“The Yuan Shikai of Russia”: the anti-Putin protests

“Born into the KGB and now setting up a cult of personality, he’s definitely bad news.”

– Comment on NetEase

The Beijing News had a detailed report last week about the demonstrations in Moscow and elsewhere against Vladimir Putin.

NetEase is running the story, which appears to be from the Beijing News’ own Moscow correspondent (if so, a very interesting development – international reporting alongside xinhua), under the headline, “Russia: Thousands demonstrate demanding an end to Putin’s rule”

Neither the correspondent, the newspaper or the website has held back on describing Putin’s authoritarian style, beginning the story:

“December 5 evening, Moscow time: Following Russia’s Duma elections several thousand demonstrators took to the streets of the capital, demanding the end of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule of Russia. Russian media say it is the largest-scale protest of recent years.”

The article puts the number of protesters at 3,000-5,000, who “yelled slogans like ‘Russia doesn’t need Putin’, and ‘Putin the bandit’, criticizing the presence of election fraud and demanding ‘reform’.”

After protesters tried to march onto a major road, “a large number of riot police in elbow-link formation blocked the way, dividing the crowds in two and arresting several.”

The article goes on to describe other specific clashes and arrests, quoting a defiant protester taken into custody for 15 days for charging police, before turning to the causes of the dissatisfaction that has also seen Putin cop a setback at the election on December 4.

“Analysts say the result implies that many Russians are sick of Putin being in office, as well as increasing corruption and inequality.”

Then it tackles the vote-rigging allegations, quoting protesters, international observers, Russian media and even Hillary Clinton, summing them up under the heading, “Someone blocked up the ballot box.”

It canvasses Hillary’s “neither free nor fair” comment and the Russian foreign affairs committee chairman’s response – “this is probably . . . the darkest chapter in US-Russian relations in recent years,” adding that he hoped the US government wouldn’t listen to Hillary, “otherwise that will be complete meddling in something that is none of their own business”.

It finishes with the dark-sounding observation that the economic performance under Putin had won widespread acclaim, “but it is obvious that the course of a country’s development is not something that GDP alone can decide.”

Frank treatment of Russia should probably not be surprising, since portraying Putin’s excessive authority, personality cult and and election-rigging casts China’s own leaders in a good light. Coverage in official media of protests abroad is supposed to show Chinese people the problems of other countries, as well as the dangers of chaos. At the same time though, it’s risky because it also shows the Chinese audience what people in other countries are allowed to do.

What did readers think? Commenters on the 128,000-strong discussion at NetEase saw the events through the lens of history, particularly their own:

A regular country does not need strongmen and leaders, for the people are strong enough [25,154]

[In reply to ↑↑↑] Nonsense, without Roosevelt and Martin Luther King America would have been finished long ago.

[In reply to ↑↑↑] Roosevelt actively gave up power, King sacrificed himself to wake the world up. Heros just help the people onto the horse, they don’t ride around commanding people where to go. [23,802]

Born into the KGB and now setting up a cult of personality, he’s definitely bad news. They always take their personal ideas and force them on the enchanted masses. [11,218]

Political gangster. [9,181]

Russia, the biggest domino, one push and the whole world will usher in a glorious era. [8,926]

When a country does not have so-called leaders, and when it doesn’t have so-called cults of personality, that’s when we can say they are great. [8,374]

The Yuan Shikai* of Russia. [6,696]

* Yuan Shikai, (arguably) China’s first president, restored the just-abolished monarchy to make himself emperor and in so doing plunged the country into chaos.


One Comment on ““The Yuan Shikai of Russia”: the anti-Putin protests”

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