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The Chinese Think They Have the Russians All Figured Out

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The Sochi Olympics have barely gotten off the ground when the Russians are already talking about the next one. At the opening of the China House in Sochi two days after the opening ceremony, sports minister Vitaly Mutko declared that Russia would throw its support behind China's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. China wants to host the Games at the ski resort in Zhangjiakou, which—help me out here, Chris Beam—is apparently not too hard to get to from Beijing.

It's an interesting declaration and it comes at the expense of China's competitors, Norway, Poland, and Russia's very, very close ally, Kazakhstan. Russia hasn't really been able to do business with China, neither in terms of money or geopolitics. The Chinese drive too tough a bargain and the Russians are snobs with identity issues, preferring to see themselves as a European, rather than an Asian power. Perhaps, this is a realization that Russia can't survive without the Chinese energy market, perhaps this is to butter up the Chinese, who are close to signing a deal with Russian gas giant Gazprom. 

The Chinese, meanwhile, have absolutely no identity crisis to speak of, and, while the Russians continue their historic metaphysical East-West struggle, the Chinese think they have the Russians pretty well figured out. Here's a new and not-too-subtle commercial from Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which flaunts a new phone developed for the Russian market. 

(Translation: the Russian mobster asks his victim, who is pleading "Please don't! Please don't!", whether the phone is waterproof. Then he calls his girlfriend and says, "Honey, I...found a new phone for you.")

Interesting why Chinese ad men have such a different view from the Americans. I guess Russian oligarchs aren't buying up Shanghai real estate just yet, and the Chinese have to deal with...some other Russians.