Feng Shaolei: WHY DO THE CHINESE ADMIRE PUTIN?
On June 8th, all Chinese people focused their attention upon this scene: at the golden hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, an unprecedented solemn ceremony was arranged. It is the first time in Chinese history that President Xi Jinping awarded President Putin the first-ever Friendship Medal. Meanwhile, according to recent polls, President Putin is the most respected and admired foreign leader among the Chinese.
Actually, the Chinese’s respect and friendliness for President Putin is not out of a sudden impulse but instead a rational perception over a long period of observation and reflection.
For the Chinese, concern for statesmen above all relies on whether they make real contributions to the people. Based on years of observation, the Chinese know quite well how Russia has managed to get out of difficulties and gained stability step by step under President Putin’s brilliant and powerful leadership. Moreover, Russia is also actively creating conditions to strive for economic development and improvement. The Chinese notice that some global renowned institutes have released positive evaluations of Russian economy, which is never easily achieved.
At the same time, the Chinese also witnessed how President Putin was steadfast and wise in handling pressures from the outside, endeavoring to maintain Russia’s dignity and international status. There is an old saying in China that the good seaman is known especially in bad weather. President Putin is indeed an extraordinary statesman emerging from an ever-changing world. I have met politicians, scholars, and prominent experts from various countries. Although their opinions are not always the same, yet they have sincerely expressed their admiration for Putin either in public or in private. In my opinion, as long as we uphold justice and objectivity, we can fully feel whether he is winning or losing public support.
People’s perceptions towards Putin, no matter in China or in other countries, not only originate from emotional preferences, but also are based on conscience, which is actually an expectation that everyone can feel but hard to achieve.
For a world that is undergoing such dramatic changes, what direction on earth should we choose? Fortunately, people get inspirations from joint efforts of Putin and statesmen of other countries. This world can no longer be determined by a certain hegemony, especially when the original hegemony itself no longer considers itself as a dominant power. Similarly, this world can never allow unrestrained competition and struggles among countries. This world can no more return to anarchy before World War I and World War II as well. Incidentally, it is said that Hobbes once argued a “jungle world of all against all”. Yet now it seems that it is not exactly the original intention of classic thinkers as Hobbes. Scholars in intellectual history are almost drawing this conclusion.
Faced with changes of the times, we notice that a pluralistic, secure, stable, and open world without giving up principles such as market, democracy, and political freedom, which Putin, Xi Jinping, and other wise and open-minded statesmen, strategists advocating to establish, is both realistic and supported by solid material forces. Nevertheless, they do not advocate returning to rigid outdated ideologies, but instead call for mutual respect and learning from each other. This position is based on a rational observation of the evolution of global affairs in the past 30 to 40 years. In addition, it is also rooted in people’s goodness, friendliness and instinctive judgment.
Some hold that the decline of the West is a judgment which was proposed nearly a century ago by such scholars as Toynbee and Spengler. However, even after they made such a prediction, the West, on the contrary, still experienced “a century of prosperity”. Indeed, any similar historical foresight is merely a prediction. However, this time, when reiterating the “decline of the West”, there has already been a collective rise of emerging countries such as Russia, China, and India. This is an unprecedented phenomenon. Among these countries appear a group of outstanding statemen like Putin who is courageous, wise, and knows how to maintain the balance. This is, in fact, the hope of this chaotic world.
Of course, the Chinese are also well aware that Putin has always expressed his understanding, respect for China, and his sincere expectation to cooperate. Especially when some international experts and friends, who do not understand China’s status quo and even sometimes express misunderstandings, President Putin always offer an Ariadne’s thread according to his own profound insights and practical understanding. My personal experience in communicating freely with President Putin at the Valdai Discussion Club over more than a decade could also prove this.
President Putin emphasizes that every head of a country always handles national and international affairs according to his own national interest. The Chinese quite appreciate his frankness. Meanwhile, the Chinese particularly admire him for being able to defend his country’s interests so calmly and firmly even under great pressures. Besides, he also speaks upright and opposes any distortion of the truth.
In a so-called “post-truth, post-western, post-modern” contemporary world, we need such statesmen and leaders as Putin.