Putin in China

I never think about it thoroughly until I came to the U.S. that why Putin is all that popular and become such an political “idol” in China. I called him an “idol” instead of a “figure” because often people do not pay attention to his policies or his political movement, yet extremely interested in his personal life and anecdotes. Such admiration is not really what people usually do to a foreign political figure yet to a teenage idol. For example,even a fake video about Putin sung a song during Voice of Russia got virus in China (http://www.iqiyi.com/v_19rrhbvd5g.html ). I reconsider his popularity in China and think there are mainly three reasons make Putin such a political icon in China.

Firstly, Putin’s strong personality which captured and publicized by his PR team. I remembered as a child I read a magazine issue on Yeltsin yet nothing interesting enough to let me know who is this person and what are his characteristics. The only thing I remembered is just Yeltsin was the leader of Russia, like any other state leaders. Putin personalize himself and put trademark on his strong personality and personal life many times. Chinese netizens called him “Emperor Putin” as a praise for his strong (and rather uncommon in the modern world) rule and leadership. He is regarded as the state leader with such a strong personality that does become a source of soft power of Russia in China: when we talk about Russia today, many picture Russian as the nation of people with battle spirits, strong, determining, and dare to fight with the West, which are actually traits presented by Putin. Simple example will be the news on Putin put on cloth for Mrs. Peng Liyuan, the first lady of China, during APEC summit and this got virus in China when Putin was praised as a “gentleman”.


Secondly, the Sino-Russial relations. There is no major conflicts or contested issue between China and Russia today. In fact, recently these two powers have developed many new framework for further cooperation. In terms of personal charisma, President Obama is another popular foreign political leaders in China yet people talk about his policies, especially policies related to China, more often than his personal life or personality. This is because given the U.S.-China relation today, President of U.S. need to make many decisions that may not be favorable for Chinese and people are more concerned about the policy outcomes brought about by the leader, rather than the leader himself. And when unfavorable decisions made, backed up by President’s rational for it, Chinese are less likely to give credits to this President for his decisions made.

Thirdly, the post-cold war world order. The mentality of us versus them is still existed on the world order today. In fact, as we discussed in the class, China see the established world order and norms as one established by the West. The world of Democracy and the world of Communist still exist and China often stands with Russia as  team counter-West. This attitude was reflected on Assad Crisis and also on Crimea Crisis. “Emperor Putin’ as Chinese people called him, is a figure that never hide his skepticism about the West with political power to fight against it. That impresses many Chinese since Chinese government is actually frequently criticized for being too weak in front of the West and too profit-driven when comes to China’s relation building with Western countries. It is not necessarily anti-west, yet it is more like Putin says many critical opinions that Chinese people agree with and hope their own leaders can frankly speak that out on behalf of their country.


One thought on “Putin in China”

  1. Yuyang –

    I very much enjoyed your post about the positive opinions of the Chinese people regarding Putin. Until now, I was unaware of the extent to which the Chinese people found Putin favorable. I was very interested in your description of Putin representing something of the whole of Russia to the people of China. Putin is seen as strong, firm and to some degree anti-Western monopoly, and in effect Russia as a whole is associated with those same characteristics. They have personalized Putin, connected with him via his emotional appeal, and therefore connected with Russia to a somewhat deeper extent. They feel that they know Russia by virtue of “knowing” Putin. Yet the description of President Obama in China seems to be a bit different. I found it very interesting that the Chinese people see Obama as less of a personalized figure and more so a political figure (in the sense that we are comparing him to President Putin). I feel like Obama in the U.S. is associated more so with “Obama the Personality” versus “Obama the Politician”, at least closer to the beginning of his presidency. People associated Obama with the ideals of “change” and “hope,” which I don’t consider as much political as I do personal ethics/agendas. Yet, it’s different abroad! I found this quite the eye-opener. Thank you for your insight, Yuyang!


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