So much for Obama’s isolation of Russia and the western media’s hysterical demonisation of the man.
1.5 billion Chinese call him “Putin the Great.” I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that he actually acts like a man and cares about his country, while not folding like origami to bankers, lobbyists and oligarchs.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Books on Mr. Putin have been flying off shelves since the crisis in Ukraine began, far outselling those on other world leaders, sales staff say. One book, “Putin Biography: He is Born for Russia,” made the list of top 10 nonfiction best sellers at the Beijing News newspaper in September.
China’s fascination with Mr. Putin is more than literary, marking a shift in the post-Cold War order and in Chinese politics. After decades of mutual suspicion—and one short border conflict—Beijing and Moscow are drawing closer as they simultaneously challenge the U.S.-led security architecture that has prevailed since the Soviet collapse, diplomats and analysts say.
The former rivals for leadership of the Communist world also increasingly share a brand of anti-Western nationalism that could color President Xi Jinping’s view of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Beijing accuses Western governments of stirring unrest there, much as Mr. Putin blamed the West for the pro-democracy protests in Kiev that began late last year.
Russia has begun portraying the Hong Kong protests, too, as U.S.-inspired. Russian state-controlled television channels this week claimed that Hong Kong protest leaders had received American training.
The Pew Research Center says China is one of the few countries where popular support for Russia has risen since Moscow’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine—rising to 66% in July from 47% a year earlier.
A poll by In Touch Today, an online news service run by China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., put Mr. Putin’s approval rating at 92% after Russia annexed Crimea in March.
Sanctions and western media propaganda of Russia has lead to a strengthening in ties between Russia and China…good job Obama. It has also bolstered Putin’s reputation as a strong leader, and not some puppet lapdog like his European counterparts, who basically have no spine whatsoever.
“Putin’s personality is impressive—as a man, as a leader. Chinese people find that attractive. He defends Russia’s interests,” says Zhao Huasheng, an expert on China-Russia relations at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “Russia and China can learn a lot from each other.”
It is partly realpolitik. Russia needs China’s market and capital, especially as Western sanctions over Ukraine bite, the analysts say, while Beijing sees Moscow as a source of diplomatic support and vital energy resources.
The countries concluded a long-awaited deal in May for Russia to supply $400 billion of gas to China over 30 years. They have forged agreements to build a railway bridge over their common border and an ice-free port in Russia’s far east. They have also unveiled plans to set up ground stations on each other’s land for their satellite global-positioning navigation systems.
Putin and Xi have found a new common ground, and this means a stronger Eurasian axis is now forming.
“Putin and Xi Jinping are quite similar,” says Yu Bin, an expert on China-Russia relations at Wittenberg University in Ohio. The leaders are from the same generation—they are both 61—and both want to re-establish their countries as world powers and challenge Western dominance following periods of perceived national humiliation.
Mr. Xi came to power two years ago succeeding Hu Jintao, whom party insiders saw as an uncharismatic leader unable to inspire popular support or defend China’s national interests. “I think China, after 10 years of Hu Jintao, started to look for a strong leader,” says Mr. Yu. “In that context, the Chinese leadership does look to Putin. There’s a parallel experience.”
Mr. Xi has since made his relationship with Mr. Putin a priority. He chose Russia for his first foreign visit as Chinese president and was one of the few world leaders to attend the Sochi Winter Olympics. Mr. Xi has met Mr. Putin nine times since taking office, most recently at a Central Asian security forum in Tajikistan last month.
“I have the impression we always treat each other as friends, with full and open hearts,” Mr. Xi told Mr. Putin in Moscow last year, according to an official Kremlin transcript. “We are similar in character.”
He told Russian students later that China and Russia were both going through “an important period of national rejuvenation” and had “the best great-power relationship” in the world.
Putin is perhaps the only leader, to date, who actually had the balls to take on his country’s corrupt oligarch establishment when he took office at the turn of the century, and China’s Xi is now following that same recipe for success and strength.
Mr. Xi has established himself as a political strongman by outlining a “China Dream” of national rejuvenation, by overseeing a sustained anti-corruption campaign and by using China’s military muscle to enforce territorial claims around its coast.
He has also tightened controls on the media and political dissent and has launched a campaign against Western ideological influence, such as through foreign-funded NGOs.
Zheng Wenyang, the 30-year-old author of “He is Born for Russia,” says his Putin biography has sold far more copies than his earlier works onBarack Obama, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.
He says Mr. Putin’s popularity, while inflated by glowing reports in Chinese state media, feeds off a deeply held conviction in Chinese society: “If a leader is weak and allows himself to be bullied, then people won’t respect him.”
Russia’s pushback against Western-leaning governments in Georgia in 2008 and more recently Ukraine has been popular in China. Some say Beijing should draw lessons from those experiences as it jostles for control over waters in the East and South China seas with the U.S., Japan, Philippines and Vietnam.
“Putin is a bold and decisive leader of a great power, who’s good at achieving victory in a dangerous situation,” said Maj. Gen. Wang Haiyun, a former military attaché to Moscow, in an interview with the Chinese website of the Global Times newspaper.
“These features are worthy of our praise and learning. Russia has been a great world power for hundreds of years and a superpower in the bi-polar order: It’s much more skilled than us at playing great power games.”