Nearly one million Chinese died or were wounded in saving the North Korea of Kim Il-sung from defeat in the 1950s, but most Chinese today regard the country with a mixture of humour and ridicule. An estimated 40,000 Chinese travel to North Korea each year. It's easy to get a visa, provided you join a tour group, and costs less than a holiday to Singapore or Thailand. What they see is a time warp of their country 30 years ago - ration coupons and queuing, uniform clothes, overcrowded buses, and the assault of propaganda. Almost no one has a mobile phone, which are forbidden to all but a privileged few. It reminds Chinese of how far their country has come since the death in 1976 of Mao Zedong, the equivalent in the propaganda posters of Kim Il-sung. 'China was able to reform because Deng Xiaoping was not the son of Mao Zedong,' said Li Ming, a Shanghai businessman who has been to North Korea twice. 'North Korea will not reform like China - otherwise how could it continue its family dictatorship?' In the 1970s, Mr Li's parents watched foreigners, plump and well-dressed with fancy watches and Japanese cameras, walk along the Bund and tell jokes to each other. In Pyongyang, Mr Li finds himself in the place of those plump foreigners, the object of jealous attention by passing Koreans, who dare not linger too long for fear of attracting the attention of agents. When he listens to the guide explaining the achievements of Kim Jong-il and his father, Mr Li feels a frustration that it is all unnecessary, that everyone knows what should be done to save the economy and improve the life of its citizens, but no one can do it because of the oppressive politics.