to mainland China. And we could just give up the fishery in the East China Sea. I just couldn’t stop Kim from acting stupid. As long as you guys do not fight us at home, I would be fine with that. And here’s the deal: after bombing North Korea, you pay me to rebuild it. But I would love to take its northern ports.

US: OK. You build. Let's get the Japanese to pay you. However, you’ll have to take a million refugees.

China:  No... no more than a half million. I prefer to be paid by the UN.

US: NBD. But there are still 10 days before the end of April. I can't let my people [for the military operation] drift at sea.

China: You’re stupid! Start a dialogue! Have you never heard of acting on the ground of just reasons, real benefits, and self-restraint [the oft-cited code of conduct for Chinese diplomats]? I would be happy to cast a supportive vote if we have done sufficient face diplomacy to prevent any embarrassment [for the operation, as in UNSC]. Moreover, it would take a few days to fence the border. You should talk to North Korea first.

US: Sure, I’m listening. But what if Kim changed his mind and settled with me?

Chinese: Settlement? Why settle with North Korea? Enough is enough.

US: Got it. How about trade?

China: That's quite another matter. Once you bomb, tremendous commercial interests in North Korea would follow suit. Trade would no longer an issue.

US: (Silent) That's right. Let's bomb North Korea first.

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