Chinese Netizens Praise Russian Democracy, Accountability

Typically when Westerners write about Chinese and Russians they stress the negative aspects of the relationship. Russians are invariably racist towards the Chinese and fear them in xenophobic reaction to their (non-existent) swamping of Siberia. The Chinese for their part laugh at the alcoholic, non-productive Russkies. And quite likely they will soon invade and take back Outer Manchuria. Unlike the Putinist kleptocracy the Chinese model at least incorporates fast growth, public service and rule of law.

Of course as regards opinions on China-Russia relations, the Westerners are the least relevant of the three parties. When Russians themselves reference China in online discussions, my impression is that it is usually in positive and self-critical terms: “They are growing so much faster than us”; “They shoot corrupt bureaucrats”; “Their prices are so low and thus they are now richer than us.” (For reasons that should be obvious there are critical caveats to all these views which renders the Chinese situation less relatively impressive once accounted for). Of course there are negative views too. In particular, all too many Russians buy into the thesis of a Chinese military threat to the Far East (thanks to propagandists/publicists Golts, Latynina, Aleksandr Khramchikhin, etc). It’s like they’re unaware of certain critical innovations in bombing technology since 1945.

The view that I am least familiar with is the Chinese. My impression based on reading translations from the website chinaSMACK is that typically the Chinese feel quite positively towards Russia. A few have lingering resentments over events in 1858 and suchlike but these are not widespread sentiments. However what was really pleasantly surprising was to see that some Chinese at least have high opinions of Russian governance relative to their own, at least in response to the news that the Mayor of Krymsk and other senior local bureaucrats had been arrested in response to recent flooding that took 170 lives. (Typically, both Russians and Westerners disagree, regarding Chinese governance as superior). This I know because Inosmi translated the comments of Chinese netizens on the Krymsk arrests on Sina Weibo (their equivalent of Twitter). I re-translate them into English.

Chinese comments on the flooding in Krymsk and Beijing on Sina Weibo

Inosmi; original translator: Tatyana Schenkova.

The Chinese blogosphere is actively commenting on the arrests of Krymsk bureaucrats and the actions of the Russian authorities in response to the flooding, while drawing parallels with the heavy rains over Beijing on the night of 21-22 July, which resulted in the deaths of 37 people.

Somnus_1028: I wonder if the Mayor of Beijing would have been arrested for this?

Mountain Range Stepper: I hate Russian bureaucrats!

Chen Tsyao027: And what about our government? We have too many criminally negligent organizations.

A Man Without Complexes: When have we ever had someone criminally prosecuted for flooding? Surprise surprise, just another blessing of socialism.

Huxinyu: We should also seize a few officials in Beijing. “Learn from Big Brother*”, so to speak.

Victor2236: If we had done the same, then few people would have seen the sea. But as it is the cars of our city folks were turned into land cruisers.

Brother Bear: The Russian government tries the patience of our government, first with pensions**, then by firing on fishermen*** and arrests of bureaucrats. Would beat their face if the occasion presented itself.

13 Prince: Putin solves problems pitilessly!

Onion Welcoming Guests of Huangshan: When the rain is over, the appropriate heads will be rewarded!

Kindhearted rot: Because of the rain in Beijing 10 people died, and who will answer for this? If in previous times when there was a downpour in the city, people drowned, would anyone now have paid attention to these 10 dead people? Who will answer for this bloody retribution?

Zhengxiangyu: Hateful capitalism wants to destroy the harmonious Chinese society.

Gentle Jasper Bush: Putin is responsible for his words, he says something – he does it.

Caesar of an Era: And as if it is possible to organize an impeachment in a dictatorial country? Don’t forget, that in Russia there exist many parties, and that even if none of them can compare with Putin – these other parties can still check and audit him.

Strolling in Xian: Who allows such people to become bureaucrats in Russia?

The Carrot is also a Root Vegetable: No, in China you can’t do this [arrest bureaucrats], or else nobody will be left in government. Because if one set can’t cope, then it will be necessary to pick others.

Searky: I’ve never seen someone removed from office in China for something like this. And if they were removed they were reinstated at once in another post. This is what is meant by “with Chinese characteristics.”

Wangzaigewoye: And this is the difference between the popular vote and non-direct elections!!! Which variant do you prefer???

Papa Clean As A Mirror: In that exactly same non-market Russia, managed by a strong hand, at least they may remove a few bureaucrats to pacify the anger of the people. But here they can only pretend, that everything is going smoothly, and remove comments. Therein lies the fundamental difference, which the ballot carries.


(1) No, I am NOT saying that this proves that Russian officials are less corrupt or more accountable than Chinese officials, as the usual trolls will probably try to claim. Many and probably most Russians consider China to be cleaner than Russia. Personally, I do not think there are huge differences. In my objective Corruption Realities Index, China scores a “6.2” and Russia scores a “6.1”.

(2) One thing that fascinated many of the Inosmi commentators to this article is the “creativity” of many of the commentator’s names. This is a natural function of their writing system in which entire concepts can be expressed with one character. Another consequence of the writing system is that even on platforms like Twitter or Sina Weibo one can easily compose what are almost mini-essays.

* The USSR was called “big brother” during early Maoism because it provided technologies, industrial plant, ideology, etc. Many Chinese of the 50’s have exceptionally warm associations with the Soviet Union whereas the 80’s generation are far more Westwards-orientated.

** Probably in reference to Russia having a universal pensions system, whereas it is still lacking for Chinese in rural areas and the informal sector.

*** Russian coast guard fires on Chinese fishing vessel.


  1. Much appreciated… but let’s not forget that China is a much poorer country – not hard for Russia to be an example of good governance in comparison.

    • yalensis says:

      Still, the Chinese get some points for the “tainted milk” scandal, a couple years ago, in which they actually shot a couple of corrupt bureaucrats. The lazy Krymsk officials won’t be shot, though, just serve some jail time. A lot of credit is due to Bastrykin whose office conducted a very quick, and thorough, investigation of official misconduct during the flooding.

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    It wasn’t that long ago, though, when the rewards of corrupt practices in Russia was the firing squad. I well remember the infamous case concerning Yuri K. Sokolov, director of Gastronom №1 on the former Gorky St., now known by its pre-October 1917 name “Eliseevsky” and situated on the likewise renamed Tverskaya St., who was executed in 1984 after he had been found guilty of fiddling the books for years.


  3. Dear Anatoly,

    Thanks for republishing this. I was strongly tempted to ask you to translate these comments when I saw you mention them on your Facebook page. Knowing how busy you are I decided not to. However you have now done so.

    I have contacts with China going back twenty years, which are far more extensive than those I have with Russia. At this precise moment as I write my father is hosting a delegation from the Chinese Culture Ministry in my house in Athens. I have often heard Chinese businessmen and officials talk about Russia and Russians and their comments right from the time when I first started to get to know them have been overwhelmingly and strongly positive. On the one or two occasions when I have touched on the bad feelings at the time of the Sino Soviet split of the 1960s and 1970s I have been told that this was a question of inter state politics at high government level and never affected feelings towards Russia on the part of the overwhelming majority of Chinese.

    As for the talk of China expanding into Siberia that is a paranoid fantasy that is being heavily promoted by some people in the west who do not want to China and Russia become friends. Within Russia it is then recycled by the west’s paid chorus and unfortunately by a few nationalists who should know better. I can categorically say that no one in China holds to these fantasies.

  4. Scowspi says:

    Gotta love the names of some of these Chinese commentators! “A Man Without Complexes” (I didn’t know Robert Musil had been translated into Chinese!), “Onion Welcoming Guests of Huangshan,” “The Carrot is also a Root Vegetable,” and “Papa Clean As A Mirror.” Would be cool to know the origin of some of these.