1708761266 Because there will never be a hero opponent like

Because there will never be a “hero” opponent like Alexei Navalny in China

Two years after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow is also using propaganda across the border to portray, in its own words, a “special military operation.” To reach the hearts of Chinese people by targeting their nationalist sentiment, Russia is using China's social media to present its narrative of events leading up to the invasion of Ukraine and to demonstrate its economic and political strength despite Western sanctions. And with a look beyond February 24, 2022. Under the hashtag “Tenth anniversary of the coup in Ukraine”, the Russian Embassy in Beijing published on its Weibo and WeChat channels several articles, videos and comments describing the Ukrainian Euromaidan. The 2014 movement was described as an “unconstitutional coup” carried out by the West and thus was supported by the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union. Russian state broadcaster Sputnik News – which has a large Chinese-language service – also published a series of articles about Ukraine without encountering the Chinese Communist Party's sophisticated censorship.

Navalny and Liu Xiaobo, two dissidents in comparison

The Russian propaganda campaign required little effort: China, unlike Western countries, has close relations with Russia, as shown by the agreement between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, not to mention record-breaking trade relations. But not the entire population of China is pro-Russian. There is also a significant part that does not support the Kremlin's policies and, full of fear and resignation, recognizes a certain similarity to the Chinese strategy. There are people who have even compared Navalny's figure to that of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer, dissident and human rights defender who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power.” He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, but never received it: he died in prison of liver cancer in 2017.

Liu Xiaobo

His imprisonment was the result of peaceful resistance to the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party. Liu was widely known in Chinese intellectual circles and gained international recognition after winning the Nobel Prize, but most people in China probably had and still have no idea who the leader of the 1989 Tiananmen protests was. His action reached us because President Xi, Putin's friend, had not yet come to power and was further tightening control over dissidents.

How similar (and different) is the suppression of dissidents in China and Russia

The death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has shown that Russia and China are using similar strategies to suppress and persecute opponents inside and outside their borders, starting with the use of propaganda. Chinese media have described Putin's main opponent as an “economic criminal” who founded a “group of extremists” to overthrow the Moscow government.

News of Navalny's sudden death prompted many Chinese to point out on social networks that Putin's dissident enjoyed recognition in Russia that he never would have had in China. Because there are no dissident heroes in the People's Republic. Unlike Navalny, who had the chance to run several times before the rigged system stopped him, opponents in China have no political platform. Simply because in the People's Republic there is a single party, while in Russia they want to create the appearance of a vibrant and strong multi-party electoral system. Putin's most famous opponent has repeatedly taken a disrespectful and provocative stance towards the Kremlin chief and the Russian prison system. An unthinkable attitude in China and towards Xi Jinping. Even Navalny's investigative work, which exposed and denounced on YouTube (censored in China) the galaxy of corruption and wealth surrounding Putin, would be in the bud in the country where Xi is the only one who determines when and how corruption is eliminated suffocated in the Communist Party.

The omnipresence of the Communist Party in society

The party's total penetration of Chinese institutions, the widespread security apparatus supported by digital surveillance, the presence of informants and “spies” in the workplace, the crackdown on NGOs, and the opaque and arbitrary justice system make it difficult for an activist to move and express themselves in China's social, political and digital context. Police are deploying technology that uses vast amounts of digital data to predict unwanted actions and nip them in the bud. Because forms of association represent a danger for the party, which resorts to the weapon of repression in order to avoid protest movements.


Even within the Great Wall of China, it is unthinkable to honor the memory of an activist: anyone who does so risks ending up in prison on flimsy charges of “disturbing public order,” “attempted subversion of state power,” or “incitement to subversion.” In the past, associations and mobilizations could easily lead to arrests. Now it takes a lot less time to end up in prison. It is now impossible to remember a dissident online: anti-government content and posts are censored and deleted as soon as they are published, while major social media and international messaging platforms are banned in the country. In a system that censors dissent and leaves room only for submissive consent, any form of disagreement is impossible. “Blessed are the people who don’t need heroes,” is perhaps the voice echoing in Xi’s head.