Was Liu Xiaobo the right choice for the Nobel Peace Prize?

This reporter columnist for the Guardian seems to think he’s not, and contends the choice may hinder the reform efforts of those in China who are more deserving of the prize.

But there are many unsung heroes – within the Communist party and “official” media, as well as among NGOs and the academy – who are working for incremental political reform, increased “public participation”, greater economic and social equality and negotiated compromise between competing interests in the complex and stratified society that is developing. These are China’s real peacemakers. They typically eschew the adversarial approach of activists like Liu – whose Charter 08 movement threw a gauntlet down to the authorities – not out of fear, but because they feel there are more constructive ways to achieve peaceful change in the Chinese social, cultural and political context.

The Nobel award will embolden those in China who are most inclined to confrontational tactics. It may well also prompt renewed state security surveillance of reform-minded academics and NGOs, which may, in turn, nudge some more of them over the line from pro-reform advocacy to outright dissidence.

Beyond doubt, though, it will strengthen the argument, within China, that the west is determined to derail China’s progress by promoting internal strife.

Like Hu Jia before him, Liu Xiaobo has done a masterful job of capturing the eye of the media. Despite the relatively small number of signatures on his Charter 08 petition, a day hasn’t gone by in the past year (when I started getting Google alerts for Charter 08) without at least one, and usually more, stories in the international press about it.

As for the complaint that the selection of Liu Xiaobo will only reinforce the CCP-cultivated mindset that the West is “against China,” all I can say is that shouldn’t be a consideration in the selection of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Just about everything the West does confirms they are “anti-China” in the eyes of the Chinese, and once we let our sensitivity to this type of charge determine our actions you’ll know the West has totally sold out. I mean, should Aung San Suu Kyi not have received her Sakharov Freedom Award because it would turn Myanmar further against the West?

My personal feelings about the prize going to Liu Xiaobo: He’s a courageous man and he has to be credited with turning the spotlight on human rights and political reform in China. Was he the best choice for the prize? I’ll leave that up to you. What I will say is that I find articles like this to be irritating in that they follow the Shaun Rein model of treating China like a teenage boy and advocating that we tiptoe around any destruction the adolescent with raging hormones leaves in its wake. How low must we bow in order not to “hurt the feelings” of China?

Most irritating sentence in the article:

But it is hard to see what contribution he has made to peace, in China or beyond, or how this award will further peace.

Dude, it’s about awareness. What did Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa do that contributed to world peace? What they did was elevate the consciousness of millions around the world to injustices. While Liu may not have been my No. 1 pick for this honor, it should be clear why he was chosen: like him or not, he brought the need for political reform and human rights in China to the forefront of the global psyche. His selection may not have been the best, but it can easily be justified.

H/t to Danwei for the link.

Update: For a splendid piece on Liu Xiaobo and the Peace prize please go here. The journalist, Gady Epstein, first notes that there are many unknown dissidents languishing in the maze of China’s legal apparatus. Most of these activists who disappear are all but forgotten. Living in China, where authoritarianism is taken for granted, it’s easy for us to become “desensitized” to their plight. From there, Epstein arrives at a splendid conclusion:

This has been the unfortunate fate of most Chinese dissidents, to be remembered by only a few and known to very few of their own countrymen. Chinese writer Zha Jianying wrote movingly of this in a 2007 New Yorker article about her imprisoned dissident brother Zha Jianguo, posing the existential question of what good her brother’s sacrifice has done.

This Nobel Peace Prize helps answer that existential question. It has been awarded to one man, and his wife, Liu Xia, is rightfully proud of her husband. She will never have to worry that her husband will be forgotten, and she knows that many around the world and some within her country will learn what he stands for. But the award also confers a proud legacy to so many other Chinese dissidents who have been forgotten. More people around the world and inside China will know what they all stand for, and for a time will remember them and their cause a little better. That is one deeper meaning of this prize.

Who can say it any better? I hope the Guardian columnist finds time to read it.

Update 2: You must read Xujin Eberlein’s level-headed and insightful post on Liu’s winning the Peace Prize. One of the most idiotic memes running around among the fenqing is that Liu advocated China being “colonized” by the US. Of course, there’s no context for this remark, made nearly a quarter of a century ago. Xujun gives us the context and demolishes this nonsensical argument. Go read it now.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 69 Comments

A Suggestion for the Chinese Government To Set Up An International Prize called the “Mao Zedong Prize”

This is a way to counter the influence of the Nobel Prize. The Former USSR had such a prize, called Lenin Peace Prize. Many American civil right activists who were persecuted and murdered by the FBI and CIA were awarded this prize, including Doctor Martin Luther King.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenin_Peace_Prize

This Mao Zedong prize is a prize open to all people of the world, so it’s very possible that most of the time the winners of this prize will be foreigners, not Chinese. Just like the winners of the Nobel Prizes are mostly not Swedish.

Any one recognized to be innovatively and effectively using general theories of Mao Zedong thought, including the Theory of Contradictions, the Theory of Practice, etc, to contribute to human advancement will be considered for the prize. This prize’s money can be from a foundation established by the descedents of Mao Zedong, so it does not necessarily have to be associated with the government. The committee that reviews candidates can also be made up of any Chinese people or even international Maoists.

There will be several prizes:

Mao Zedong Revolutionary Prize: This is a prize awarded to people who achieved great things in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism, and made great contribution to the economic and sovreign independence of his/her nation. For example, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Chairman Pulachangda of the rebel militant Communist Party of Nepal, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Kim Jung Il of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and of course Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden of Afghanistan.

Mao Zedong Medicine Prize: This is a prize awarded to people who strove for the general improvement of public health, including improvements in the treatment/elimination of certain contagious diseases in poor areas, reducing health care costs increasing health care quality and expanding healthcare access of lower-income individuals. Possible candidate can be Barack Obama of the United States of America, if he can make real significant progress in health care reform.

Mao Zedong Literature Prize: This is a prize awarded to artists who serve the people using art based on the principles as outlined by Mao Zedong in his Talk in the Yanan Forum, basically the idea that there’s no such thing as art’s for art’s sake, all art is subordinated to political needs. Possible candidates can be progressive artists in the West who produce music/painting/novel/dance/film/etc and to liberate the minds of the masses and instigate them to fight against imperialism, and capitalist exploitation.

Mao Zedong Humanitarian Prize: This is a prize awarded to people who are recognized to selflessly serve the masses and have utmost moral integrity. Note, it’s not enough to simply donate a lot of money to charity to be considered for this prize, because humanitarianism takes on many forms, and money is not necessarily the most important form. In fact, candidates for this prize do not have to have donated any money to any charity, small people can do good in big ways. Another important condition of this prize is that the humanitarian displayed by the candidate must not be motivated by religion. If a Christian or Catholic who spends his entire life doing charity work, he.she still will not be considered at all.

October 11, 2010 @ 3:05 am | Comment

Math you posted the same thing just a few weeks ago. Stop being lazy.

October 11, 2010 @ 3:26 am | Comment

Yeah, that would an appropriate prize for people like Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Gaddafi, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ahmadinejad, Mugabe, etc. If one behaves purely in one’s own interest to the detriment of the people in one’s country, if one’s actions are brutal, oafish, uninformed and ignorant, if one is hated by the vast majority of human beings on earth, then one would definitely qualify for an award in the name of a fat, ignorant despot who set his country back decades because of his egotistical, lazy and sadistic nature.

October 11, 2010 @ 4:02 am | Comment

Richard, I found the Nick Young piece simply shameful. It’s main premise seemed to be that awarding the prize to Liu would hamper the behind-the-scenes effort of his “unsung hero” foreign-educated CCP friends. The fact that these people (if they exist) have not achieved any noteworthy political reform, despite having had at least the last ten years to achieve it in, does not seem to register.

The way in which he plays lip-service to the idea that imprisoning Liu merely for writing what hundreds of millions of Chinese people think, but then goes on to say that the CCP’s oppression is “not illogical” and basically makes out Liu’s approach (i.e., collecting signatures for a pretty basic charter of rights) to be “confrontational”, is especially revolting. Most astonishing of all is that this is Nick Young (who is a columnist for the Guardian, not a reporter), the man who used to write China Development Brief up until he was forced to shut up shop and leave the country by the CCP.

As for whether Liu deserves the prize, of course he does, although there may be people more deserving than him – there are an awful lot of oppressed people in the world. The work Amnesty has done for those tortured by US and allied interrogators also deserves a reward.

October 11, 2010 @ 4:14 am | Comment

Thanks Foarp, I’ll change his title to columnist. I, too, found his column pretty bad; I hope that came across.

October 11, 2010 @ 4:34 am | Comment

As you said, Richard, its all about awareness. Its almost impossible to quantify Liu’s contribution to the cause of democractic reform in China, and in bringing it to global light. The Nobel Committee’s decision essentially matched his own efforts by bringing further exposure.

October 11, 2010 @ 4:45 am | Comment

Feces! If Liu doesn´t like it in China…why doesn´t he move to the United States if he thinks it is so great here? We ONCE had a 100 sq foot free speech area 5 miles from the Republican Conventions that nominated George W. Bush who then became president…by loosing two elections. And we have a bigger Cult of Incumbents than the defunct communist party ever had. AND this country rapes more of the world´s resources and causes the greatest amount of terror and unbearable poverty by maintaining more weapons of mass destruction than any other two insane nations on the face of the earth. But that still does not even take into account that this land of ¨freedom¨ has more people in prison…than any other country on the face of the earth.

F*ck idolizing Xiaobo and the Noble Peace Prize! WTF have YOU ever done for world peace, jackass? And to keep everyone in ignorance and from finding out what does not get reported…you are forbidden by the Patriot Act to go —>

http://bramin.wordpress.com/page/2/ !

So don´t say you weren´t warned!

PS.
Just love a world where billions live in acceptable obscene poverty and even more billions live in acceptable blasphemous slavery so that petty small minded sites have enough time on their hands to monitor with censorship…words of rage and passion for being unacceptable.

PPS.
I´m an…ANARCHIST!

October 11, 2010 @ 5:50 am | Comment

Oh, my…meet the American Math.

October 11, 2010 @ 7:22 am | Comment

Look out, everybody!!! Tom’s an ANARCHIST! Oooooo….

October 11, 2010 @ 7:48 am | Comment

The Nobel Peace Prize, unfortunately, is not a good tool for giving recognition to people struggling for human rights in their own country. It has been misused many times in the past, e.g., awarding it to Mother Theresa or to Obama or to Arafat. Using it to poke nations in the eye, as this time, is also not a proper use for a “peace” prize, in my view. It should be reserved for people who are effectively working to coax rogue nations into the world community. Chris Hill of the Bush administration would have been a good choice for his work with North Korea, for example.
I also happen to feel that much of what Liu Xiaobo is advocating may be too radical for China at this time. The Nobel committee have taken it upon themselves not only to poke China in the eye but to decide what is best for China’s internal affairs. Now *that* is treating China like a teenager.

October 11, 2010 @ 7:51 am | Comment

I have to say this year’s Nobel Peace award is less frivolous than last year’s. I was anticipating Michelle Obama getting it for growing vegetables, or her daughters getting it for doing homework. Having said that, I must say that there are more deserving Chinese this year for actually doing something about peace. Ma Ying-jeou is an obvious choice. His monumental work on the cross-straight relations will have far more lasting significance than Liu Xiaobo’s modeled after someone else’s writing.

October 11, 2010 @ 9:14 am | Comment

Liu was the right choice for the Peace Prize. The threat to the Norwegians and reaction afterwards from the Chinese government in censoring all news about it tells you it is right, and effective. The mobilization of the hoard of 50 centers (see above for examples) shows you that the CCP is very scared. It also tells the world what kind of super power China is going to be. The comments from Chinese tells the world what kind of country China is.

If such a simple award can bring out such great enlightenment to the world, it is the right award.

October 11, 2010 @ 9:48 am | Comment

Given the low status of the Prize these days, the Chinese gov’t. would have done better just to laugh and ignore it.

October 11, 2010 @ 11:43 am | Comment

@Tom – “I´m an…ANARCHIST!”

Lovin’ the Sex Pistols vibe, are you also an anti-Christ?

@Richard – Yeah, I was just blowing off some steam about the article. Probably the fairest assessment was from my good friend The Writing Baron who described it to me as “Idiotic and shameful”.

October 11, 2010 @ 3:20 pm | Comment

Typical Red Racist Guardian stuff. Would scream blue murder if our rights were taken away, but as it is happening to non-whites in a developing country then that’s ok, because ‘they’ve got a different culture which we cannot possibly understand’.

Human rights have to be universal (the clue is in the word ‘human’ which encompasses all of us) otherwise they are meaningless. If this man had a brain he’d be ashamed, but then if he had a brain he wouldn’t be writing for the Guardian.

October 11, 2010 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

Just read Xunjun entry about this issue

http://tinyurl.com/22m7sqz

Interesting opionion as usual from her.

But I differ in some points with her. Here my post in her blog.

“Discussing the tastes, flavor, colors, culinary/literary preferences, fashion look, vibrations, aroma, whatever… about this person.. about this particular Scandinavian issue, is just… beating around the bushes; i.e avoiding the main point.

And the main point, we know, is Why has the Chinese powers that be have go to such lengths to prevent this issue to be reported and openly discussed in their own country?”

October 11, 2010 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

Liu was absolutely the right choice for the Peace Prize this year, if for no other reason that the Nobel committee felt that he was the right choice for this year’s prize. It’s the Nobel Peace Prize; not the world peace prize. So as long as the choice reflects the decision of the committee members, it is by definition the “right” one.

That the Nobel is the most prestigious one of all is neither here nor there, and certainly not the committee’s problem. If there’s discontent on Liu receiving the prize, then someone should start their own endowment and make up their own prize with its own criteria, so that someone else can win it. Even then, it would still have no imapact or relevance whatsoever on what the Nobel committee chooses to do.

Besides, the Nobel has already had the expected effect, in that people are talking about Liu, his charter, and China. As someone else has suggested, shining a light on China and on the topic may be the most important by-product of all.

October 11, 2010 @ 4:12 pm | Comment

Nick Young clearly has succumbed to the flattery of Chinese ‘friends’ that like to treat him well when he’s in town. Either that or they’ve got compromising photos.

Lucky for Guardian readers they still have Tania Branigan.

October 11, 2010 @ 5:04 pm | Comment

When in China, be careful with the babe you unexpectedly find in your hotel room.

And no, she is didn’t open the wrong room….

;-)

October 11, 2010 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

Richard, thanks for drawing this to our attention. Shame I didn’t know about it sooner, otherwise I would have left a pointed comment on the Guardian site. Still I can see that plenty of others did that.

How low must we bow in order not to “hurt the feelings” of China?

Spot on. Where do our governments make their policy – at home or in Beijing?

The fact that these people (if they exist) have not achieved any noteworthy political reform, despite having had at least the last ten years to achieve it in, does not seem to register.

FOARP is quite right. The “quiet reformers” in China have done nothing noticeable to advance change in the last decade. All they do is support the status quo by giving those who oppose change (this side of the next ice age) a veto over it, as everything has to be done by “consensus”.

It is time for them to step up to the plate and engage in some table-thumping about the need to move ahead for China’s future good, or fully admit that they are part of the problem and not the solution in that they won’t risk anything to make the case for reform. The have cake and eat it nonsense has to stop.

October 11, 2010 @ 8:49 pm | Comment

On this occasion, merp’s absence in the PKD seems odd =)

October 11, 2010 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

Please SP, don’t goad him into commenting.

FOARP, I didn’t want to go so far as calling it “idiotic and shameful” – but come to think of it, it is.

October 11, 2010 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

And the main point, we know, is Why has the Chinese powers that be have go to such lengths to prevent this issue to be reported and openly discussed in their own country?”

What are you talking about?

http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2010-10/08/c_12638645.htm
http://news.163.com/10/1008/18/6IGBQGG400014JB5.html
http://space.tv.cctv.com/video/VIDE1286537669754881

If they are “going to great length” to stop it from being reported, why would their OFFICIAL news outlets REPORT THEM? How is that “going to great length”?

Don’t tell me xinhua and cctv are also banned websites in China?

Please explain to me what you mean by “going to great length” given what I just posted.

October 11, 2010 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

Liu Xiaobo has advocated in the past for the recolonization of China by the Western powers so to bring the nation up the same civilized standards . This is the same man who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the American National Endowment for Democracy, an organization that has been closely associated with spreading civil discord across many developing nations for the benefit of the American agenda.

In light of these events, it’s quite clear that Liu Xiaobo at best is an unwitting or well intentioned pawn of the Western powers or at worst is an active agent provocateur. Whatever his position with the West, he by all definitions a traitor to his country and his people.

October 11, 2010 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

Totally agree with you on this one Richard (Hope you were sitting down when you read that.)

Liu was one right choice from amongst many. MLK was also criticised for being too radical by other leaders in the movement. They too feared offending lukewarm supporters or even possibly bringing out further racist violence. Liu may serve as a lightening rod for Chinese rights, somewhat like MLK was for US rights. Sometimes you have to push hard just to get a little progress.

Math’s suggestion of Mao prizes may not be so bad. What better way to asses what China’s leaders believe than by seeing who they award prizes to? Even Math can have a good idea – even if by accident.

October 11, 2010 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

Si, sorry that your comment posted late; it got caught in the spam filter.

Gojup, good to see you.

Big brother, you’ve earned your 50 cents. Congratulations.

October 11, 2010 @ 11:57 pm | Comment

Richard, the 50 centers will sooner or later descend onto the PKD whether they are invited or not. It’s part of the operation directive from the Party.

October 12, 2010 @ 12:15 am | Comment

To whom it may concern:

I am ALWAYS reluctant to confess to my Antichrist leanings or openly admitting that I am HE. Not out of paranoia but out of absolute mind numbing terror that freedom and peace loving Xtians will seek to have my brain electrocuted again, my body imprisoned again or for those other members of the major cults of the world…to enjoy another public crucifixion and burning at the stake or far worse(post 1984) of just one more heretic to make them all feel healthy and well and mildly different…than those who they love to HATE.

October 12, 2010 @ 1:14 am | Comment

China now apparently taking the prize out on the Norweigan government.

http://tinyurl.com/2uoph25

I hope that the Norweigans tell Beijing to f-off and stop acting like the imperialist bully-boys they all too frequently are (diplomatically, of course).

October 12, 2010 @ 2:19 am | Comment

Norway never gives China a break, those callous Nordic bastards.

October 12, 2010 @ 5:52 am | Comment

Well, it’s good that someone gets an award for telling it like it is.

I’ve almost finished reading Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars”.

Woodward depicts Obama as a man who is basically pushed around by the Pentagon and the Generals. After 8 years of the war in Afghanistan and while contemplating a surge of US troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. civilian and military leadership couldn’t even articulate what the objectives of the war should be. Eventually, they decide that the objective should be to “degrade” the Taliban. What does “degrade” mean? Shocking! It’s as if everyone now just wants to put on a uniform in the civilian and military realms and role play. Everyone is pretending. Like a play. It’s all gone MAD!

October 12, 2010 @ 9:04 am | Comment

No matter who is the right person in China for this prize, no one in China can make it without the help from the Chinese govt. Take Liu as an example, the Govt has been working hard to publicize him and never fails to acknowledge his work on human rights and democracy in China, in one way or another, by putting him under house arrest and then in jail, etc, to get the world’s attention for him.

As a last-ditch effort in their campaign, even a Chinese diplomat was dispatched to Norway to inform the Norwegian govt how much the Nobel peace prize could mean to China once it was given to Liu and urged the Norwegian govt to sway the Nobel prize committee on its decision to choose the winner, without knowing that, unlike in China, the Nobel prize committee is totally independent of the govt. But the Chinese govt’s intervention again made Liu stand out from the rest and proved to the committee that Liu was indeed the right choice.

Now Liu has to pay back to the Chinese govt for what it has done for him to secure his prize, at least he has to pay taxes for his 1.5 million dollar award, which the govt may consider dirty money, but will take it anyway. So the Chinese govt and Liu share this year’s Nobel peace prize and the Chinese govt is the co-winner. It is a win-win situation.

October 12, 2010 @ 10:30 am | Comment

@Hong

“to prevent this issue to be reported and openly discussed in their own country”

Interesting… you miss the second part after the “and”.

About the first part

http://tinyurl.com/2bxzx82
http://tinyurl.com/23odppd
http://tinyurl.com/22oeq9s
http://tinyurl.com/26uzajk
http://tinyurl.com/2dwgnha
http://tinyurl.com/23vtvzn
http://tinyurl.com/33basm4
http://tinyurl.com/298rm9s
http://tinyurl.com/28ywrhz
http://tinyurl.com/39tuqfy
http://tinyurl.com/23j8n4m

I could go on, but I am just getting tired of URL copy-past.

You get news in English, German and Spanish. If you also want in French let me know.

By the way, fantastic thing this Google Reader. You should give it a try.

Hope the links will not stress your VPN, disconnect your fix/mobile internet account or get you in trouble.

Regards from Madrid and happy Columbus day.

October 12, 2010 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

@El Chino
That was funny. :-)

So the CCP did all it could to assure its share on the Nobel prize $$$

But what happens now? Should they also be put in house arrest for receiving funds from abroad to support subversive activities?

October 12, 2010 @ 2:55 pm | Comment

I hope that the Norweigans tell Beijing to f-off and stop acting like the imperialist bully-boys they all too frequently are (diplomatically, of course).

They have absolutely no comprehension how they come across, do they? Do they really think they are in a position to antagonise the entire planet?

October 12, 2010 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

@Si

China is like a world inside a world. For them the “outer world” is just of peripheral interest. They are mostly, or better said captive, by they own internal dynamics.

But this belly button fixation has proven disastrous in the past.

You can fence the outside world for a time, but you cannot fence it out forever, and ignoring or not been aware of what happens outside your own physical or mental borders is a dangerous strategy.

October 12, 2010 @ 4:19 pm | Comment

Hey Richard; long time reader, first time poster. I started reading the Peking Duck back in 2007 when my move to China was in it’s planning stages; I view you as the Andrew Sullivan of the Chinese Expat blogosphere. Take that as a complement. :)

Anyway, while I agree that Liu Xiaobo was a decent choice for the NPP, I don’t think that Nick Young’s article was idiotic or shameful. Reading between the lines, however, it brings to light two major points of friction, one regarding mentalities in China and one regarding those of China observers.

The first is what I call the Shanghai/Beijing divide. I can’t help but wonder that if Liu Xiaobo had been operating out of Shanghai, his fate might not have been different. Witness the dissidents and critics who live in Shanghai- their criticism and punishment is milder. Why? Because Shanghai is already living in the 21st century. All weekend, EVERYONE here has been talking about Liu Xiaobo and his prize. Shanghainese aren’t afraid to speak their minds, read what they want, say what they want, or petition the government… which is often much more responsive than that of the rest of the country. Everybody and their dog here has a VPN; the firewall is a running joke. The icon of Shanghai’s younger generation is Han Han (who you’ve written about before)- and the more critical he becomes, the more his star rises.

Beijing, on the other hand, is (as Gan Lu noted in an exchange on here a few weeks back), stuck in 1959. The mentality is as oppressive as the air quality- I can’t stand more than a few days in Beijing before I want to get back to Shanghai. You couldn’t pay me enough to live there. Yet, when I travel around China, I don’t see the rest of China looking to Beijing as a model to emulate. Shanghai is the leader of the zeitgeist. Every city I’ve visited south of the Yangzi- from Yiwu and Hangzhou, to Shenzhen and Xiamen, to Guilin and Kunming- looks more towards the open future of Shanghai than Beijing, which is seen as a far away emperor- a figure to be feared, perhaps, but not to be emulated.

This brings us to the other frission- between those who see China as developing towards democracy over the long term, and those who see China as an evil empire that should roll up like the Soviet Union. Well, I certainly fall among the first camp, as I’d imagine Nick Young does, as does my attitude towards Shanghai. I look at the post-1978 regime as being fundamentally different from the order that preceded it; it could be looked at as a developmental dictatorship in the mold of Park Chunghee or Chiang Chingkuo; or perhaps a one-party developmental system like we saw in the 20th century in Brazil or Mexico. (I find it interesting that people never look at the experience of Mexico, which had 60 years of one-party rule before free elections began in 1989, or Brazil, which had a similar arrangement; both are large countries that, unlike Korea or Taiwan, had much less American support in their development, yet both emerged as democracies without a violent revolution or fundamental break with their past.)

Democracy is not a natural state of affairs- it has to be built on solid institutions and traditions or it amounts to mob rule. What I see going on right now in China is extensive construction of institutions. The most important one- and the story that isn’t being emphasized sufficiently- is the construction of China’s legal system. In thirty years, they’ve gone from having virtually no legal system or rule of law at all, to a soviet kangaroo court system staffed by retired military officers, to a fairly modern yet underdeveloped system with hundreds of thousands of newly trained legal professionals and some of the best written legal codes in the world, having been built from the best of US, German, Dutch and Japanese law. It has a way to go yet, but give them credit, and have hope- Xi Jinping has made it clear that developing the legal system is going to be one of the biggest tasks of his coming presidency.

To me, this is what proves that China keeps moving in the right direction. If they didn’t want to open up their system, why not keep ruling at the point of a gun? Why go to such great lengths to build legal institutions if you’re only going to prolong a dictatorship? This is why I can’t buy the critics who say that China isn’t opening or there is no change- because there has been tremendous change in some critical areas.

The collapse of the Soviet Union is not a model to be emulated. Yes, it was good for a few satellite nations, specifically those which were closer to the west and already had experience with liberal institutions. But it hasn’t been that great for Russia… or Belarus… or the stans. There’s been a general collapse of the standard of living of Russian workers; a complete collapse of the soviet intelligentsia, who have nearly all emigrated; and for what? So that a communist dictatorship can be replaced by the mafia and Vladmir Putin? Not exactly an improvement. However, had they had time to build the necessary institutions to make a transition successfully, the story could have been very different.

So, to that end, it’s the quiet work- done by people like Nick Young’s friends- that will make a future transition successful. This might- nay, will- take decades more work. It took Korea 30 years, Taiwan 40 years, and Mexico 60 years. Is it unreasonable that it should take 50-100 years for a country the size and complexity of China, a country as historically problematic, to make such a transition? Marking 1978-1980 as the “starting line”, and computing that such a huge country will take much longer (ala Liu Xiaobo’s “300 years of colonialism”- though I don’t think it will take nearly so long).

Where this runs into problems, however, is that unlike other countries to go through this developmental process, China is a major and independent foreign policy actor. Mexico and Brazil, for instance, never wielded much international influence during their authoritarian periods. Taiwan and Korea functioned largely as American protectorates- and neither is large enough to wield much influence in world affairs anyway. China, on the other hand, is the world’s second largest economy, which gives is a level of responsibility that it’s not yet capable of handling.

Anyway, this is just how I see it. I don’t think that the American foreign policy establishment are cowards for the way they engage China- it’s difficult, and this brings us back to the Beijing/Shanghai conundrum again. Shanghai may be China’s domestic future, but Beijing still controls foreign policy. So, to that end, Mr. Young is both right- and wrong.

P.S. Sorry if this wasn’t totally coherent; I’m just typing it out on my lunch break.

P.P.S. Very impressive troll farm you have going here, too. Math, Merp, this new Hanafin guy… heck, you even had Nanheyangrouchuan here for awhile. What happened to him- did you ban him? Usually very reasonable bloggers- like yourself- don’t draw out the crazy. Which makes this place all the more unusual.

October 12, 2010 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

Doing the rounds on Twitter:

23 Party Elders Call for Free Speech and Political Reform in Open Letter to Wen Jiabao http://bit.ly/ds83Jm

Could get ugly.

October 12, 2010 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

Troll farm! I like the term.

October 13, 2010 @ 12:33 am | Comment

Twenty-three so-called “Party elders,” among them Li Rui and Hu Jiwei, have signed an open letter to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress calling for freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association.

A partial English translation is available here:

http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/10/13/8035/

The full Chinese text is available here:

http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2010/10/201010121516.shtml

October 13, 2010 @ 1:39 am | Comment

Please be sure to read Xujun Eberlein’s excellent post on this topic – see my update in the post for the link. (Thanks Eco for pointing it out up above.)

October 13, 2010 @ 7:41 am | Comment

Thanks Richard for the recommendation. As an aside, Charles/Bobby and Pugster sure keep themselves busy.

October 13, 2010 @ 10:45 am | Comment

They do, and they all say the same thing, each in his own obnoxious way. Charles is carpet-bombing teh blogs with comments about NED, and pug is echoing him, though with less attention to grammar.

October 13, 2010 @ 11:26 am | Comment

Nicholas, thanks for the excellent comment. I don’t disagree with you that change will not and should not happen overnight. I did find Young’s article irritating, and I found the line I singled out in the post to be on the shameful side. And I do think Putin is better than what came before him. I may not like everything he does, but he is quite popular in Russia where, despite the first few rough years, most peoples’ lives are better than they were under Brezhnev. I am uncomfortable with the argument that China needs the CCP so they don’t fall into the chaos Russia fell into in 1991. They are not parallel situations. Unlike Russia, which at the time was rotting from the inside out, China is thriving, and its people are wonderfully pragmatic. While I don’t believe they are necessarily ready yet for democracy, I give them more credit and believe they would endure the shock waves of the transition away from one-party rule. Using the “Russia argument,” China would never be ready for democracy. That’s why the party strives so hard to inculcate its young people with the myth that if China were to become free it would plunge into lethal chaos. As long as people believe that, the party’s iron grip is assured, maybe forever.

October 13, 2010 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

“Using the “Russia argument,” China would never be ready for democracy. That’s why the party strives so hard to inculcate its young people with the myth that if China were to become free it would plunge into lethal chaos. As long as people believe that, the party’s iron grip is assured, maybe forever.”

Maybe, but forever is a damn long time, and I’m not convinced that perpetual party rule is guaranteed through indoctrinating the youth into an idea that they themselves believe in less every day. With the possible exception of North Korea (which is “rotting from within” in much the same way as Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, or Mao’s China), this hasn’t worked anywhere in the past, and there’s no reason to believe that it will in the future. For youth in Shanghai, joining the CCP is about as meaningful as joining the Shriners, the Elks, or (to use David Brooks cogent observation) the Harvard Alumni Association; it’s a road to connections and advancement, but nobody believes the ideological hype anymore. Maybe attitudes are different up north, but even if they are they’re only going to be the next to fall. (Heck, Marx’s own theory guarantees that perpetual party rule is impossible- either socialist development works and creates a communist society under which the party simply withers away, or it’s wrong and will vanish into history as the dialectic proceeds in ways that Marx didn’t forsee. Either way, it’s all tomorrow’s lunch.) I think the key here will be somebody “pulling a Deng”- basically introducing liberal democracy through other terms. I’ve been reading Kuhn’s “How China’s Leaders Think” over the past few days, and it’s fascinating how ideas have been slipped into Chinese economic and political thought simply by re-naming them. Can Wen Jiabao (if sincere- I give 50/50 odds that he is) outmaneuver his party in the same way? Or are they too saavy?

While I don’t know if the whole country is ready for democracy, it’s obvious to me that Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang are… and something’s going to happen in the next few years.

October 13, 2010 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

Looks like Norway hasn’t bowed and scraped to China – they’ve protested the decision to bar access to Liu’s wife and requested their diplomats be able to give her the award.

October 13, 2010 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

Those damned Vikings!!

October 14, 2010 @ 12:28 am | Comment

I don’t understand why the Nobel Prize for Peace goes to someone who wrote these essays.

邱吉尔的真正传人布莱尔
“Blair, the True Successor to Churchill”
- February 18, 2003
http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/54_1.shtml

倒萨之战与联合国权威
“War to Topple Saddam and the United Nations’ Authority”
- March 18, 2003
http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/65_1.shtml

美英自由联盟必胜
“U.S. and England Freedom Coalition Must Win”
- April 11, 2004
http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/133_1.shtml

伊战与美国大选
“Iraq War and the U.S. Presidential Election”
- October 31, 2004
http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/217_1.shtml

Shouldn’t the prize be used to honor people who advocate peace not war? Liu Xiaobo’s writings display an ample regard for the use of military power to establish order, and in particular an adulation of the Anglo-American strength as the basis of global freedom, justifying unilateral pre-emptive military intervention while denigrating multilateral organizations like the United Nations as “weak”. In this sense, Liu is coming right out of the Neo-Conservative movement. See http://www.slate.com/id/2161800/.

For example:

古罗马智者西塞罗说:“为了自由,我们才服从法律”。当下的国际秩序也要求:“为了自由,我们才尊重权威”。当联合国无法履行保障基本人权的职责时,其权威就不值得尊重。在此意义上,一个对内实施恐怖暴政和对外犯过侵略战争罪的政府,无权要求建立在《世界人权宣言》的道义合法性基础上的联合国给予它和平的民主的对待,更没有理由要求联合国制止对其发动的正义之战。

“A wise Roman, Cicero, once said, “for freedom, we obey the law.” The present international order also requires: “for freedom, we respect power and authority”. When the United Nations is unable to perform the duty of protecting fundamental human rights, its power and authority is not worthy of respect. A government that has carried out domestic tyranny and foreign aggression has no right to request the United Nations, which was built on the foundation of the moral legitimacy the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to accord it peaceful democratic treatment, and further, and has no reasonable basis to request the United Nations to stop the launch of a just war against it.”
(http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/65_1.shtml)

Or this one:
当布什和布莱尔领导的自由力量为铲除邪恶而付出巨大代价时,只会巧舌如簧的希拉克说不定获得了诺贝尔和平奖。然而,我相信,历史终将证明布什和布莱尔的英明,正如历史曾经证明了邱吉尔和罗斯福的英明一样。真该为这个地球庆幸,因为,人类之拥有以自由价值为核心的现代文明,主要靠英美两国之力。英国是现代文明的母体,美国是现代文明的集大成者。以英美为代表的自由制度,以其善待人性的仁慈而在21世纪成为人类文明的主流。
“When Bush and Blair’s liberal forces are trying to eradicate evil at great cost, only the glib perhaps [would suggest antiwar] Jacques Chirac should win the Nobel Peace Prize. However, I believe that history will eventually prove Bush and Blair’s wisdom, as history has proven Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s wisdom. The world is really glad for this, because the value of human freedom at the core of modern civilization mainly depends on the strength of Britain and America. Britain is the mother of modern civilization, the United States is a master of modern civilization. Freedom as represented by the Anglo-American system, with its benevolence and kindness to humanity in the 21st century, is the mainstream of human civilization.”
(http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/65_1.shtml)

or these:

在人类历史上,还从未有一次铲除暴政的战争象倒萨之战这样,发动得如此迅速、打得如此文明、胜得如此利落!
“In human history, there has never been a war to eradicate tyranny such as the war against Saddam, that started so fast, fought so civilized, and won so neatly!”

西方的左派们可以抓住暂时的挫折来大做文章, 但在历史过去多年之后,人们才会象事后谈论二战初期的邱吉尔和冷战时期的里根一样,以“具有大智慧的大战略家”来评价布什总统。 无论倒萨的行动要冒的多大风险,不行动的风险将更为巨大,二战和9•11就是明证! 所以,无论如何,倒萨之战是正义的!布什总统的决定是正确的!
“The leftwing in the West will spill a lot of words seizing upon these temporary setbacks, but when the history of these last few years is written, people will talk about them just as they talked about Churchill after the Second World War, and Reagan after the Cold War Churchill, and accord the evaluation of “the great strategist with great wisdom” to President Bush. No matter how risky were the actions taken to topple of Saddam, the risk of inaction will be even greater — World War II and 9-11 are proof! Therefore, no matter what, the war to topple Saddam is a just war! President Bush’s decision was correct!”
(http://www.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/217_2.shtml)

October 14, 2010 @ 3:38 am | Comment

Perspective, just because he made the mistake of endorsing the Iraq war doesn’t invalidate him. Support for the war was widespread and even Hillary Clinton and other very capable, smart people were behind it – at first. If you want to smear Liu you’ll have to do better than that.

Serve, I’d like you to define what you think it means to be an “agent” of the CIA. I mean, just giving someone money, in my way of thinking, in no way makes them your agent. We supported the Mujahadeen, including Osama Bin Laden, with extraordinary generosity. But would you really have said Bin Laden was an agent of the US? So please define what you mean when you use that term, and explain what the DL has done that proves he’s an agent. Thanks.

October 14, 2010 @ 5:11 am | Comment

Many people believe there is such a thing as a “just war.” Whether or not the wars in the Middle East were/are “just” is debatable, but I don’t think Liu’s belief that they are should preclude him from the prize. It doesn’t mean that he supports war – it means that he considers it an excusable war.

October 14, 2010 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

The Chinese state response to the entire affair seems to have been organized by vindictive 5-year-old “little emperors” who were told that Liu took away their Happy Meals. Look at the “level” on which the government is operating (from the SCMP), truly “daguo waijiao” (great nation diplomacy):

Mo Shaoping said the keyholes of his apartment were believed to have been blocked by Beijing police twice on Monday and Tuesday night, forcing his family to move away for fear of continued harassment.

The central government expressed its anger by forcing a touring Norwegian musical play off the stage in Beijing and in Wuhan , Hubei province. Composer Thomas Stanghelle confirmed authorities had also cancelled performances of a musical scheduled for next month by Eurovision Song Contest winner, Norwegian Alexander Rybak.

What’s next? A wedgie or a swirlie for the Norwegian Ambassador?

October 14, 2010 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

It is quite amazing to what a degree the CCP has been able to paint the picture:
“It’s either our iron-fisted rule or civil war, hunger and chaos”. Of course anybody, Chinese or foreigner, may not believe in this strict dichotomy, but it’s better to err on the safe side. This is all the more astonishing since the most recent periods of civil war and famine in Chinese history are only 35-50 years ago, when the exact same party was in power and freedom of speech was nonexistent. One may even believe that Mao did all his heinous crimes just in order to secure the rule of his successors in all eternity.

I also want to leave the following: In 1991, it was not Russia that collapsed, it was the Soviet Union. The latter was never an organic state. If the Soviet Union was the means of the Russian communists (“the Bolsheviki”) to rule the non-Russian nations of the old Czarist Empire then that failed, and that was not the non-Russian’s fault. If the Estonians didn’t want to belong to Moscow any longer then that was that. It would be up to the Chinese to show the world that a multi-national peaceful democratic state can exist, along the lines of Switzerland or Finland (with its considerable Swedish minority).

October 14, 2010 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

I do not consider Xiaobo as a CIA agent. I believe most rational people would not think that way. Nevertheless, the fact that he is receiving NED stipend raise serious question on whether what he is doing is out of his own initiative or trying to please the NED people and secure next round of NED funding.

October 14, 2010 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

Well Fancieryu, you talk about “funding” and its benefits, but don’t consider the fact that his work clearly brought with it plenty of risks. The fact that he has spent the majority of the past two decades in prison on baseless charges suggests to me that money and luxury are not exactly his priorities.

October 14, 2010 @ 1:57 pm | Comment

Maybe I am biased because of my previous experience of some Mingyun people. I’d like to share my experience: I was in a resturant close to Princeton, NJ where some of Ming Yun people sit on the next table. I heard one guy was bragging that he will go to Turkey to promote Uigur independence. Other people asked “How come you are doing that?!” “I am paid to do so” was the answer.

Probably, and very likely, Xiaobo is better than that.

But some people do plan to try to get jailed by CCP gain prominence and to win favor from their sponsors. Wei Jingshe has always been using his 20 years’ incarceration to gain an uphand in his arguments? I do sympathize him and any people jailed for political reasons, but it’s also possible that people seek jail terms…

I have read Yang Jianli basically tried very hard to get jailed by CCP (by articles of his fellow Ming Yun’ers) by trying to sneak through border (but making enough noise to get detected).

Xiaobo did much smarter than Jianli and what he did anyway is applaudable. But I cannot be convinced that he is really doing it for purely selfless reasons.

October 14, 2010 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

@Richard: “If you want to smear Liu you’ll have to do better than that.”

Why do you accuse me of wanting to “smear” Liu?

smear verb [ trans. ]
• (figurative) damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander : “someone was trying to smear her by faking letters”.

How is it a “smear” to quote from Liu’s own writings? He wrote them. I make no false accusations; one cannot slander someone by stating truth. I quoted his essays, and stated my opinion as to how to characterize the views he expressed. How is that a smear?

I don’t want to “smear” Liu – I want to understand Liu. If you have references to other of his writings on peace (and war), please send me the links. I would be very interested in understanding his ideas on how to achieve peace.

Further, Liu may in fact stand behind the essays quoted here. Liu might very well identify himself as being in the same intellectual camp as leading British neoconservative Bernard Lewis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Lewis) or leading American neoconservative William (Bill) Kristol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Kristol).

The Weekly Standard, edited by Bill Kristol, clearly supports Liu. See https://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/why-liu-matters_508818.html

“Neoconservatism is a foreign policy that emerged in the United States in the 1970s. It supports using economic and military power to bring liberalism, democracy, and human rights to other countries.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism) The sentiments expressed in his essays quoted are not inconsistent with this description.

If asked, Liu may in fact wear the label of “neoconservative” with pride. It appears that he truly believes in the unique American (and British) mission of preserving global freedom for all when he writes:

“The world is really glad for this, because the value of human freedom at the core of modern civilization mainly depends on the strength of Britain and America. Britain is the mother of modern civilization, the United States is a master of modern civilization. Freedom as represented by the Anglo-American system, with its benevolence and kindness to humanity in the 21st century, is the mainstream of human civilization.”

This sentiment is not so different from this statement of neoconservative principles:

“America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.” (http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm)

October 20, 2010 @ 2:26 am | Comment

Congratulations to all the people (AKA trolls) whose Google searches for the words ‘Liu Xiaobo’ and ‘traitor’ have lead them to this page – it must have been pretty low in the rankings.

Congratulations also to the people who managed not to see that when a writer makes an outlandish claim like ‘China needs colonisation to modernise’ and defends it by quoting Marx, they may not be speaking entirely seriously – myopia as extreme as yours cannot be natural and must have been the result of years of training.

October 20, 2010 @ 4:19 am | Comment

FOARP, isn’t it something? They are trying very hard. The smear of Liu as a neoconservative takes the cake. Bill Kristoff endorses Liu’s winning the prize, Kristoff is a neo-con, thus Liu Xiaobo….

October 20, 2010 @ 11:12 am | Comment

Wow, there’s a lot of “Liu may in fact” this and “Liu might very well” that. Perhaps those statements may in fact/might very well amount to an attempt to smear.

“neo-conservatism” might very well have certain connotations. But I didn’t realize that a person who may in fact espouse such a view is disqualified as a worthy Nobel candidate. Evidently, neither did the Nobel committee.

October 20, 2010 @ 12:15 pm | Comment

@ Richard: “Perspective, just because he made the mistake of endorsing the Iraq war doesn’t invalidate him. Support for the war was widespread and even Hillary Clinton and other very capable, smart people were behind it – at first.”

Sure, lots of people “supported” the Iraq War. A lot of people were swayed by the false claims of WMD, that WMD posed an imminent danger that had to be eliminated. In the U.S., many were swayed by Judy Miller’s reporting in the New York Times: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Miller_(journalist).

However, the kind of support these people gave was often contingent on matters such as (a) letting the UN inspections continue or (b) waiting for the United Nations to authorize it. Unilateral action by the U.S. and the “Coalition of the Willing” has been criticized by many observers as an unlawful act. For example:

“The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter. He said the decision to take action in Iraq should have been made by the Security Council, not unilaterally.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3661134.stm

Hillary Clinton made a long speech discussing her views (which also takes into account the views of her New York State constituents) in October 2002, and which goes into the dangers of taking a unilateral action and the kind of precedent this would set: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wyCBF5CsCA

What is surprising to me, when I started to read his writings, is the extent to which Liu Xiaobo (1) supported the war enthusiastically; (2) derided the United Nations’ role; (3) had faith that the U.S. would succeed in bringing democracy to Iraq via toppling Saddam and (4) even after others had admitted the U.S. attack was mistake, continued to believe it was the right thing to do. The essays I cited above are evidence of that – read them for yourself and you decide.

So it is not his support of the Iraq War per se that is disturbing; it is his unqualified support of the attack and a kind of blind faith in the USA / England to use war as an instrument of freedom and democracy.

Why not advocate that the Iraqi people need to use non-violent means to work through their own issues to fight for their own freedom and to build the kind of democracy that is right for them? That, to me, would be consistent with a “non-violent approach” to social change that everyone seems to be claiming that LXB believes in. Are the Iraqi people unable to do this on their own? Is it that the Iraqi people need to have the assistance of the U.S. and England to remove their non-democratically elected leader (one who was empowered by the U.S. to begin with) that justifies this kind of attack (this is the neo-conservative claim of bringing democracy to the Middle East).

And what of the community of nations? What role should the rest of the world have in this process and the decision to remove the leadership of a sovereign nation and to launch a military invasion and occupation? If intervention is desirable, should the decision be made by one or a handful of militarily powerful nations?

Liu Xiaobo wrote that the United Nations is not worthy of respect because it is powerless to enforce its principles: “When the United Nations is unable to perform the duty of protecting fundamental human rights, its power and authority is not worthy of respect.” (当联合国无法履行保障基本人权的职责时,其权威就不值得尊重。) That is a pretty strong claim to make.

Contrast Liu Xiaobo’s views with another Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s views:
*****quote*****
“In 2002 and 2003, Mandela criticised the foreign policy of the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush in a number of speeches. Criticising the lack of UN involvement in the decision to begin the War in Iraq, he said, “It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations.” Mandela stated he would support action against Iraq only if it is ordered by the UN…..
He urged the people of the U.S. to join massive protests against Bush and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the UN Security Council, to oppose him. “What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela#Criticism_of_U.S._and_U.K._foreign_policy
[I confirmed Mandela’s quotes in the wiki article against the original sources:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2228971.stm
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/mandela-lambastes-arrogant-bush-over-iraq-609026.html
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/30/iraq/main538607.shtml
*****end quote*****

Martin Luther King Jr was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The Presentation Speech for the award cited MLK’s views on war and peace:

*****quote*****
“Today, now that mankind is in possession of the atom bomb, the time has come to lay our weapons and armaments aside and listen to the message Martin Luther King has given us through the unarmed struggle he has waged on behalf of his race. Luther King looks also beyond the frontiers of his own country. He says:

“More than ever before, my friends, men of all races and nations are today challenged to be neighborly… No longer can we afford the luxury of passing by on the other side. Such folly was once called moral failure; today it will lead to universal suicide…If we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. In our days of space vehicles and guided ballistic missiles, the choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence…”
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/press.html
*****end quote*****

Richard asked: “Was Liu Xiaobo the right choice for the Nobel Peace Prize?”

Well it’s hard for me to say – I have not read much of what he has written or had a real sense of what he has achieved – but based on what I have read so far, I’m scratching my head on this one.

I find his endorsement of “unilateral war by the US and England as an instrument to topple tyranny and bring freedom and democracy to people” troubling, and hard to accept coming from someone who has been raised up by Nobel Peace Prize committee as a model for the world.

I don’t believe the Nobel Prize Committee would have awarded him the prize without vetting his public writings, and so I assume that the award represents an implicit endorsement of his views (or at least, that holding such views is not a disqualifier). As I said, I find all this surprising and troubling as a model for the world to follow.

October 22, 2010 @ 5:01 am | Comment

Thank you for printing Perspective’s perspective. If his citations are accurate, clearly Liu Xiaobo was not a good choice for the Peace Prize. The contrast with other laureates is especially compelling.

October 24, 2010 @ 7:43 am | Comment

Everything perspective says is wrong. If Liu was pro-Iraq war that is not a disqualifier for the prize. He won the prize because he created Charter 08, fought for political reform and ended up in jail with a 12-year sentence. Let’s look at previous Nobel prize winners. Both Menachem Begun and Yasser Arafat committed acts of terrorism, yet both won the Peace prize. It was not about their pasts, it was about what they were doing then, namely the Camp David Accords, perceived to be an important step toward world peace. Literally everything perspective says is nonsense. It’s the same technique we’re seeing all over the web thanks to the 50-centers – attack Liu for obscure things he said years ago and forget all about why he was actually awarded the prize. This is a smear tactic, and luckily it’s not working. You’ll find an excellent summary of these anti-Liu tactics spelled out over here. Pure, utter, total nonsense.

October 25, 2010 @ 1:48 am | Comment

It’s the same old thing. Don’t address what he wrote that actually won him the prize; address all the stuff he wrote before that DIDN’T win him the prize.

If anything, the Nobel committee has already done exactly what they guys are purportedly clamouring for: don’t award him for his prior Iraq war opinions. Which they haven’t…because they didn’t give him the prize in 2003, or 2004, or whenever. They gave him the prize now, after something he wrote more recently which was deemed more worthy. But of course, that’s not what these guys want to talk about.

In fact, I’d wonder about the percentage of comments doing the usual drive-by character assassination of Liu which actually make mention of his Charter. My guess is that it’s a pretty small percentage…in accordance with standard operating procedure.

October 25, 2010 @ 3:11 am | Comment

Exactly.

October 25, 2010 @ 3:52 am | Comment

I’ve already written earlier that I think the ideas expressed in the Charter include many that are not appropriate for China now or in the near future, and that awarding the Peace Prize is a form of meddling in Chinese internal affairs that most nations would not appreciate. It is clearly an example of the West trying to tell China how to run its own affairs, and has very little to do with Peace. The fact that Liu is an unrepentant Neocon only compounds the error.

October 25, 2010 @ 7:24 am | Comment

Whatever. Keep smearing.

October 25, 2010 @ 9:15 am | Comment

Good grief, here we go again. “west” = Nobel committee. Perhaps they should just rename the Nobel.

Whether the Charter is “appropriate” for China or not is certainly a judgment call. Wataru is certainly entitled to his opinion. Should Chinese people be entitled to having their opinion?

“meddling” is part of the same old tune as well. It wasn’t long ago that there was consternation about how a Chinese person in China hadn’t ever won a Nobel. Now that’s changed, but because the winner is not on-side with the CCP, the hand-wringing continues. Maybe giving Hu Jintao next year’s prize before the leadership turn-over will make it all better: Chinese person in China, check; in favour with the CCP, check. Problem solved.

The fact that Liu might possibly be this/that or the other has quite probably been taken into consideration by the committee, since they probably have google in Norway. And that “fact” appears to have been given the weight they felt it deserved, since they gave him the award anyway. For those who don’t like how the Nobel committee does things, it’s high time to take up a collection, establish your own endowment, and create your own award that would more closely represent your priorities.

October 25, 2010 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

What’s amazing is the way that Liu’s critics segue directly from “Liu Xiaobo doesn’t deserve the prize” to “Liu Xiaobo deserves to be in jail”. Barry Sautman goes about as far as any of Liu’s major critics have by saying that, in his opinion, Liu’s imprisonment was unnecessary, and that all unnecessary imprisonment is unjust. For most of the rest, one rather suspects that the sentiment posted by Charles Liu, and which Charles Liu has subsequently continued to say he sees nothing wrong with, is the one which most accurately reflects their true opinion:

” . . . Let us not indulge them [ie., the drafters of Charter 08] again, we must sweep away these enemies as the autumn wind sweeps away the leaves! A righteous reckoning at the people’s guillotine is the best solution for them!”

That is, Liu critics do not actually care whether he deserved the prize or not, or whether his imprisonment is just or not, they merely see him as an enemy to be destroyed. Arguing with them is pointless, the best thing that one can hope for is that their obvious untruths (Liu is a US agent, Liu is motivated by money, Liu is a traitor) can be dispelled.

In the meantime, I am under no illusions about Liu. I believe that he is sincere in his support of Chinese democracy, and that Charter 08 is a genuine proposal for reform in China (its likelihood of success being non-zero, but not high). This does not mean that I endorse each and every one of his opinions, nor does it mean that the Nobel prize committee are endorsing every one of his opinions. In fact, the Committee was very clear about what the award was for:

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will…. The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.”

That is, this award was not an endorsement of any of Liu’s views except those regarding human rights, and Liu’s qualification is based at least partly on the severity of the punishment he suffered for his advocacy of human rights. This is hardly an exception to the rule, this is the rule.

Take Nelson Mandela as our example: a man who plotted terrorist attacks, who received support from the Soviet Union – including training in paramilitary tactics. Was the 1993 Nobel Prize an endorsement of this? Absolutely not. The 1993 Nobel Prize was an endorsement of his non-violent negotiations with De Klerk which brought the end of Apartheid in 1994.

As another example, take the awarding of the 1990 prize to Gorbachev – was this an endorsement of the occupation of Afghanistan which it took him four years to end? Was it an endorsement of the USSR’s immense nuclear arsenal and army? Once again, the answer is no.

Even if the accusations against Liu were true this would not render him ineligible for the prize. Fortunately they are a collection of smears and lie from people committed to supporting whatever China’s dictatorial government says or does, willing puppets of a regime that cares nothing for them or their opinions. I would suggest that anyone attempting to judge how much weight should be given to the opinions of these fenqing should follow the example of the CCP they so love and give their opinions no weight whatsoever.

October 25, 2010 @ 8:29 pm | Comment

Well FOARP, that is a very logical assessment of the situation. But as you well know, logic has never been a prerequisite nor a concern for some of these “critics”, so I guess we should not be surprised when they demonstrate an utter inability to grasp it.

Many of the things that these “critics” say are cause for derisive laughter, and as you know, the commentator you quoted is one of my all-time favourites. But for him to use “us” and “we” when speaking of Chinese people would easily make it onto the Chuckles Top Ten List.

October 26, 2010 @ 2:30 am | Comment

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