Last week Jasper Becker, long-time Asia journalist and author of Hungry Ghosts and The Chinese, came through Beijing and gave a talk at The Bookworm, a local lending library and literary locus, about his newest book, Rogue Regime. This treatment of North Korea, its ruling family and the threat it poses to the international community is emblematic of a general western point of view on the country: it cannot help shuddering at the nation's surreal atmosphere and poses the question: 'What to do?' It states the issue in terms of problem and a solution - namely, the removal of the regime. For the Chinese, 'what to do' may be too direct a formulation of the issue. China and North Korea are fraternal twins, born of the same global struggle, guided by the same ideology, pursuing the same noble ends - or so it goes in both countries' official literature. In reality, relations were never that harmonious - and far less so following Deng Xiaoping's reforms - but there is a certain familiar resignation, a recognition that they are, to a certain extent, stuck with each other. Even the North Korean embassy in Beijing is reminiscent of the China of 40 years ago - the main building a poor cousin to old Soviet state architecture, with a great round seal hanging from the cornice. But the Chinese themselves retain no nostalgia for things of that era, and there are signs that the Chinese people's patience with their intransigent neighbour is wearing thin. An often-illuminating window into citizens' minds is online news, where readers can append comments directly to articles. On a recent Sina.com article involving the North, one reader crowed: 'Because of North Korea's shameless irrationality, the US has made all sorts of concessions to China. Why should we help resolve the nuclear issue? Let North Korea be the United States' nightmare!' A response directly below it read: 'There's a nuclear-armed madman at our doorstep. Who's having a nightmare?' Other comments revisit the sore issue of China's decades of aid to North Korea, which was rarely met with gratitude and often repaid with curses. It is hard to imagine the government does not share its people's displeasure. Another oft-circulated story describes former premier Zhu Rongji's angry refusal of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's demand for more luxury cars along with grain shipments. China and North Korea may once have been as 'close as lips and teeth', but the Chinese seem just to be grinning and bearing it these days.