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.
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.