Vladimir Putin's act of chivalry has Chinese officials seeing red

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have seemed to become fast friends in recent months.

Beijing, for instance, signed a $400 billion natural gas deal with Moscow that helped Putin avoid some of the sting of sanctions from the West over Ukraine. But an act of chivalry by Putin toward Xi's wife at a summit in Beijing apparently has Chinese authorities seeing red.


Putin, whose divorce from his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila, became official this spring, was seated to the left of Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan, at a dinner for world leaders on Monday night at the Water Cube, the aquatics venue built for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Xi was seated to Peng's right. As Xi chatted with President Obama, Putin pulled out a tan coat or cape from beneath the table and wrapped it around Peng's shoulders (the venue was reportedly quite chilly).

After just a few seconds, Peng -- a well-known singer who has become China’s most visible and glamorous first lady in decades -- shrugged off the garment. But the moment, captured in a live broadcast on state-run CCTV, prompted the anchor to remark: "Putin has just placed his coat around Peng Liyuan's body."

The clip went viral on the Internet, but within hours was quickly pulled offline by China’s Web censors, who are particularly sensitive to anything untoward about national leaders.

But clips were uploaded to YouTube and other sites beyond the reach of Chinese censors, allowing many people to watch the incident -- and come up with numerous jokes and puns.

One wry commentator on Twitter, suggesting a possible headline for a story about the episode, wrote: “Putin the moves on Peng Liyuan; Xi doesn’t like it.”

Perhaps Putin can call or text Xi to apologize. The Russian leader presented Xi with a dual-screen Russian-made YotaPhone2 smartphone at the beginning of the summit.

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