Jang's China contacts weren't explicitly mentioned in the official litany of crimes against him, although he was accused of underselling North Korean mineral resources for which China is virtually the sole customer. His China ties also were implicitly criticized via a reference to corruption related a 2011 project in conjunction with China at the Rason special economic zone.
Jang, North Korea's official media said, "made no scruple of committing such act of treachery in May last as selling off the land of the Rason economic and trade zone to a foreign country for a period of five decades under the pretext of paying those debts."
Jang's execution comes at delicate time in bilateral relations. While Kim's father made a number of visits to China, the new leader has yet to travel outside North Korea and has repeatedly defied Beijing's calls not to launch missiles and stage nuclear tests. That has in turn spurred Beijing to make unusually bold criticism and sign on to tightened U.N. Security Council sanctions, arousing an angry response from Pyongyang.
The chill in relations was somewhat relieved following the visit by a top North Korean general to Beijing this summer, but diplomats say China remains committed to working closely with the international community on enforcing sanctions and coaxing Pyongyang back to nuclear talks.
Still, Jang's execution isn't expected to bring major, immediate changes in a relationship that has been remarkably consistent over the many decades since China sent troops to save the North Korean regime from extinction in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Wang Junsheng, a North Korea watcher at the government's Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said relations might even benefit since the move leaves Kim in a stronger position than ever to guide North Korea's ties Beijing, the strengthening of which benefits both sides.