Xi Jinping Awards China’s First Friendship Medal to Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping
Sergei Chirikov/Pool Photo via AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded Communist China’s first “friendship medal” to visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremony in Beijing on Friday.

China’s state-run Global Times quoted “analysts” who said Putin commands the “admiration” of the Chinese people and deserves the award for improving ties between Beijing and Moscow:

“This is the first time for China to award a foreign leader a friendship medal since it was set up in January 2016, which reveals that China attaches great importance to the China-Russia ties,” Li Guofu, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday.

Li said that leaders of the two countries have developed a personal friendship.

According to China’s law on national medals and honorary titles, friendship medals, one of the highest state honors, are to be presented to foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to China’s socialist modernization drive, promoted exchange and cooperation between China and the world, and safeguarded world peace.

“Putin deserves the medal. For the past 18 years, he has played an active role in promoting China-Russia ties,” Wang Lijiu, an expert of Russian studies at the China Institutes of contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

“China and Russia have developed a comprehensive strategic partnership during Putin’s tenure. The quality of the bilateral ties has been enhanced,” Wang said.

As the Global Times recalled, Putin presented Xi with the Russian Order of St. Andrew last year, one of the highest honors Russia can bestow upon a foreign leader.

The Order of St. Andrew medal is a traditional and rather formidable-looking piece dating back to the dawn of the 18th Century. China’s gold-and-blue friendship medal “adopts elements including a peace dove, the Earth, a handshake and a lotus, while the chain features elements such as Chinese knots, evergreens, peonies, a jade disc and orchids,” according to the Global Times description.

Another Global Times editorial published on Thursday declared that Putin’s “charisma” is utterly captivating the people of China, millions of whom declared themselves “fans” of the Russian leader in a recent online survey:

According to China Radio International on May 30, citing a Russian media report published that day, 91.3 percent of respondents to the survey consider wisdom Putin’s best trait, while 83.4 percent chose to tag the Russian leader as “iron-fisted.”

Asked to choose a  “dream encounter” with Putin, 37.8 percent chose to take a picture with Putin, 29.9 percent chose getting a puppy from the dog-loving president and 22.47 percent chose wanting a hug from the Russian leader, CRI reported.

China’s Putin fans have always appreciated him as more than a powerful leader, and have given him a number of flattering nicknames, including “Prince Charming” and even “super online sensation,” mainly for his athletics and as someone who worked his way up to become so successful.  

“No matter what fluctuations there are in the international situation, China and Russia have always firmly taken the development of relations as a priority,” Xi told Putin during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People on Friday.

Xi praised both China and Russia as “great, responsible countries.”

“President Putin is the leader of a great country who is influential around the world. He is my best, most intimate friend,” the Chinese president declared.