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Russian Perspectives, Ridiculing Putin Supporters: Chinese Online Media Responses to the Wagner Mutiny

Exploring Chinese online media reactions to the Wagner Rebellion in Russia on June 24.

Manya Koetse



The recent developments involving Putin and the Wagner group have gained significant attention in China’s media landscape, with a Russia-focused perspective dominating the online discussions. While some Chinese netizens express support for Russia, there is also a notable segment that mocks and ridicules staunch pro-Russia supporters, labeling them as ‘Yellow Geese’.

Note: This article was written on June 24, 2023, as the situation in Russia was unfolding, including the Chinese responses to it at the time.

As the world is watching how Russia is facing an armed mutiny after the Wagner group accused Russia of a deadly missile strike on its troops in Ukraine, the topic is also making headlines in China, becoming a number one top trending topic in Baidu’s and Weibo’s hot search lists.

While reports on the conflict between Russian troops and the Wagner mercenaries are flooding in, the topic “Putin Accuses Wagner Head [Prigozhin] of Treason” (#普京指责瓦格纳负责人叛国#) received a staggering 1.2 billion views on the Weibo platform within just a few hours time.

The hashtag directly refers to the televised speech Russian President Putin gave earlier on on the 24th in which he mentioned how the Russian private military force Wagner was attempting to subvert Russia from within, classifying it as an act of treason and calling it “a blow to Russia” and “a knife in the back of our people.”

Chinese Online Media: A Russian Perspective

Chinese social media discussions on the evolving situation in Russia are heavily influenced by reports from Chinese state media outlets, which share the latest news and updates not only on Weibo but also on other social media platforms such as WeChat, Douyin (China’s TikTok), and others. The hashtags surrounding the news reports are also initiated by Chinese media outlets.

In their online news posts, there may not be a distinct ‘pro-Russian’ stance, but there clearly is a strong Russia-focused perspective.

Putin’s condemnation of the Wagner military has become one of the major trends in China’s online media landscape. Alongside that, discussions about Russia’s “anti-terror measures” and Putin’s phone conversations with a select few international allies regarding the latest developments are also gaining significant attention.

By early Sunday morning (China local time), both Putin’s speech and Russian media reports about the Russian army setting up machine gun positions on the outskirts of Moscow became two of the most popular hashtags on Weibo.

Another aspect that is capturing considerable attention in the Chinese online media sphere is the involvement of Putin ally and Chechen leader Kadyrov and the Chechen troops. Discussions surrounding their role in the unfolding events have become a prominent topic of interest.

On Saturday, Kadyrov called the actions of the Wagner group a military rebellion, and he promised help in putting down the mutiny.

Chechen troops heading to the tense region, this news was trending on Douyin as well.

News about the deployment of Chechen forces to the Rostov region has been extensively covered by media outlets and has garnered significant attention on Weibo. Additionally, it has emerged as a top trending topic on Douyin, further amplifying public interest in the matter.

It is noteworthy that during the live coverage on Saturday afternoon and early evening UK time, BBC World News did not mention Kadyrov at all, nor did they report about Putin’s international calls to allies.

Instead, they focused more on a Ukrainian perspective, highlighting a difference in coverage between Chinese media and Western media regarding the developments.

A Plea for Peace

A prevailing response on Chinese social media to the recent events in Russia is a plea for global peace and the restoration of stability, emphasizing a desire for calm rather than further unrest.

“A fragmented Russia would be the most dangerous destabilizing factor in the world,” remarked a Chinese commenter.

“The border line between China and Russia is very long, and the two countries are closely interconnected. I hope for peace and a quick end to all the turmoil,” another Weibo user wrote.

Others also wondered about the safety of Russia-based Chinese citizens.

“Has China started evacuating its citizens? Has the Chinese Embassy in Russia issued a warning notice?”, some netizens wondered.

There has been no announcements about safety measures taken by the Chinese Embassy in Moscow at the time of writing.

Witnessing History

Another common context in which the Wagner mutiny is discussed on the Chinese social media platform Weibo is through a historical lens.

Many commenters perceive the recent developments as a significant historical moment and draw comparisons to previous instances in history of rebellious army groups, either in China or in other countries.

An influential voice on Weibo discussing the Prigozhin-led Wagner mutiny is Hu Xijin, a political commentator and former editor-in-chief of the state media outlet Global Times. With a background in journalism and Russian Literature and Language, Hu Xijin is also well-informed about Russia and geopolitics.

In an early post on June 24th, Hu said it was still uncertain if the situation should be seen as “internal strife” (内讧) or “armed rebellion” (叛乱). Hu also suggested that if all the Wagner forces would follow Prigozhin’s defiance of Putin, the Russian defense line could collapse.

In a later post, Hu Xijin noted that traditional armed rebellions or coups d’état have been uncommon in Russian history, with palace coups being more prevalent. He therefore called the Wagner rebellion a “very unexpected occurrence,” similar to historical instances of regional military leaders challenging central authority in ancient China.

The small survey, of which screenshots circulated on social medial

One Baidu blogger’s small-scale survey asked Chinese netizens what historical episode the Wagner mutiny was most similar to. The most popular answer was the “Revere the Emperor, Destroy the Traitors” movement from 1936, when a group of rebellious Japanese troops, led by members of the Young Officers’ Movement, seized control of Tokyo and carried out the assassination of several prominent officials. Four days after their initial mutiny, the rebels surrendered (see ‘February 26 incident‘).

Hu Xijin also commented on the uncertain political situation in Russia, highlighting that anything could happen and that the outcome is highly dependent on the responses of Putin, the Russian military, society, and the Wagner forces to the evolving developments.

Mocking Chinese Staunch Supporters of Russia

Meanwhile, the latest developments also show a clear divide between Chinese social media users who are supporting Russia and those ridiculing them.

As per the statement by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on Saturday, where he expressed his readiness to assist in suppressing the Wagner mercenary mutiny, there is a hope among pro-Russian voices that Kadyrov will play a crucial role in quickly defeating the Wagner Group.

Popular Toutiao blogger Erhaimi (@洱海弥), who has over a million Weibo fans, wrote: “Chechen troops have already arrived in the Rostov-on-don region. Currently, the Moscow forces are advancing from the front, while the Chechen forces are positioned at the rear, both sides are attacking. The Wagner rebels are done.”

However, numerous commenters on Chinese online platforms dismiss such statements as “naive,” “childish,” or “fairytales.” They mock Chinese pro-Russian enthusiasts for “indulging in fantasies” by blindly believing in Russia’s victory, and they label them as “Yellow Goose Filial Sons” (黄俄孝子), “Yellow Geese” (黄鹅), or other related terms.

“How are the Yellow Geese doing in light of today’s news?” some commenters wonder, with others saying: “They crack me up,” “they will have to wait another 200 years for their powerful Russia.”

The ‘goose’ reference is because Russia is usually nicknamed ‘big goose’ in China (大鹅) since the words for ‘goose’ and ‘Russia’ sound the same.

Previously, the term “Weak Goose” or “Noob Goose” (菜鹅) also became popular on Chinese social media as a wordplay on the phrase “Weak Russia” (菜俄), which has the same pronunciation in standard Chinese and jokingly refers to “the weak Russian army” (“俄军很菜”) (read here).

As news broke that Wagner chief Prigozhin announced the order to his mercenaries to halt their march on Moscow to avoid “shedding Russian blood” after negotiations with Belarus’ leader Lukashenko, many Chinese netizens were ready to call it a day after a day filled with news updates.

“Rest well,” one commenter said: “I hope your ‘weak Russia’ will manage to remain standing while I sleep. If there actually will be a battle to defend Moscow tonight, please wait until I wake up [with engaging with me], otherwise I will struggle to catch up with the latest developments tomorrow morning.”

By Manya Koetse 

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Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Local News

Changsha Restaurant Employee Pays the Price after Protecting Abused Child

A Changsha restaurant employee who intervened when a mother beat her child ended up paying the price for it.

Manya Koetse



The story of a restaurant employee who had to pay the price for sharing a video of a mother beating her child has triggered anger on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on September 14, when Mr. Jiang (江), an employee at the ‘Peng Shu’ Western-style restaurant in Changsha, stopped a mother from beating her young daughter at the shopping mall where the restaurant is located.

As reported by the Guizhou media channel People’s Focus (@百姓关注), a mother and daughter at the restaurant drew the staff’s attention when the mother began physically assaulting her daughter.

The mother, clearly overwhelmed by her emotions, resorted to kicking, hitting, yelling, and even attempting to strike her child with a chair, allegedly in response to the child accidentally spilling ice cream on her clothing.

During this distressing incident, which was captured on video, Mr. Jiang and another colleague intervened to protect the child and immediately alerted the police to the situation.

But the one who was punished in the end was not the mother.

The video of this incident was shared online, leading the woman to repeatedly visit the restaurant in frustration over her unblurred face in the video. The police had to mediate in this dispute.

To the dismay of many netizens, the employee ended up being forced to pay the woman 10,000 yuan ($1369) in compensation for “moral damages.” He has since resigned from his job and has left Changsha. A related hashtag was viewed over 110 million times on Weibo (#餐厅员工发顾客打娃视频后赔1万离职#) and also became a hot topic on Douyin.

The majority of commenters expressed their anger at the unjust outcome where a restaurant employee, who had attempted to protect the child, faced repercussions while the mother appeared to avoid any legal consequences for her actions.

“Where is the All-China Women’s Federation when you need them?” some wondered, while others wanted to know why the incident was not followed up with an immediate investigation into the child abuse. Others suggested that if it were a man who had beaten his child, authorities would have been quicker to intervene.

The issue of corporal punishment for children often comes up in Chinese social media discussions. While many people find it unacceptable to beat children, using violence to discipline children is also commonplace in many families.

When China’s first national law against domestic violence came into effect on 1 March 2016, article 5 and 12 specifically addressed the special legal protection of children and made family violence against children against the law.

By Manya Koetse

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China Fashion & Beauty

Fashion that Hurts? Online Debates on China’s Draft Law Regarding ‘Harmful’ Clothes

The proposed ban on clothing deemed harmful is stirring debate, with some arguing for the significance of protecting national pride and others emphasizing the value of personal expression.

Manya Koetse



China’s recent proposal to ban clothing that “hurts national feelings” has triggered social media debates about freedom of dress and cultural sensitivities. The controversial amendment has raised questions about who decides what’s offensive for which reason.

A draft amendment to China’s Public Security Administration Punishments Law (治安管理处罚法) has caused some controversy this week for proposing a ban on clothes that “hurt national feelings.”

The discussions are about Article 34, clausules 3 and 4, which point out that wearing clothing or symbols that are deemed “harmful” to “the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” could become illegal. Offenders may face up to 15 days of detention and a fine of 5,000 yuan ($680).

The revised Article is part of a section about acts disrupting public order and their punishment, mentioning the protection of China’s heroes and martyrs.

Especially over the past three to four years, Chinese authorities have placed more importance on protecting the image of China’s “heroes and martyrs.” In 2018, the Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law was adopted to strengthen the protection of those who have made significant contributions to the nation and sacrificed their lives in the process.

Those insulting the PLA can face serious consequences. In 2021, former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, were the first persons to be charged under the new law as they were detained for “insulting” Chinese soldiers. Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the India border clash. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Earlier this year, Chinese comedian Li Haoshi was canceled making a joke that indirectly made a comparison between PLA soldiers and stray dogs, while also placing words famously used by Xi Jinping in a ridiculous context.

Screenshot of the draft widely shared on social media.

The draft is open for public comment through September 30, and it is therefore just a draft of a proposed amendment at this point.

Nevertheless, it has ignited many discussions on Chinese social media, where legal experts, bloggers, and regular netizens gave their views on the issue, with many people opposing the amendment.

This a translation of the first four clausules of Article 34 by Jeremy Daum’s China Law Translate (see the full translation here). Note that the discussions are focused on the item (2) and (3) revisions:

“Article 34:Those who commit any of the following acts are to be detained for between 5 and 10 days or be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 RMB; and where the circumstances are more serious, they are to be detained for between 10 and 15 days and may be concurrently fined up to 5,000 RMB:
(1) engaging in activities in public places that are detrimental to the environment and atmosphere for commemorating heroes and martyrs;
(2) Wearing clothing or bearing symbols in public places that are detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, or forcing others do do so;
(3) Producing, transmitting, promoting, or disseminating items or speech that is detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people;
(4) Desecrating or negating the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs, or advocating or glorifying wars of aggression or aggressive conduct, provocation, or disrupting public order.”

Here, we mention the biggest online discussions surounding the draft amendment.

Main Objections to the Amendment

On Chinese social media site Weibo, commenters used various hashtags to discuss the recent draft, including the hashtags “China’s Proposed Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#我国拟修订治安管理处罚法#), “Article 34 of the Draft Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#治安管理处罚法修订草案第34条#) or “Harm the Feelings of the Chinese Nation” (#伤害中华民族感情#).

The issue that people are most concerned about is the vague definition “harming or hurting the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” (“伤害中华民族精神、感情”).

Although Chinese state media outlets, including the English-language Global Times, indicate that the clause is deemed to target some provocative actions to attract public attention, such as wearing Japanese military uniforms at sensitive sites, legal experts and social media users are expressing apprehensions regarding its ambiguity.

Questions arise: Who determines what qualifies as “harmful”? What criteria will be used? How will it be enforced? Beyond concerns about the absence of clear guidelines on which attire might be deemed illegal and for what reasons, there are fears of potential misinterpretation and misuse of such a law due to its subjective nature.

Some people question whether wearing foreign brands like Adidas or Nike could be considered offensive. There are also concerns about whether wearing sports attire supporting specific clubs might be seen as disrespectful. Another common topic is cosplay, a popular form of role-playing among China’s youth, where individuals dress up in costumes and accessories to portray specific characters. Can people still dress up in the way they like?

Well-known political commentator Hu Xijin published a video commentary about the issue on September 7, suggesting that the law in question could be more concrete and avoid misunderstanding by explicitly mentioning it targets facism, racism, or separatism. He also suggested that it is important for China’s legal system to provide people with a sense of security (– rather than scaring them).

Others reiterated similar views. If the clausules are indeed specifically about slandering national heroes and martyrs, which makes sense considering their context, they should be rephrased. One popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) wrote:

The legal enforceability of harming the spirit and the feelings of the Chinese nation is not quite the same as insulting or slandering heroes. Because it is actually very clear who our national heroes are. They are classified as martyrs and were approved by the state, it’s very clear. But when it comes to the feelings and the spirit of the Chinese nation, this is just very vague (..) And ambiguity brings about a mismatch in the practice of implementation, which will make people lose trust in this legal provision and makes them feel unsafe.”

Although a majority of commenters agree that the proposed amendment is vague, some also express that they would support a ban on clothes that are especially offensive. Among them is the popular blogger Han Dongyan (@韩东言), who has over 2.3 million followers on Weibo.

One example that is mentioned a lot, also by Han, is the 2001 controversy surrounding Chinese actress Vicky Zhao who wore a mini-dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag during a fashion shoot, triggering major backlash over her perceived lack of sensitivity to historical matters and the offensive dress.

Han also mentioned a 2018 example of two young men dressed in Imperial Japanese military uniforms taking a photo in front of the Shaojiashan Bunker at Zijin Mountain, where the Second Sino-Japanese War is commemmorated.

Kimono Problems

One trending story that is very much entangled with recent discussions about the proposed ban on ‘harmful’ clothing is that about a group of Chinese men and women who were recently denied access to the Panlongcheng National Archaeological Site Park in Wuhan because staff members allegedly mistook their clothing for Japanese traditional attire.

The individuals were actually not wearing Japanese traditional dress at all; they were wearing traditional Tang dynasty clothing to take photos of themselves. This is part of the Hanfu Movement, a social trend that is popular among younger people who supports the wearing of Han Chinese ethnic clothing (read more).

According to Zhengguan News (正观新闻), there is no official park policy prohibiting the wearing of Japanese clothing, and an internal investigation into the incident is ongoing. The Paper reported that the incident allegedly happened around closing time.

Meanwhile, this incident has sparked discussions because it highlights the potential consequences when authorities arbitrarily enforce clothing rules and misinterpret situations. One netizen wrote: “It illustrates that when “some members of the public” cannot even tell the difference between Hanfu, Tang dynasty attire, and Japanese kimono, they are simply venting their emotions.”

Last year, a Chinese female cosplayer who was dressed in a Japanese summer kimono while taking pictures in Suzhou’s ‘Little Tokyo’ area was taken away by local police for ‘provoking trouble’ (read here).

A video showed how the young woman was scolded by an officer for wearing the Japanese kimono, suggesting she is not allowed to do so as a Chinese person. The girl was known to be a cosplayer, and she was dressed up as the character Ushio Kofune from the Japanese manga series Summer Time Rendering, wearing a cotton summer kimono, better known as yukata.

The incident sparked extensive debates, with differing viewpoints emerging. While some believed the girl’s choice of wearing Japanese clothing during the week leading up to August 15, a memorial day marking the end of the war, was insensitive, many commenters defended her right to engage in cosplay.

These discussions are resurfacing on Weibo, underscoring the divided opinions on the matter.

One Weibo user expressed a common viewpoint: “I believe wearing a Japanese kimono in everyday situations is not a problem, but doing so at specific times and places could potentially offend the sentiments of the Chinese nation.” Another blogger (@猹斯拉) also voiced support for a law that could prohibit certain clothing: “If you genuinely believe what you’re wearing is not harmful, you always have the right to make your argument.”

However, there is also significant opposition, with some individuals posting images of themselves reading George Orwell’s 1984 at night or making cynical remarks like, “Maybe we should say nothing and wear nothing, as anything else could lead to our arrest.”

“This is not progress,” another person wrote: “It’s taking another step back in time.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes


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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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