Not that it matters much to the Chinese government, but North Korea’s seizure of those 28 or 29 fishermen has pissed off a lot of Chinese netizens. No, the Chinese government isn’t about to bow to the demands of Weibo commenters, but the other side of this cause-and-effect relationship is interesting. This outrage, as temporary as it’s sure to be, has to be a consequence of a deliberate decision by the Chinese government to make a public issue of this incident. China’s attitude here really isn’t all that different from what you’d expect had the arresting authorities been South Korean — this really seems to be a reflection of China’s insistence on the filial piety of its vassal states. China’s beef isn’t that North Korea is brutal, it’s that North Korea is rebellious.
The reports are both consistent and plausible that the North Korean sailors looted the Chinese boats and the possessions of their crew members, and that they mistreated their captives. No surprise there, but then, we’d be able to put that in its proper context if we really knew whose waters the Chinese were fishing in at the time, or whether the North Korean sailors were acting under orders or were engaging in piracy. On balance, it seems more likely that the Chinese were the ones who crossed the line, and that the North Korean sailors took the sort of liberties that undisciplined forces tend to take when in positions of power.