Confucius Peace Prize a mirror for Putin

Confucius Peace Prize: A Mirror For Putin 
Written by He Qinglian on November 22, 2011
There is nothing more embarrassing in the world than when someone solemnly gives out an award, believing that it brings honor to a recipient who sees that as a disgrace and shows contempt by remaining silence. Such an incident has just occurred: China International Center for Peace Studies (CICPS) awarded in November this year Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the Second Confucius Peace Prize, to which both Putin himself and the Russian government have been unresponsive.

What is even more embarrassing for CICPS is that the Russian ruling party, of which Putin is a leader, cited on its website comment from Sergey Dorenko, a famous journalist: this prize “is worth absolutely nothing and that more and more unknown minor prizes are trying to connect themselves to Putin through any means”.

CICPS gave this award to Putin on the grounds that during his presidency from 2000 to 2008, Putin had greatly lifted Russia's military might and its political status; that he quelled the Chechen anti-government armed forces; and that in early 2011, he opposed NATO's proposal to air strike against Libya. By the way, all these reasons fit perfectly the position the Chinese government has held for years.

Looking at this incident from the viewpoint of CICPS, there really is no reason Vladimir Putin would dislike this prize. Since Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia has shown the trend of reverting to Soviet Union. When Western democracies like the United States and European countries are by and large critical of the political inclination of Vladimir Putin, the “new Czar”, China was the only country that offered him great public opinion support.

This support first manifested itself in Russia and China embracing each other to get warm. And the ties between the two countries peaked in 2006, when Russia held a “China year” for China and China held a “Russia year” for Russia. Vladimir Putin visited China in that year, receiving not only the highest level of reception from the government but also the heartiest welcome a foreign state leader would get from the public when visiting the country. When U.S. presidents visited China, the Chinese authorities included in activities at Tsinghua University and Beijing University sessions which “patriotic” students questioned and criticized them. There was no such hassle for Vladimir Putin. Wherever he went in China, he was greeted only with flowers in full bloom.

Special features on Vladimir Putin, packed with all sorts of praises, appeared in various websites. Rather than being seen as a stain, Vladimir Putin's KGB background added to his mystic charisma in the eyes of the Chinese people. There were even websites publishing stories that female netizens had chosen Vladimir Putin to be “the world's most charming man”, many of them passionately screamed “Putin, I love you”, effectively turning these websites into windows displaying poems of love. And of course, there is no way I can tell whether fifty centers were behind these. But for a country so accustomed to the hollow, pious pretense in political and public space, a country full of “patriotic” angry youth, it should be considered rare generosity that these female were allowed to express their passionate love for Vladimir Putin to such zealous levels.

And Vladimir Putin's political inclination bears many aspects of resemblance to that of Beijing indeed. For example, they both firmly opposed “Color Revolutions”, which broke out in former soviet countries during the mid-noughties of this century: Kyrgyzstan's Yellow Revolution, Georgia's Rose Revolution, and Ukraine's Orange Revolution. While democracies of the world applauded them, only Vladimir Putin and China shared the same opposite stance, expressing their deep resentment against the Color Revolutions, and they both thought that behind these revolutions “the ghost of the United States lingered.

Apart from media under Putin's control, China's state media like Xinhua Agency was probably the only one that would highly commend the measures Vladimir Putin had taken at that time to curb the spread of Color Revolutions. To this day, the article “With Three Successive Measures, Putin Completely Contains the Color Revolution” by Sheng Shiliang, a reporter at Banyuetan (literally, Half-month talk), a Xinhua Agency’s publication, still makes one feel the admiration the author had for Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin likes to control public opinion in pretty much the same way as Beijing does, yet his grip falls short of Beijing's in comparison. Russia passed in 1991 the Law of the Russian Federation "On MassMedia", setting a more stringent outline of the rights and obligations of Russian media and journalists. Thereafter, some media groups not controlled by the government appeared in Russia. 

When Vladimir Putin became the President, he felt that media oligarchs were shaking the foundation of the country and launched a crackdown on several newspapers across different federal subjects alongside some privately owned television stations, kicking start the nationalization process of media. Since then, media controlled by the Russian government are banned from criticizing their state leaders. 

In mid-March 2007, Vladimir Putin ordered to set up a supervision bureau that was tasked with adjustment, inspection and supervision of media, information and communication technology, cultural heritage protection, copyright and other ownership rights, and radio management organization activities. With this new supervision bureau, it became easier for the Russian government to track down and put pressure on independent media. 

A KGB major in the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin has all along been particularly interested in the rule of secret police. Since Putin’s rise to power, Russia has been on a path that leads it further and further away from its former socialist brotherhood countries in Eastern Europe that embarked on the road of democratization. Poland and the Czech Republic has started to clean up the dirt of communism a long time ago, yet similar actions have not been taken in Russia; to this day in China, the various crimes committed during Mao's era have yet to be cleared, and secret police have infiltrated into the daily lives of the Chinese people.

Vladimir Putin prefers to modify the constitution to his liking. With the tacit political understanding between him and Dmitry Medvedev, Putin made amendments to the constitution, extending the presidential term, changing the method of presidential election, and thereby giving rise to the turn-taking between the two at the top of Russian political arena, which is tantamount to bringing forth the de facto tenure of power which lacks only the name. Putin's love for constitutional amendment and for the political means of one-party power monopoly is shared by the Chinese Communist Party, which claimed to have intention to stick to the Socialist path for a hundred years.

The Russians too understood these parallels. Human rights activists of that country made the following comment on this award: China has poor human rights record; Putin disregards human rights equally. People like him deserve to receive prizes similar to this from China.

I thought it over and really couldn't find any reasons for Vladimir Putin not to like this Confucius Peace Prize CICPS awarded him. If a reason must be given no matter what, then that would be because Russia, when Putin lives and rules, is nicknamed the Double-headed eagle, which likes to turn one head to the East and the other to the West. 

Turning one head to the East, or the worship of dictatorship, is Russia's innate disposition; turning the other to the West is the skill that Russia learned only during the reign of Peter the Great. Because of the innate Oriental characteristic, Vladimir Putin comes to have this [autocratic] disposition; and having learned hard from the West, Putin knows after all that dictatorship is what the West despises. With a sense of shame, Vladimir Putin realizes that “birds of a feather flock together”, and in the mirror of Confucius Peace Prize he saw his ugliness, which should probably be the main reason he responded to the award with silence.