Unfinished bridge reveals broken state of North Korea’s alliance with China

Unfinished bridge reveals broken state of north korea's alliance with china
The unfinished New Yalu River bridge that was designed to connect China’s Dandong and and North Korea’s Sinuiju / ©Thomas Peter/Reuters

Two years on from its expected completion, the bridge joining Dandong and Sinuiju remains unfinished: an emblem of an uneasy alliance gone sour

From Dandong, the largest Chinese city on the border with North Korea, it’s just a short hop to the Hermit Kingdom – or rather, a short swim. In summer, bronzed Chinese bathers wade into the Yalu River and paddle 400 metres to the opposite bank, where armed North Korean soldiers watch from turquoise guard towers over women washing clothes along the muddy bank. The North Koreans don’t dare swim.

“There are North Korean soldiers hiding in the long grass,” says one elderly Chinese woman swimming by the bank. “They will catch you and charge a ransom if you get too close.”

This is the frontline of a long-term communist alliance turned sour. At first glance, Dandong – with its 1.8 million people – looks like any other second-tier Chinese city: KFC and McDonald’s, 30-storey apartment buildings, tree-lined streets jammed with BMWs and Range Rovers.

But it is also the main umbilical cord for North Korea. From Dandong’s main thoroughfare, you can see across the river to dilapidated two-storey houses; at night, the North Korean city of Sinuiju (population 250,000) is in complete darkness. At least 70% of all trade in and out of this isolated country happens between these twin cities, and upwards of 20,000 North Koreans work in Dandong. Many shopfronts are in both Chinese and Korean.

Until recently, China was betting heavily that economic incentives could persuade North Korea’s recalcitrant leaders to behave in line with international norms – and Dandong was one of their carrots. China poured billions into the city to encourage trade: at least £3bn in an area called the New District, featuring gleaming apartments and malls; two special economic zones, both on river islands; and £250m into a new bridge spanning the Yalu River. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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