People in China’s northeastern provinces, Jilin and Liaoning in particular, have endured nerve-wracking times amid aggressive military posturing and build-up by North Korea.
The ideological camaraderie between Beijing and Pyongyang has been wearing thin, with public misgivings simmering among residents on the Chinese side of the 1,420-kilometer border with North Korea.
They fear a spillover from the Kim Jong-un regime’s rogue nuclear tests, the last of which occurred in early September, when a hydrogen bomb was detonated at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, less than 100km from Jilin, a province with 27.5 million people.
Provincial authorities appear to have acknowledged the bitter feeling among people by allowing the local paper, Jilin Daily, which is affiliated with the provincial Communist Party committee, to run a full-page special feature on Wednesday on what to do in the event of a nuclear apocalypse.
Headlined “Nuclear weaponry and how to protect against it”, the report contained detailed, cartoon illustrated instructions on protection and first aid during an nuclear attack or accident, such as where to hide and what to avoid, as well as subsequent treatment and cleanup, with a list of recommended items to be included in an emergency first-aid kit.
This rare move by the provincial paper has sent another shockwave among residents in the province, with many wondering if a nuclear threat is imminent from across the border and if Beijing has now realized that people have to be told about what to do should a cataclysmic scenario occur.
Screenshots of the newspaper report were widely shared on WeChat and other social media platforms not only by Jilin residents but others across China – so much so that editors at the paper had to downplay the speculation, stressing that “[the feature] is nothing but part of a routine education program on national defence and public safety”. They said people should not read too much into it.
In an op-ed on the same day, Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times noted that Jilin’s sensitivity and concern about any possible emergency is “understandable” but it sought to defuse any worry, saying China was very unlikely to be attacked by Pyongyang, a Communist ally, even if the Korean Peninsula fell to a belligerent state.
“The South, Japan and even the United States, people in Seoul and Tokyo, should be more worried about any attacks,” the paper said.
“Even the wind blows from the northwest in winter in our northeastern provinces, so there’s really no need to panic.”
Global Times also ruled out any likelihood of nuclear contamination from a US attack on North Korea, given Washington’s repeated assurance against any aggression. It reiterated that China had room to maneuver and prepare in the unlikely event of a war.