Russia viewed as a friendly neighbor
By Li Xiaokun
Updated: 2008-05-23 07:27

Nine out of ten Chinese people hold a highly positive view of Sino-Russian relations in a response that adheres to warm bilateral ties at the official level, a recent survey found.

The findings issued by the Social Survey Institute of China (SSIC) found nearly 91 percent of respondents said Sino-Russian relations are those of "strategic partners", "friendly neighbors" or "close friends", while only 6.6 percent regarded Russia as an adversary.

The SSIC, China's first professional institution dedicated to public opinion polling and social surveys, interviewed 1,500 respondents in 10 Chinese cities in April and May for the survey themed "Russia in Chinese people's eyes".

"We have heard lots of praise from Russians for China's three decades of reform and opening-up. Now it's time for us to have a close look at the way Russia's has gone, which will help us reflect on our own work," Li Dongmin, director of SSIC, said.

The survey shows Russian leaders are also considered heroes by Chinese people.

Notably, former president Vladimir Putin was voted the greatest leader of Russia (including the Soviet Union era) by nearly 82 percent of respondents, followed by Vladimir Lenin (64.9 percent) and Joseph Stalin (40.5 percent).

Although Russia's stunning scenery and numerous historical sites were considered attractive by more than half of the respondents, just one in five were aware of Moscow's visa-free policy toward Chinese tourist groups.

More than half expressed confidence in Russia's economy, believing it is developing at a "high speed" as an open market.

Nevertheless, the survey revealed room for greater understanding between ordinary people in China and Russia.

About half of the respondents said their understanding of Russia is still inadequate, and more than 80 percent said they want to learn more about their giant neighbor.

Li said the shortcomings reflect narrow media coverage of bilateral relations, which has largely focused on official events. Chinese should follow Russia's rapid development closely in order to gain a proper understanding of their neighbor, he added.

Li Fenglin, former Chinese ambassador to Russia, said the issue is no cause for concern as long as a friendly atmosphere is maintained between the two neighbors.

"China and Russia are both on the road of renaissance, and in the process, the two people's mutual understanding may not reach the same level of that between the two governments. But they still hold zest and friendliness toward each other," said Li. "It's just an ongoing process of psychological adjustment, which takes time and patience."

To help the two peoples get more acquainted, the Chinese and Russian governments jointly held the Year of Russia in China and Year of China in Russia, in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

More than half of the survey respondents said they had heard of the "national years", while nearly 90 percent of respondents who had learnt of the Year of Russia said the move helped introduce the country or correct prejudices.

(China Daily 05/23/2008 page7)