Repeated failures in attempts to modernise North Korea are a direct consequence of the rigidity and security paranoia of the regime there, acting as major disincentives to potential investors. It is these same factors, aggravated by American inflexibility, which make the six-party negotiations on eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons so ineffective. In a rather more calm approach than that of Western countries, China favours patience and negotiation in the attempts to slow North Korean and Iranian proliferation. Knowing how difficult it is to manage time and how dangerous to hurry events, China is addressing the control of its strategic environment in the Middle East and North-East Asia. Ever prudent, it is giving itself the capacity to protect its strategic approaches to the east and its land-based energy supply lines to the west.