Editor’s note: The following article was translated from a blog that appeared on popular Chinese portal site ifeng.com and represents the opinions of its author, Que Lin, a self-described “media professional”. As the title suggests, Que explores the reasons for Putin’s immense popularity in China and why Obama’s rhetoric is increasingly breeding mistrust amongst the Chinese people.
Although Russian Prime Minister Putin is not very popular in the United States, Britain or other Western countries, he holds a lot of popularity in China, as many Chinese people like this Russian leader. In conversation with some supporters, they express admiration towards Putin. Clear evidence for this is found in the rise of WeChat messages, with WeChat messages like “Men, Salute Stalin” being reposted with increasing frequency.
A survey on Tencent’s “Today’s Topic” column shows that Putin’s support rate from Chinese people has remained above 90% between 2008 and 2014. The column also quoted an observer on the matter as they said that it was not only grippingly masculine looks that gained him support from the Chinese public, but that the Chinese media reports also commended him on being a well-rounded individual, from Judo Master to Fighter Pilot. Chinese netizens have nicknamed the Russian leader “Putin the Great”.
In fact, the Chinese people are deeply interested in Putin’s reasoning, as is apparent in two main points. Firstly, they are intrigued because Putin dares to oppose the Western countries that stand allied with America in order to safeguard the fundamental interests of Russia. For example, Putin ensured that Russia welcomed former NSA employee Edward Snowden with open arms, thus taking on the roles of the democratic and powerful entity generally played by the United States.It seems clear that Chinese people are easily impressed by the Russian leader.
Secondly, since the Opium War, China has experienced many years of internal chaos, civil war, national weakness, and has suffered under aggression, enslavement, plundering and containment by other nations. The Chinese people have suffered catastrophes and humiliation, without a long-term release or vent. The Chinese people strongly hope that positive external relations and the emergence of a strong character can give release to this suffering and humiliation of the Chinese people. Putin as a character meets this vision of the Chinese.
Lack of trust in Obama
Of course some people also think that the emergence of this situation is very convenient and gives Putin too perfect of an image, and that this is why Putin’s approval rate is so high. But this is only part of the reason. Another reason is domestic public opinion on American President Obama’s “Return to Asia” conspiracy theory, and the large number of news reports about his support for Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. For example, in May this year, Obama supported the Philippines against China, and declared that all of Japan’s activities were preparation for war with China.
These moves make it hard for Chinese people to trust in and feel positively about Obama. From China’s perspective, Obama is further removed from the Chinese people than his predecessor George W. Bush. Although George W. Bush kept to “Cowboy Style” politics, his word could always be trusted. To put it bluntly, Obama as a politician is a chameleon; firstly he spread propaganda about China’s G2 policy, trying to overvalue and then devalue China; but China was not fooled by his trick. Now, he has set up the “return to Asia” policy, attempting to create a balanced Asia-Pacific once again.
At present, the United States’ support of Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines is creating trouble for China, and is making things very difficult for the Chinese. For example, the way that Obama has been trying to solve territorial issues has been causing the same problems. The United States, as well as some Japanese stakeholders, maintain defensive military relations. Even though Obama has appealed to Chinese and these countries to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner, what he actually did is support the status quo – that which is beneficial for both America and its allies. An attempt for China to protect its own geopolitical rights quickly leads to debate about values and human rights.
As a matter of fact, Obama represents American politicians, in whose DNA there is an impulse of the “Manifest Destiny”. On one hand, they want to push the American values and model onto other countries and territories, but on the other hand they want to maintain their status as the world’s superpower. For their own national interests, the United States has waged many wars, lectured disobedient countries and has pushed the “to follow the United States is to flourish, to oppose the United States means death” line as their main approach to foreign policy.
Right now, the United States has joined hands with allies in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia to contain China, and hinder its rise. At the same time, everyone in Europe opposes Russia. Under these circumstances, how could China and Russia not become allied? Although throughout history, China and Russia have had their differences, this is exactly that: history; and the reality is that America is China’s opponent. So, Chinese people will naturally side with Putin, and give him emotional support. In contrast, Chinese people do not have many positive feelings towards Obama.
In fact, the Chinese are not stupid. Who to like, who not to like, is naturally clear. Chinese people prefer Putin to Barack Obama’s hypocrisy, arrogance and pride. The two nations can coexist peacefully, develop together, but Obama choses not to do so. He even told The Economist last week that the United States must be tough on China. Why must he be tough on the Chinese? Does he not know that China holds a lot of American debt? Does he not know that Sino-American relations will become increasingly co-dependent? Does he not know that Sino-American relations are no longer in the past? This is really worth thinking about.
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Keywords: why do Chinese people like putin Putin’s popularity in China
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Don't look for heroes... there are no heroes here. There are only leaders making decisions in their respective national interests. In fact countries don't have any friends, they only have interests. They don't really have enemies either... at least not until the shooting starts anyway... then they have created enemies. People of the world don't really dislike each other, they are convinced to dislike each other. Nations do have competitors with differing interests to their own. How different or how mutually beneficial those interests might be - will fundamentally determine how much business they will do with each other. It is not yet clear who is winning and who is losing; however it seems to me that we will not necessarily see a clear winner for some time yet. The US still has an advantage as the first of the really large capitalist blocs to fully form. China will have problems integrating Japan and the EU will have problems with the UK's half in half out approach. Both nation's reluctance to unify their local blocs are it seems US foreign policy objectives. Both Japan and the UK depend on US investment to prop up their stocks and keep them the senior players in their respective regions. Nations have interests... they don't have friends. Money and resources or rather the ability to appear as if a nation has them or can borrow them is the single major issue that determines national interests. So the winner will be the nation who can appear wealthy the longest. This appearance will be dependent on markets which are dominated by two fundamentals - fear and greed - of the two fear is the more powerful. The fear of losing our jobs or that all one's wealth can be erased in a day will eventually determine the outcome of this battle, because nothing will save us if we stop buying. In the meantime we watch in horror as these interests are played out before us each night on our screens. Welcome to the 21st Century economy. There is an old saying in boxing… “that everyone has a plan - until they get hit…”
Oct 28, 2014 23:14 Report Abuse
USA has to be the biggest propaganda machine the world has ever had the displeasure of experiencing. It intimidates everyone and thinks it is God. The most arrogant nation on earth. It has over 200 military bases around the world and is involved in every war. It creates enemies and an unsafe world in the name of "democracy" which is actually "capitalist greed" and is on everyone's borders using intimidation, blackmail and threats. The Russians don't do this which is why Chinese support Russia as opposed to the US. The US is much more of a world threat. These over-patriotic Americans and their supporters are supporting an evil capitalist regime which spies on everyone and is in the process of trying to control the world.
Sep 01, 2014 13:00 Report Abuse
The English have such clarity on America. In reality, the government of the U.S. is so gridlocked that nothing effective can ever get done. This is well agreed upon by the majority of my American friends. Obama is just shucking and jiving trying to find something that works. Unfortunately, not much is working. And as soon as he finds an opening, the Republican obstructionists try to stop him at any cost, including a shutdown of the government. Gridlock. W. Bush seemed slightly better only because they pulled a storm trooper routine and bullied everyone into getting things done. Putin? He's a wolf in sheep's clothing. He takes his shirt off, wrestles a bear, jumps in an icy lake and then the Chinese get all wet. My god. These are world governments we're talking about, not Spartan Olmpics of 2000 years ago. China must be commended for not jumping in and blowing up anyone whose policy they'd like to change. Instead they unload containers of cash into willing arms. Sounds less destructive in the long run. Despite the fact that China's government is totalitarian, they get stuff done. Look at the infrastructure improvements in the last 10 years alone. If the U.S. would take care of their own business at home and stop getting into everyone else's sh*t, they might have a chance of regaining some of their lost past glory.
Aug 27, 2014 21:51 Report Abuse
An ineresting article! If I may give an advice to present commentators, please, try to read and listen news in other languages - in Chinese, Russian, ... and the picture of the world will change greatly. This article is a good example of "fresh wind". Otherwise we will be just ignorant fanatics living within a sack, made of english language and "democratura", on his head.
Aug 22, 2014 11:19 Report Abuse
Many men believe that understanding other worlds`s culture is like to find correct equivalence between words, institutions and so on. But in fact nations go different ways and are looking for different value systems. American bloggers would discuss about democracy and dictature, japanese and chinese will be speaking of preserving national culture, europeans - of their profit and losses, russian -of social solidarity and humanism and so on. And when you read them in their languages you can see how different are priorities. So , there is no sence to compare directly who is better - Obama or Putin. We all live in different spaces and on different planets.
Aug 23, 2014 16:14 Report Abuse
Dont worry about Putin`s invasion. I am afraid when he leaves we will have nothing except vodka, sausages and other petty bourgeoisie prosperity. And only some old men will be missing those ancient times when we also have had high science, literature, and we had some perspectives for the future, in those times professionals were respected by society even more then shopkeepers.
Aug 24, 2014 12:08 Report Abuse
In regards to the title of the article itself, I'd say it is the perception of power that is attractive to the Chinese psyche. Chinese politics and society at large is still mostly male dominated at this stage of the game (you often won't hear Chinese women asking foreigners about Obama, it is usually men asking other men and then writing articles about it). Putin is former KGB, has a reputation of a "ladies' man", enjoys insulting and poking fun at the U.S.A image, looks tough and cool in public, etc. All good Alpha male qualities that the historically damaged male Chinese psyche would find attractive. Obama displays a different type of TV body image that appeals to a completely different set of Western-type values and a more "feminine" or perceived as a more "Beta" type image compared to the cold, and hard TV Body image of Putin. People watching TV would project or fantasize subconsciously that the two men would duke it out in a bloodsport cage match. Weak men generally are attracted to stronger males (or at least the ones that are perceived as strong), and in the case of Chinese history, strong males (the Emperor, Mao,etc) that don't take shit from other leaders or compromise must look extremely attractive to a population that can't freely vote or take any part in any political decisions. Yes, and Obama's mystery stance on any number of issues doesn't help either, the Chinese are used to clear political signals from their leadership into which direction they are supposed to be walking and talking (remember we are talking about people not in the CCP), and even he (Obama) mystifies them (the Chinese). Just MY observations.........if you don't like it or agree, feel free to comment. Flame on
Aug 21, 2014 17:03 Report Abuse
Im no fan of Mr. Obama yet I wont vouch my support for a leader who destabilizes another nation just to annex part of it and expand her territory!!! its quite unbelievable its happening in the 21st century. Go to Vietnam and one will understand china's true foreign policy and intent,whether they are meant to be peaceful or bullish? And if china's rising power in the east isnt leveraged, one can imagine the extent of power abuse and warmongering in south east asia. As for obamas popularity in china anyone can just ask 'MR STEVEN, a chinese national who owns a coffee shop in Australia and his answer will be my customers wont like a blackman serving them coffee.
Aug 21, 2014 13:53 Report Abuse
Before making such statement you may want to check a bit on the historical facts. After terrible event of Tatars deportation (for which however you cannot blame the current Russian government) majority of Crimea populations are native Russians. Crimea was given to Ukraine by Chrushchow in 1954, being part of Russia before. After fall of Soviet Union and creation of independent Ukraine Crimea declared independency (they reconsidered the position later on). Crimea on the long term strongly went for own autonomy or even independency on Ukraine as they do not feel to be Ukrainians. We may argue a lot if the way how Crimea again became part of Russia is right or wrong but there is certainly no doubt about that majority of Crimean population wanted it this way. However discussion about the Crimean status are potentially quite dangerous as one would then have to also ask about how legitimate was Kosovo referendum etc. Putin is in Russia very popular and without any doubts supported by majority of the Russian population. He tries to make the policy he believes is advantageous to Russia. Currently it looks like he is reasonably successful and therefore also his popularity stays high for over a decade already. Liking or disliking the world strongest countries leaders is usually a personal choice or preference but before commenting on their particular steps and decisions it's always worthy to at least try to check 'both sides of the coin' :)
Aug 25, 2014 10:47 Report Abuse
I'm not sure that this is the issue with current Ukraine situation. Ukraine was for quite a while already relatively unstable due to the tensions between the Western Ukrainians and Eastern 'Russians'. Previous Ukraine governments did not do themselves a good service by trying to suppress the usage of Russian language which is spoken as native language by about half of current Ukrainian populations (with exception of the last government which had though another problems ...). Once the war started and the people started to die so any agreement will be now more difficult as both parts already cannot get rid of certain emotions. Therefore it's usually better to avoid the war and prevent any person to die...
Sep 02, 2014 11:13 Report Abuse
Though I am American, I also do not trust Obama, not for a moment. He has one claim to fame of his own, the insurance policy that bears his name. Even that sucks. Putin is showing signs of megalomania, furthered along by the adoring of any country that has or does share similar political beliefs. But at least people can see Putin coming from a mile away. We know what Putin wants, how he wants it, and what he will do to achieve it. Obama on the other hand says one thing, thinks another, and then does something else. Since Bush left office, how are Americans better off at anything? It's no wonder why so many are trying to give up their citizenships, and I am not saying this is the solution. But when you can't understand your own leader and nothing is improved, rather worse, it is time to change. At least you never hear Russian people complaining that Russia is worse off, I know many here in China. In this rare instance, Putin is the man with a bigger set of balls than Obama.
Aug 21, 2014 13:15 Report Abuse
Chinese media is all propaganda anyway. What the Chinese see and hear is generally not an accurate indication of what is really happening. Look at Chairman Mao, for example. He was a ruthless madman who was responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people. Yet, due to the brainwashing of the masses, he is loved by many Chinese, and even considered a hero. When it comes to political issues, the opinion of the Chinese doesn't mean anything, as we all know how distorted their thought process is.
Aug 21, 2014 09:10 Report Abuse
Better to love a tyrant than to elect one like the USA does. Since WW2 the USA has invaded... Guatemala twice, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Korea, Lebanon, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iran twice, Libya thrice, Panama, Iraq twice, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Philippines, Honduras and Nicaragua. China has invaded Tibet.
Aug 23, 2014 09:13 Report Abuse
Naughty Obama, not supporting whatever China wants. It's almost as if he was making decisions for America and not China! I'm guessing that "Self-declared media expert" means "watches Chinese TV". The author has about as much perspective regarding international relations as any other Chinese person. Which is to say: not much.
Aug 21, 2014 06:14 Report Abuse