It’s safe to say that Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a lot of fans right now. People in Europe and the US have widely rejected Putin’s rationalizations for war and, at the same time, have been impressed with the courage of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. But in China, the country’s online nationalists think Putin is doing a great job.
Its users have called him “Putin the Great,” “the best legacy of the former Soviet Union” and “the greatest strategist of this century.” They have chastised Russians who protested against the war, saying they had been brainwashed by the United States…
As the world overwhelmingly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese internet, for the most part, is pro-Russia, pro-war and pro-Putin…
A translation of Mr. Putin’s speech on Thursday by a nationalistic news site went viral, to say the least. The Weibo hashtag #putin10000wordsspeechfulltext got 1.1 billion views within 24 hours…
Mostly young, nationalistic online users like these, known as “little pinks” in China, have taken their cue from the so-called “wolf warrior” diplomats who seem to relish verbal battle with journalists and their Western counterparts.
Putin and Xi Jinping have been especially chummy lately. The issued a joint statement prior to the Winter Olympics saying their friendship had “no limits.” When it came to the possibility of a Russian invasion, foreign policy experts in China dismissed claims by the US that it was imminent. Some seemed surprised when it happened last week just as the US had predicted.
Just before the invasion, Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, ridiculed the Biden administration’s predictions of war in a 52-minute video program. “Why did ‘Sleepy Joe’ use such poor-quality intelligence on Ukraine and Russia?” he asked, using Donald Trump’s favorite nickname for President Biden…
When the fighting began, he, too, acknowledged to his Weibo followers, who number 1.6 million, that he had been wrong.
Xi Jinping has been ramping up nationalism in China and flooding state media with daily messages about China’s strength as it erases freedoms in Hong Kong and threatens to reunify with Taiwan, by force if necessary. So no surprise that these same “little pinks” find Putin’s militaristic nationalism appealing. But not everyone is on board with cheering on the invasion. One widely circulated article was titled “People Who Cheer on War are Assholes.”
“When I see photos of crying Ukrainian children from thousands of miles away, why do I feel heartbroken?” wrote the author in his note. “Maybe it’s because I’m still human.”
— Marrian Zhou 梦媛 (@ZhouMarrian) February 25, 2022
After it started going viral that post was pulled down by WeChat. Another popular response by some Chinese netizens has been to crack jokes about wanting to help out by taking in Ukrainian women:
“While you are chilling in your home, drinking boba, reading Weibo and posting jokes, it’s us, your compatriots on a battlefield, who are paying the cost of your actions.”
“Stop pushing your compatriots into the fire pit.”
The post received over 1 million likes.
— Wenhao (@ThisIsWenhao) February 26, 2022
If the rest of the world has learned any lesson from this invasion it’s that economic independence is helpful when trying to make bullies pay a price for their belligerence. As one NY Times reader points out in the comments, it’s time to apply that lesson to China now if we want to be able to stave off a similar invasion of Taiwan.
It’s time for the US to take stock of where our essential commodities come from, including medicine, tech goods, batteries, and steel.
China is not our friend, and we will be stuck to the spigot like Germany is to Russian gas, when China starts flexing on Tiawan.
The time to get ready is now.
Another upvoted comment put it this way:
Even more reason to make sure Putin is defeated and soundly punished for starting this war. China’s autocratic leadership also needs to be given pause.
Indeed, China may be letting the “little pinks” rant and rave about Putin on social media but its own response to the invasion has been more careful. The lessons China takes from this will depend partly on the outcome in Ukraine but also partly on the price Russia pays for that outcome. And right now that price is looking pretty high.