Putin’s Friendly Move on Chinese First Lady Draws Media Attention

Beijing, Nov. 12, 2013, — The gesture by President Vladimir Putin of Russia to place a shawl on China’s first lady Peng Liyuan at the APEC leaders’ banquet and firework show on a cold night in Beijing on Nov. 10 immediately sent Chinese social media into overdrive.
Vladimir Putin drapes a shawl over Peng Liyuan’s shoulders in a picture that was first spread as endearing then deleted as an embarrassment. (Photo/CNS).

This seemingly innocent moment has also drew attention from Western media. Putin’s public display of consideration may have made Xi appear inconsiderate, since the host of the APEC summit was engaged in conversation with President Barack Obama of the US and missed the fact that his first lady was feeling the cold, the Guardian newspaper said.

Foreign Policy magazine said Putin may have been a bit too “friendly,” while some other Western media outlets also had a chortle, since the now-single Putin is regarded admiringly in China for the all-action macho image that he likes to present.

CNN reports: “The small act of chivalry, quickly but politely rebuffed, unfolded live on state television, with voiceover from a CCTV anchor stating simply: ‘President Putin has placed a coat on Peng Liyuan.'”

Cultural factors may also have played their part. “China is traditionally conservative on public interaction between unrelated men and women, and the public show of consideration by Putin may provide fodder for jokes, which the big boss probably does not like,” the Guardian quoted Beijing-based historian and independent commentator Zhang Lifan as saying.