Why China Censored Material About Putin on Social Media


During the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, Beijing unexpectedly opened a new frontier of Internet censorship: users of the social network Weibo were prevented from sharing and commenting on posts mentioning Vladimir Putin.

The Financial Times first reported on the story on July 10, concluding that the censorship signaled a golden age of Sino-Russian relations. As Chinese journalist Cai Shenkun told the FT, Putin is the first foreign leader to have the privilege of being shielded from criticism on the Chinese Internet.

Some experts agreed that the ban on undesirable comments speaks to the state of Sino-Russian relations and the unique character of the two countries’ partnership, and that it showed Beijing’s desire not to damage bilateral relations. That said, they could not explain why interest in censoring information about Putin was so short-lived and coincided perfectly with the G20 summit.

With this in mind, the Putin censorship appears to have been an attempt to draw the Chinese people’s attention away from Russian-American talks ( the first meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump ). It’s no mystery why this was done. In the year of a party conference, commentary on any domestic and international developments must focus on Xi Jinping. Preparing a media strategy for the G20 summit, Chinese propaganda organs did all that they could to ensure that talks between Putin and Trump did not eclipse China’s participation in the G20 summit meeting.

[ > Carnegie Moscow Center  —  August 16, 2017 ]