How China turns its enemies into heroes

The media are abuzz today with stories on how China is trying to create an international boycott of the Nobel Prize awards in Oslo. Not surprisingly, it’s blocking Chinese activists who it believes may be leaving to attend the ceremonies, and it’s trying to strong-arm other countries from participating.

In addition to using its newfound economic might to warn world leaders away from the ceremony, China has waged an equally vociferous campaign at home to tarnish Mr. Liu’s reputation and delegitimize the award in the eyes of the Chinese people.

After a brief news blackout on the prize, the country’s state-controlled media began rolling out articles and editorials describing it as an insult to the country’s criminal justice system, a ploy to hold back China’s rise and a tactic to subvert the country’s political system. Other commentaries have painted Mr. Liu as a corrupt pawn of Western governments.

The warnings have already prompted a handful of European countries, among them France, Britain, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands, to announce they would hew to established protocol and send ambassadors.

Michael C. Davis, a law professor and human rights expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he thought China’s effort to organize a boycott of the ceremony — like its earlier campaign to dissuade the Norwegian Committee from selecting Mr. Liu — would probably backfire. In fact, he said Beijing’s overall handling of the matter was only drawing more attention to Mr. Liu’s plight and to the country’s checkered human rights record. “The Chinese often unintentionally turn their enemies into heroes,” he said.

Of course, the lady doth protest too much, and professor Davis hits the nail on the head: China has a knack for turning those it would seek to vilify into heroes and martyrs.

The fact that China is such an insecure child that it can’t stomach the notion of leaders of other countries attending the Oslo ceremony speaks volumes. Liu has won the prize. The ceremony is going to take place. The news of Liu Xiaobo winning is now old news, and the ceremony itself is anticlimactic (the big news having been the announcement of the winners).

There was only one possible way for China to keep the eyes of the world riveted on Liu’s winning the prize and to perpetuate the notion, true or false, that China is still a prickly, paranoid state, and that was to keep throwing gasoline on what should have been by now a smoldering pile of ash. That’s exactly what China has done, stopping people from leaving the country and making veiled threats to other nations about participating in Oslo.

Congratulations, China. Through your grit and determination, you’ve guaranteed continual media coverage of Liu’s plight and managed to convince the world yet again that you’re not yet made of the stuff of a superpower. At least you’re predictable. From the stream of slanderous articles about Liu to the online chatter of his being a stooge for the NED to blocking the travel of activists to your threats to hold your breath until you turn blue if other countries participate – well, it’s all from the same playbook you’ve been using for years, and none of it comes unexpected. I really wish, however, that one day you might surprise us and show your cleverness. I mean, maybe you could manage your loss of face without going all apoplectic and hysterical, and inadvertently giving greater power to the party you see as your enemy while weakening your own agenda.

The Discussion: 95 Comments

The Chinese people should truly be embarrassed that their government represents them in such a way. I remember back in 2008 when people were simply astonished at the Olympic torch protests around the world and couldn’t wrap their heads around why everyone seemed to have such a bad impression of China. In fact, it is their government’s petulant and over-the-top responses to situations like this that results in China’s poor image.

Unfortunately, those in power in the CCP still have not learned how to successfully interact with the outside world WITHOUT coming off as complete jackasses. They are so focused on winning the battle that they end up losing the war. Same thing with the issue a few weeks back with the fishing boat captain that was held by Japan. China got the crew and captain returned, but ended up coming off like a insane, rogue state when they had to ban rare earth exports to do it. What country wants to cooperate with such a nation?

If “Speak softly and carry a big stick” is an important concept in US diplomatic philosophy, what is China’s? “Bark loudly over small matters and alienate as many as possible”? Don’t see how this will work, and I truly think China as a nation is going to suffer for this lack of diplomatic tact in the long term.

November 10, 2010 @ 7:16 am | Comment

Great post, Richard. Nailed it.

November 10, 2010 @ 8:24 am | Comment

That’s as may be…..but they have the rest of the world seemingly by the short and curlies (see the European leaders all standing cap in hand) so what do they care? And the national media being what it is, what is said outside of China has no impact inside of China – it isn’t reported.
Got to give the west another thing – we haven’t made it easy on ourselves either, have we?
As far as I can tell, the CCP hasn’t done too badly out of this. Liu is villified by those the CCP wants him to be hated by and feted by those that can’t do anything because China has the cash. Sure, no diplomat is going to miss the ceremony because of CCP bluster – we all know the CCP is all huff and puff, then business as usual – but what we in the west think is of no concern. The CCP isn’t concerned about us, it fears the Chinese people more, much more.

Had to go over this to make sure I changed China to CCP – credit where credit’s due, eh? Though given their hold of China, maybe I shouldn’t have bothered…

November 10, 2010 @ 8:50 am | Comment

The CCP does not really care. But it’s equally foolish not to posture at least a little bit. CCP does not expect any of these diplomats to heed their warnings, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t send these warning any way. It’s trying to strike a balance between drawing excessive attention to the issue, and not making any noise as to politically embolden “the enemy”.

If you are a propaganda department of CCP, how would you act differently?

November 10, 2010 @ 8:59 am | Comment

How do you say “Streisand Effect” in Mandarin?

November 10, 2010 @ 9:09 am | Comment

Here, another opinion on why it’s pointless worrying about it,-appoints-Xi-Jinping-19763.html

November 10, 2010 @ 10:10 am | Comment


But long term they should be more concerned about their relationships with “the West” and other parts of the world and it is irresponsible to the Chinese people to not be. It is even more irresponsible to waste diplomatic good will on small matters such as this award.

As I said, they focus on winning the battle, but not the war (something that is very prevalent in business culture at times here as well). You are only as powerful as your allies and browbeating nations into cooperation does not an “ally” make. So far the only thing their barking over the Diaoyu islands has gotten them is ramped up rare earth mining in the US and Australia and more East Asian neighbors running back to the US for support. I think your analysis is right from the CCP’s perspective it is a “win”, but I don’t think it is a win for China at all even if the “domestic” audience is more important for them in the short term.

November 10, 2010 @ 11:53 am | Comment

The CCP oligarchs have already retaliated against Norway by cancelling meetings, and are trying to intimidate other countries into keeping their diplomats from attending the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony. Meanwhile within the PRC, police-state tactics are being used to gag any PRC citizen who would dare go public with praise of Liu Xiaobo for having won the award, and the Ministry of Propaganda has ordered a press blackout of the Nobel awards ceremony and any news reports about it. This indicates how fearful and insecure the CCP oligarchs have been about this award.

November 10, 2010 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

Excellent post, the mirror of another post I’ve made often — the Chinese knack for turning potential friends and allies into enemies.


November 10, 2010 @ 2:30 pm | Comment

Great post. Similar in tone to your assessment, I’ve said elsewhere that the CCP is like a hunter who takes dead-aim at his own foot, and who happens to be an excellent marksman. Just using your blog as an example, your last thread on Liu was a month ago, and hasn’t had much action for some time. After it’s already blown over, the CCP does something to bring it back into the spotlight. I mean, you couldn’t script this stuff any better even if you tried.

The other interesting thing here is that CCP media is apparently carrying this story more, even if it is in the tone that you would expect. Forgetting about what they’d like Chinese people to believe about Liu, they are giving him free advertising. And once aware, I wonder these days if more and more of them wouldn’t simply jump the wall to find out more for themselves. If even a small percentage of Chinese people did this, the CCP would’ve shot themselves in the foot again. It’s a great development potentially for Chinese people, but it makes you wonder about the CCP braintrust.

November 10, 2010 @ 3:08 pm | Comment

Richard, I rarely disagree with your posts, but on this occasion I may have to . You have to “think like the CCP” on this one. You’re right that kicking up a big shindig will only play out Liu Xiaobo’s name further in the Western media than it otherwise might have. Some of the countries may even send their ambassadors to the Nobel Prize ceremony. But they will be made to remember their “perfidy” the next time they come cap in hand for China deals. They’ll be told, privately: “Oh, so you sent your ambassador to the ceremony, this way to the 出口.” And the corporates of those countries will gang up and pre-emptively browbeat their leaders the next time into not antagonising China in any way. It’s always about the next time. Recently I came across an article on CNN, citing a research study, that establishes the “Dalai Lama” effect: foreign leaders who meet with the Dalai Lama see contracts from China cut by a percentage. Over a period, these “eternally indebted” countries’ leaders will learn to roll over when they’re told to by China. And who really cares for bad press in the short term, when in the long run you can buy them up – cheaper by the dozen.

November 10, 2010 @ 5:32 pm | Comment

I am glad to see someone point out how China’s foreign strategy is predictable. Seriously, bring something delicious and new. Not old and spicy – -.

November 10, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

Actually, almost all recent Chinese diplomats are ignorant and dumb. Yang Jiechi and Li Zhaoxing are the two classic examples with zero EQ.

Li Zhaoxing: “I have endured hunger before, so i know what’s human rights. Have you endured hunger before?”

Yang Jiechi to his ASEAN counterparts: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that is just a fact.”

You really wonder if the organ between their ears are working or not.

November 10, 2010 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

But it’s equally foolish not to posture at least a little bit.

The director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, revealed last week that Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Jing had met him in Oslo in June to deliver a warning that the “unfriendly gesture” of honoring Liu with the prize “would have negative consequences” for bilateral relations between China and Norway..

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that pressure was being exerted on the Nobel Committee on the grounds that Liu had never promoted “peace between peoples, international friendship and disarmament.”

hahaha. “Posture at least a little bit”? You must be in La-La Land all this while.

November 10, 2010 @ 7:27 pm | Comment

This is typical short-term, mechanistic, PR-oriented thinking. If this is a corporation that’s doing it, I’d agree with Richard’s analysis 100%. Unfortunately, how naive and childish it is to apply the same short-term, mechanistic, PR-oriented model to how a government of a nation should behave.

CCP, from scheming against the KMT during the civil, from dealing with both the USSR and a US during the cold war, from dealing with an entire hostile international community post 89, has accumulated so much political experience that I dare so today no one is a match against her in the arena of collective long term political calculation. The fact that CCP went from a bunch of farmers in the fields to today is proof of this.

As for this Liu Xiaobo issue, do you really think the CCP expects those diplomats to heed their warnings? If you do, I can only laugh and repeat the words of Jiang Zemin “Too Simple, too naive”.

You then ask, if they don’t expect their warnings to be heeded, why send them anyway. Hehehehe. That you have to ask this question shows you have a shallow understanding of how politics is played.

Let me quiz then, why would you send those warnings anyway if you know they won’t be heeded? What’s the long term calculation here?

Hint, think about Chinawatcher’s post above. Think about the term “秋后算账“,think about long term effects, think about “leaving an after-taste”, etc.

I’m still amused by your analysis, Richard.

November 10, 2010 @ 9:03 pm | Comment

Beijing, China (CNN) — Countries whose top leadership meet with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, lose on average 8.1 percent in exports to China in the two years following the meeting, according to a recent study.

Called the “Dalai Lama Effect,” the study by the University of Gottingen in Germany found the negative impact on exports began when President Hu Jintao took office in 2002.

The study is the first empirical analysis demonstrating the economic consequence of such meetings. Machinery and transportation equipment exports suffered the most consistent negative impact, following meetings with the 14th Dalai Lama, according to study authors Andreas Fuchs and Nils-Hendrik Klann.

“We wanted to find out the impact of the rising role of China in the world … to find out what we should expect of China’s role in the world in the coming years,” researcher Fuchs told CNN. “It is clear that politics has played a huge role in China’s commercial relationships.”

China says it opposes politicizing trade and economic ties. However, prior to each of the Dalai Lama’s meetings with leaders, the Chinese government often openly threatens that such meetings will lead to damaged trade relations with China.

Using data from the United Nations, Fuchs and Klann tracked exports from 159 countries doing trade with China from 1991 to 2008. They discovered that exports to China decreased only after the Dalai Lama met with heads of state, such as presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and the Pope.

The Dalai Lama’s meetings with heads of state — including U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy — have been a consistent source of diplomatic tension with China.

No negative impact was found after meetings of the Dalai Lama with lower-ranking officials, the study said.

Dalai Lama talks of retirement

In response to the study findings, Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary for the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, told CNN: “His Holiness has no intention of causing any inconvenience to the host country he visits.”

Taklha added, “It is unfortunate that the Chinese government views everything His Holiness does through a political angle.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.

The “Dalai Lama Effect” is not permanent, according to the study. The negative impact on exports disappeared on average two years after each meeting takes place.

“China has an interest in having its commercial relationships restored. On the other hand, they have interest to really show their anger about a Dalai Lama reception or meeting,” Fuchs said.

My Take: Why the Dalai Lama became a global icon

The study went on to say, “China’s political leadership may be willing to bear the economic and political costs that arise from diverting trade away from the Dalai Lama-receiving countries if such ‘punishment’ increases the likelihood of its political survival.”

The implications of decreased exports to China could hurt the Chinese economy. “Blocking trade endangers Chinese economic growth, both from a immediate short-term perspective, and longer-term perspective as trade partners seek to diversify away from a potentially-aggressive China,” said Alistair Thornton, China Analyst at IHS Global Insight, a macroeconomic research firm.

Moreover, the government may not be responsible for the negative impact on exports in the aftermath of meetings with the Dalai Lama.

“The possibility remains that Chinese companies are taking it upon themselves to curb trade links, rather that it being a direct order from the highest levels,” Thornton said. “As machinery tools are strongly linked to trade missions, and the government controls the trade missions, the government would appear to be in control here. But it could be less that the government has ordered a freeze on imports, rather than removed one easy way for companies to strike deals for those imports.”

More than 95 percent of the Dalai Lama’s visits to foreign countries are non-political in nature, says the Dalai Lama’s joint secretary, but his meetings have long been the subject of intense debate in Beijing.

When the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, China threatened to sever economic ties with Norway if Norwegian leadership attended the ceremony.

In February of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington despite warnings from Beijing. Following the meeting, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai summoned the U.S. ambassador to express China’s discontent.

“The U.S. act grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, gravely hurt the Chinese people’s national sentiments and seriously damaged the Sino-U.S. ties,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu in a statement in February.

The long term impact of the “Dalai Lama Effect” is uncertain.

“Chinese trade relations are not free of political biases … the country seems to exploit trade ties as a foreign policy tool,” Fuchs and Klann wrote. “[However] such an economic punishment mechanism will only prevail as long as the expected political gains from stabilizing the regime outweigh the losses from trade diversion.”

November 10, 2010 @ 9:07 pm | Comment

John, glad you’re amused. The CCP has been striving for a couple of years now, and has invested huge amounts of money, to increase its “soft power” overseas. This is the way to obliterate that effort. That’s the perspective from which I’m writing this. China’s behavior will eventually backfire on them, just as it did five years ago when it encouraged anti-Japan demonstrations.

November 11, 2010 @ 12:10 am | Comment

Yes, the CCP made them heroes in the eyes of the West. But for the general Chinese public, they are just dogs. Just look at the sentiments of both overseas Chinese and those living in China to Liu’s winning the Nobel Prize. No one gives a bleep. At worst, they are traitors in the eyes of the Chinese.

November 11, 2010 @ 12:15 am | Comment

I completely understand that they succeeded in vilifying Liu in China. That’s pretty easy to do when you control the media and censor the Internet. I am writing about this from the perspective of China’s image to the world. And as I said in my post, it was totally predictable and just more of the same.

And Mike, I’ve posted many, many times about how George W. Bush makes America look to the world, and his new book praising waterboarding certainly exacerbates that. But that doesn’t change my point about China, especially since America ushered in a new administration that ended waterboarding (and to avoid veering off into another direction, I am not enamored of that new administration).

November 11, 2010 @ 12:19 am | Comment

has accumulated so much political experience that I dare so today no one is a match against her in the arena of collective long term political calculation.

LOL. Such as firing dummy missiles off the coast of Taiwan in 1996 to a bid to warn the electorate not to vote for Lee Teng-hui only to give Lee a landslide victory with 54% of the vote and help send him back to the presidential palace for another 4 years? Hohoho.

November 11, 2010 @ 1:36 am | Comment

The fact that CCP went from a bunch of farmers in the fields to today is proof of this.

Yeah. It’s our deepest sorrow that the CCP went from a bunch of peasants to a bunch of peasant oppressors these days.

November 11, 2010 @ 1:41 am | Comment

But for the general Chinese public, they are just dogs. Just look at the sentiments of both overseas Chinese and those living in China to Liu’s winning the Nobel Prize.

Since the PRC has always considered Taiwan as its territory, then you are very wrong with this statement. Because Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou not only congratulated Liu for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he also appealed for his release. Unless Julius Lee is thinking that Taiwan is not part of China!

President Ma urges China to release Liu from captivity

November 11, 2010 @ 1:47 am | Comment

Nice, SP. He should also read this post by my Chinese friend Xujun Eberlein. He is just flat-out wrong that all overseas Chinese see Liu as a dog.

This post got circulated on a Chinese message board yesterday and has brought over some new commenters for whom the CCP can do no wrong.

November 11, 2010 @ 2:00 am | Comment

Speaking of turning enemies into heroes, did you hear about the 30-month prison sentence for Zhang Lianhai, a father whose baby was poisoned by melamine in milk and who sought accountability for this tragedy? This guy certainly wasn’t an enemy to begin with- so they’re just as good at making enemies as they are at making heroes, I might say.
I find the news of his sentence particularly infuriating. After all that he’s already been through, putting this guy in prison for 30 months on spurious charges can only be described as an insult to humanity. I really have never before been as disgusted by the CCP as I have been this past month…

November 11, 2010 @ 2:26 am | Comment

Just heard about that, Kevin. Disgusting. I don’t read much Chinese so what I read was in English, but they gave the translation of the charges as “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

November 11, 2010 @ 3:17 am | Comment

Shocking story, Kevin. I guess some commenters would see this as an example of brilliant leadership by the CCP (after all, they shut the guy up and maintained harmony), but all it is is old-fashioned rule by terror. And I’m not saying the CCP rules by terror, but in this example that’s what they’re doing. Silence the protester with Draconian “justice” that terrifies others into silence.

November 11, 2010 @ 4:50 am | Comment

Re: PRC softpower in Oceania/Australia. Eighteen months ago a Lowry poll (if I recall)indicated that most Australians had an acquiescent view of China’s expanding role in the neighbourhood. No longer the case and China is now viewed as the boover boy in the hood, causing a serious rethink as a possible future military threat (Defence White Paper.) It has also unfortunately recemented the OZ-US military alliance (which many folk would like to see dissolved), but now back to the fore as a regional political necessity.

As a footnote. Hanoi is presently having serious problems hosing down popular anti-Chinese sentiment, while developing the Vietnamese-US military relationship.

Present PRC posturing about expanded core interests is a win-win for the US, and it will eventually lead to the creation of a fully fledged Pacific version of NATO as a direct instrument of military containment.

The US economy is a dog, but its military infrastructure and reach are now beginning to look particularly attractive once again to Pacific Rim countries.

Chinese business acumen is globally recognised, but as geopolitical strategists today/2010, they are viewed as soccer hooligans in the schoolyard. If DJP arose from his grave, he would disown the lot.

November 11, 2010 @ 5:32 am | Comment

“The US economy is a dog, but its military infrastructure and reach are now beginning to look particularly attractive once again to Pacific Rim countries.”

Nothing like a good ole perceived conflict to ramp up those arms sales and strike a blow for the economy! Seriously though, the US would love to bust into India (smaller Asian nations, as well) and start selling advanced weapon platforms on a serious level. They are probably in negotiations right now (Obama in India) to somehow cut some deals without annoying the Russians.

It’s win-win for them. Some tasty signature military contracts and another way to contain the PLA.

The western market for big ticket military hardware (planes, warships) etc. isn’t too hot right now. There is quite a debate in Canada regarding the purchase of new F-35’s…it’s still on the books (Canada was there from the beginning of the F-35 program) to buy in is no purchase is no longer a rock-solid guarantee.

November 11, 2010 @ 7:00 am | Comment

Addendum. Apologies. PRC penalties for supporting China-created human rights icons. Mineral based economies such Australia can laugh this one out of court, since we provide China with a large percentage of ores, coal and natural gas, and new rare earth mining ventures are being listed weekly.(Japan is now looking to Vietnam for its ipod minerals.)

In any serious diplomatic face-off situation, the potential to disrupt Chinese production is considerable ranging from domestic investment restrictions to the imposition of a mining super tax which would be passed onto the consumer. Sourcing alternatives in South America incurs higher transportation costs and also requires suitable infrastructure being in place. Then there is Africa, but that is now reporting like a Shaanzi Mine Owners Convention.

November 11, 2010 @ 7:19 am | Comment

To kevin:
that is a disgusting story. i wonder what the spin doctors will do with that one. But while the CCP PR machine will proudly go forth and shoot themselves in the foot without any encouragement, I find that commentators of a certain stripe on blogs such as this one will clam up when faced with stories like this, recognizing that there’s no possible way to spin it, but being physically unable to outwardly acknowledge that their heroes (ie the CCP)may have messed up.

November 11, 2010 @ 9:10 am | Comment

SK Cheung, I completely agree. There will always be people who argue for criticizing the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, or in more extreme instances, for “maintaining stability” in 1989. But sometimes when the shit gets a bit too deep, their only conceivable choice is to hide away and dodge the issue.
Where are all the people who are eager to tell me how “glorious, mighty, and correct” the imprisonment of Zhao Lianhai is? I dare them to think up an excuse.

November 11, 2010 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

I don’t think Zhao Lianhua was wronged. If I eat some peanut butter in America and got an allergic reaction and try to sue the government for 1 trillion dollars, and organize all kinds of protests, make it a big media fuss, then the American gov’t would also take action against me. No difference.

November 12, 2010 @ 12:04 am | Comment

@Richard –

“Congratulations, China. Through your grit and determination, you’ve guaranteed continual media coverage of Liu’s plight and managed to convince the world yet again that you’re not yet made of the stuff of a superpower.”

I follow the logic, but disagree with the conclusion. Of the three countries generally agreed to have been super powers at one point or another (the USSR, the UK, and the USA), all three have given greater publicity to dissidents through oppression than they might have generated through their own actions. The state authorities in the USSR did this with Sakharov, British colonial authorities in India did this with Ghandi, and the authorities in Alabama in the USA with Martin Luther king.

Righteousness, or even intelligence, is not a distinguishing mark of a super power, some would say that the true case is the opposite. I remember comments from American diplomats as to how the British in General became easier to deal with after the end of empire and its accompanying arrogance. I also remember a similar comment by Alastair Cooke (I think) about how Americans became far harder to speak to on matters of world politics after the assent of the USA to world supremacy.

As for the efficacy of the the CCP’s actions, I believe we can see this in the growing tempo of arrests, both extra-judicial and within the Chinese legal system. The recent case of Ai Weiwei is an example of the first, the arrest on charges of inciting state subversion of a Cantonese engineer (who, I suppose, must not, in Julius Lee’s opinion, be Chinese) for handing out leaflets saying that should be proud of Liu, is an example of the latter:

The accusations of ‘treachery’ and ‘meddling’ being involved in the case of Liu, Ai Weiwei and other dissidents simply cannot be taken seriously. It is the mere “Four legs good, two legs bad” bleating of so many obsessive, brainwashed sheep, and happily the majority of Chinese I speak to can see it for what it is.

November 12, 2010 @ 1:19 am | Comment

I guess I should also say: even if the various governments targeted by the CCP did exactly as instructed, this would still not result in the end of the protests which the CCP object to. The Nobel Prize committee is effectively independent of their government, organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and the Free Tibet movement would exist with or without moral support from a government.

As an example, yesterday I was in Poland, the government of which, as far as I am aware, has not been particularly outspoken on any issue related to China. However, in Wroclaw a full-length mural made by a Polish Free Tibet group covered the a whole wall on one of the main thoroughfares into the city. David Cameron was saying no more than the truth yesterday when he said that he raised the issue of human rights in China not because he wished to grandstand, but simply because the British people expected him to. I for one, as well as many other British people, would have seen it as a craven act of cowardice if he had not, just as I would have seen it as an act of debasement if he had removed his poppy (a symbol worn to honour British war dead on the anniversary of Armistice Day) as requested by the Chinese.

The protesters who took to the streets in London in 2008 were not the dupes of the British government, in fact the government had made it abundantly clear that they did not want the protests to go ahead. The job of the British government would actually be aided if human rights campaigners did not risk upsetting the various trade negotiations with calls for greater reform in China. The idea that such advocacy is spurred by the government, or directed by the media, is patently ridiculous. Rather, the opposite is true – the attitude of the British government and of the British media towards China’s communist dictatorship is a symptom of national opinion, not its cause.

November 12, 2010 @ 1:51 am | Comment

@Hong Xing – Patent nonsense I’m afraid. Firstly, Zhao Lianhai wasn’t going after the government, only the baby milk firm. Secondly, there are many famous cases of people in the US doing exactly as Zhao Lianhai did without sanction. One even a nice little film made about her:

Today Erin Brokovich still tours the world advising and organising people in exactly the same way that Zhao Lianhai attempted to do. The difference is that she is free to do so, but that Zhao Lianhai lives in a country where to do so can be interpreted, under the ridiculously broad PRC criminal statute, to be a criminal act worthy of imprisonment.

As for people who have successfully sued the US government for large sums of money without sanction, here are a few examples cherry-picked from the thousands of successful lawsuits brought against the US government:

So, basically, you are incredibly, mind-numbingly wrong about how you would be treated if you attempted to sue the US government.

November 12, 2010 @ 2:26 am | Comment

The blatant hypocrisy and stupidity of China saying that showing up at the Nobel ceremony for Liu insults the dignity of the Chinese judicial system has not been lost on anyone who follows China affairs around the world.

One thing that is hard to gauge from far away from China is whether major miscarriages of justice that really do insult the dignity of the Chinese justice system (such as it is) like those mentioned in this thread (Liu Xiaobo and Zhao Lianhua) are exceptions or the norm in China today.

Are there ever any uplifting examples where justice prevails?

November 12, 2010 @ 2:27 am | Comment

Richard, you’ve hit it on the nail. Why resurrect an issue that had largely been forgotten?

China just doesn’t know when to put the spade down.

November 12, 2010 @ 3:51 am | Comment

FOARP, I wouldn’t compare America’s handling of Martin Luther King with that of Liu Xiaobo. King was a superhero in his own time, years before he was murdered, a nationwide icon. It was only some brutish Deep South thugs that tried to silence him, and they failed miserably because the US, for all its faults, still has a free media and the right to demonstrate, and King went on to lead some of the most spectacularly successful demonstrations in world history. When he won the Nobel Peace Prize the nation rallied around him, except for the usual racists and bigots. The analogy with Liu doesn’t work for me.

November 12, 2010 @ 6:19 am | Comment

Hong Xing,

If you’re so sure there is an equivalency then the bet still stands: I’ll station yourself in Lafayette Park or the National Mall and tell everybody who passes by that “Obama sucks, free Leonard Peltier, and I hate the US government.” You stand in Tiananmen, and say H”u Jintao sucks, Free Liu Xiaobo, and you hate the CCP.” Let’s see who lasts longer…

Do YOU have the courage of your convictions?

November 12, 2010 @ 6:35 am | Comment

@Richard – The comparison was to those people in positions of authority (thinking particularly of people like Judge Hare and Sheriff Clark of Selma Alabama, J. Edgar Hoover, and especially George Wallace) whose actions, designed to block the success of King’s movement, actually lent that movement greater prominence.

King’s opponents were undoubtedly “racists and bigots”, but this does not mean that they were not in positions of power and influence, or that they were merely an entirely despised minority. There would have been no need for his actions if this had not been the case.

However, I will of course allow that it is unlikely that Liu Xiaobo will appear on television to discuss human rights in China with a sympathetic judge in the way that King was able to during the 1950’s:

Apparently this television show is still going, with the same original presenter.

November 12, 2010 @ 6:45 am | Comment

“If you’re so sure there is an equivalency then the bet still stands: I’ll station yourself in Lafayette Park or the National Mall and tell everybody who passes by that “Obama sucks, free Leonard Peltier, and I hate the US government.” You stand in Tiananmen, and say H”u Jintao sucks, Free Liu Xiaobo, and you hate the CCP.” Let’s see who lasts longer…”

Stupid, absolutely stupid. Why does this comparison must mean something? The standard is whether someone can make a scene in public? Too simple too naive.

If you want to shout, why not shout “Bin Laden is a hero! 911 was great!” Do you dare to shout that in front of National Mall?

To make this comparison even more accurate, why not transport back to 1960, 1970, and shout “Long live Soviet Union! Long Live Stalin!” in front of National Mall. Do you dare to do that?

Please go buy some IQ points in the grocery store, they are on sale.

November 12, 2010 @ 6:49 am | Comment

Red Star, your ignorance is matched only by your…well, I’m not sure anything matches your ignorance. You CAN stand in the National Mall and praise Bin Laden. You CAN say 911 was great. Creepy Christianists can go to the funerals of US soldiers with signs saying they died because of tolerance for gays in America. They can do that. Nazis can march freely, in full Nazi garb, through the streets of Skokie, Illinois. As long as you do not directly incite people to violence you can do all those things in America. Try it. Of course, people will think you’re a loon and an asshole, but you’re free to do it. People may shout at you; that’s their right, too, as long as they don’t threaten you.

I allow you in here solely for comic relief, by the way, and you don’t disappoint.

November 12, 2010 @ 6:53 am | Comment

Jeremiah still wins that one. A pathetic effort even by Chi-bot/fenqing standards!

November 12, 2010 @ 6:54 am | Comment

Yes, Jeremiah wins hands-down. Not that it’s that hard to prove Red Star is a moron.

November 12, 2010 @ 6:56 am | Comment

Not so fast, idiots.

Can you go to National Mall and shout “F**cking Jewish are p*gs!” Kill them all!” and sing “Die Fahne Boch”?

Can you? Be Honest.

Where’s the strength of YOUR conviction?

November 12, 2010 @ 6:58 am | Comment

You can certainly shout “fucking Jews are pigs” if you are deranged enough to do so. You cannot say “Kill them all” – that is incitement to violence. But you can insult them as long as you’d like. Keep on showing us just how stoopid you are, HX.

November 12, 2010 @ 7:05 am | Comment

Please, try it tomorrow, and post it on youtube. Thanks.

November 12, 2010 @ 7:11 am | Comment

Ehhhh. I think in the US, if you get together with 1000 people on DC Mall and shout “Jews are pigs” and sing the Nazi national anthem. You probably WILL run into trouble with the law. Yes, there are nazi rallies in the US, but I haven’t seen any that feature any incendiary remarks like “Jews are pigs”.

And in Europe, you CERTAINLY will be arrested for doing even a fraction of that.

And you can’t say, “I cherish freedom of speech, BUT in the case of Nazi, we HAVE To make an exception because of how many people were hurt during that period, etc”. Then, that’s a slippery slope, that’s not really freedom of speech. You can’t say I have to make an exception here, oh and let’s make an exception there, oh and let’s make yet another exception there.

November 12, 2010 @ 7:29 am | Comment

And, one important point missed in that whole “analogy” – the person doing the shouting. A white dude shouting “Down with US gov’t, Osama is a hero!” would probably have a very different consequence than an Arab looking guy shouting the same. It also depends on the era, shouting this today would also lead to very different consequences than shouting it right after 911.

You see, this analogy is not as simple as you think and is much more nuanced and dynamic, and your “victory” perhaps is not so guaranteed 🙂

November 12, 2010 @ 7:31 am | Comment

HX we actually have a Constitution and you can sue to be sure your rights are endorsed. That’s why you can shout “god hates fags” outside the funerals of US Marines killed in action. You can also shout about Jews. It would be sick and repellent but legal. For someone living in the US so long you sure are ignorant.

November 12, 2010 @ 7:33 am | Comment

To compare civil liberties and freedom of expression in a more fair and meaningful manner, stack China against other states on its end of the spectrum: Vietnam, Myanmar, North Korea, Belarus, Cuba, Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.

November 12, 2010 @ 8:26 am | Comment


Sorry this one is unspinnable…I was very clear what needed to be said, by whom, and where. And you know that I’m right. You wouldn’t last longer than 30 seconds, 1 minute tops on your end of the bargain.*

I used to work right next to Lafayette Park, I’ve seen people sitting there FOR HOURS yelling the weirdest, vilest crap. I’ve also been to TAM where I once saw the police almost tackle some poor 土包子 (relative of yours, perhaps?) for pulling out a beach towel which the guards mistook for…I know not what.

*Sorry if that timetable conjures up too many awkward memories of your last date.

November 12, 2010 @ 8:59 am | Comment

So the logic goes, because the Govt is an enemy of the people (no human rights, no protection, no property law enforcement, rampant corruption), then anyone who opposes the government (their enemies) become heroes of the People? Got it.

Ever read ‘Out of Mao’s shadow’?

November 12, 2010 @ 9:35 am | Comment

John, you have no idea what you are talking about. You can say Jews Are Pigs whenever you want if it’s on public property. We have Tea Party lunatics shrieking that liberals are the Anti-Christ, we have Pam Geller saying dehumanizing things about Muslims, we have the American Nazi Party and others saying horrible things about the Jews, the Klan still shouts “Nigger” and so forth. You are simply flat-out wrong that you cannot do this in America. You obviously don’t live in America. Looking at your recent comments, I have to say, with all due respect, that you’re a BSer.

For anyone who really wants to understand the power of the First Amendment in America take a look at the current controversy over the deranged Fred Phelps and his church members who attack the most sacred group in the country in the mind of the government, US soldiers who died in battle for their country. They stand outside their funerals and shriek that they deserved to die and the rejoice in their deaths. And no one can stop them, because of the First Amendment. Louis Farrakhan may rant at the Jews and it will be condemned, but it can’t be outlawed because of the First Amendment.

But what we are seeing is thread drift, as Hong Xing and John Chan try to shift the conversation. No more about the BS argument that you can’t say anti-Jewish things in public. Of course you can. Now, back to Liu Xiaobo and China’s appallingly ham-fisted insistence that the world remember him and sympathize with him.

November 12, 2010 @ 9:35 am | Comment

Michael, have I ever read Out of Mao’s Shadow? Please go here.

November 12, 2010 @ 9:48 am | Comment

Why is “allowing someone to say something” a good standard to judge anything about a country or government? Too superficial, too simple, too naive.

The true masters of America are the Jewish ruling elites. The true masters of China are the CCP elites. If you try to challenge their core interests, they’ll smash you, no mercy. This is the same for every group of ruling elites in the world. This is nature of a State (just read Lenin’s State and Revolution). It’s childish to think there’s any big difference between the US and China in terms of the ruling elites.

You say “oh how come I can shout this in US but you can’t do it in China?”. Childish question. It’s just like different degree of tolerance. Some people’s personality can tolerate criticism, others are more sensitive. Different people have different personalities, this world needs diversity of personalities.

Are you saying there should only be one personality in the world? Is this not dictatorship by itself? I believe in diversity and respect for differences.

November 12, 2010 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

Sorry for letting the trolls get to me tonight.

Hong Xing, I’d forgotten you were an anti-Semite. Thanks for reminding me.

November 12, 2010 @ 12:54 pm | Comment

I said the true masters of the US are the jewish ruling elites? Why is this anti-semite? Is it not a compliment to say they are the true master? If I am anti-semite, then I’m anti-CCP too? Because I also said they are the true master of China.

I think there’s a lot in common between jewish and Chinese: both value education, both are good businessmen, both don’t care too much about sports, etc. Many American friends I make have jewish roots. There’s a very beautiful girl in my work place that is jewish (not totally traditional jewish, more Americanized), and she is the only one who is nice to me and talks to me and respects me, not like those WASP females.

November 12, 2010 @ 1:01 pm | Comment

“I used to work right next to Lafayette Park, I’ve seen people sitting there FOR HOURS yelling the weirdest, vilest crap. I’ve also been to TAM where I once saw the police almost tackle some poor 土包子 (relative of yours, perhaps?) for pulling out a beach towel which the guards mistook for…I know not what.”

So what? The way the Americans run America does not have to be the way Chinese run China. Just because you allow people to smoke in your house, does that mean I have to allow the same in mine? Of course not.

The rights and wrongs of the case of Zhang Lianhai, are not for foreigners to decide. In the US people have been sentenced to eight years in prison for using plastic bags, instead of cardboard boxes to pack lobsters.

Sounds harsh to me – you certainly would not draw such a stiff sentence for a similar crim in China. So how would Americans feel if China started to make an issue of this particular case, or started to condemn the US for having an incarceration rate of five or six times that of China’s?

No country is perfect, and there is no prerequiste that a country should be perfect before it can operate as a fully sovereign and respected member of the world community.

November 12, 2010 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

Richard, not to offer Red Star too much of a defense, but does saying “The true masters of America are the Jewish ruling elites” really constitute anti-Semitism? I say the same thing, but when I say it, I’m saying it in the tone “The true masters of America are the Jewish ruling elites- cool!”, because I’m resolutely philosemitic and would rather have the Jews secretly running everything than anyone else. In fact, I notice this sentiment is pretty common among Northeast Asians- tell them about a jewish banking conspiracy, and their reaction is typically something to the effect, “Ah, Jews are very smart! How do we get involved?” I still don’t understand why more people don’t have such a pragmatic attitude towards this notion… which is yet another thing I love about the Chinese…

November 12, 2010 @ 3:58 pm | Comment

The turns that conversation on this blog take never fail to blow my mind…

November 12, 2010 @ 4:38 pm | Comment

@John Chan –

“And in Europe . . .”

No. The simple fact is that, here in the UK, you can do these things. Go look up the example of Muslim extremists who protested at the funeral processions for British soldiers killed in Iraq/Afghanistan. Likewise, the Front National in France has also done pretty much exactly this – touting anti-semitic and anti-muslim slogans during a march. Yes, Germany and Austria have specific laws against the display of Nazi regalia without proper historical context, but this is a hold over from the immediate post-WWII period.

So, yes, you can say any bizarre thing you like in the UK, and, as far as I am aware, most of the rest of western and central Europe. No, if you advocate or incite violence, like the demonstrators against the cartoons in Jyllands-Post who carried placards saying “Behead those who insult Islam”, you will not be allowed to do this.

@Michael A. Robinson – The logic is not that anyone who opposes the Chinese government is a hero, the logic is that anyone who willingly remains in China so that they can continue to advocate change and then goes to jail as a result, is an admirable human being. The logic is that the more attention the Chinese government draws to this person through ham-fisted attempts at message-control, the more of a hero they become because the more people learn about them, and this seems valid to me.

November 12, 2010 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

Oh, and as an example of the kind of bizarre anti-Semitic nonsense that can be sprayed all over a major news network without sanction, this rant by Glenn Beck is a sterling example:

November 12, 2010 @ 8:23 pm | Comment

To say that the Jews secretly run the country is right out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is one of the most enduring arguments of anti-Semites, aside from being laughably false. Are there some wealthy, powerful, influential Jews? Of course. Do they secretly run governments and make decisions in concert and in secret? No. And the notion that “the Jews” as a monolithic entity pull the strings behind the scenes is pure, unadulterated anti-Semitic horseshit.

Now, if you want to talk about the disproportionate influence of the Israel lobby, that’s a whole different conversation. But they don’t hide their power or make secret decisions. They flaunt it.

November 12, 2010 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

Yes, Kevin these threads go in all directions when the trolls seep in. As a Jew behind the scenes running everything I am cracking down on the idiots. Most of HX’s comments end up on in the trash, as do nearly all of Merp’s. We Jews are efficient, and you never know what we might do next.

Thanks for the link, FOARP. It will mean nothing to the anti-Semites. And for newcomers, this is not something new; HX has been banned in the past for saying incredibly obscene things against Jews and homosexuals. Defend him if you choose.

Sounds harsh to me – you certainly would not draw such a stiff sentence for a similar crim in China. So how would Americans feel if China started to make an issue of this particular case, or started to condemn the US for having an incarceration rate of five or six times that of China’s?

EastisRed, smooth attempt to do the usual, turn the spotlight on the US, in this case pointing out an overly harsh sentence for refusing to obey a law. It happens, sadly. Those men you cite were sentenced according to the guidleines of the law, which doesn’t justify it but it does explain it. Hopefully they’ll be released. But there are boatloads of examples of harsh sentences in the US, especially for things like possessing a little marijuana. Shameful. To your question about how I’d feel if China made an issue of this – I would be totally delighted. Bring it on. And one of the remaining benefits of living in America is that they could demonstrate about it and write about it and fight it. It would be ironic, however, because in China you can receive these harsh sentences, and often far worse, for having committed no discernible crime at all. Simply trying to raise awareness of an injustice can, ironically, land you in jail for years. There is no comparison between a harsh sentencing guideline in the US and the imprisonment of a totally innocent victim of injustice seeking to raise awareness thereof.

November 12, 2010 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

The CCP reaction to the Nobel Prize can only have negative results for
China. No one likes a bully. And while I cannot disagree with the above mentioned “Dalai Lama” effect – I would like to know what the push back against it was. How much business was shifted to places like India that are seen as less politically and militarity belligerent? Also please note the recent huge purchase of US military equipment by India, expanding US relations with Viet Nam, etc.

China is a superpower. These temper tantrums are more appropriate for a third world country.

November 13, 2010 @ 12:26 am | Comment

Last response to HX’s antisemitism. HX: I said the true masters of the US are the jewish ruling elites? Why is this anti-semite? Is it not a compliment to say they are the true master? If I am anti-semite, then I’m anti-CCP too? Because I also said they are the true master of China.

The CCP is an organized, structured body. It meets periodically, it gives interviews (for what that’s worth) and we all know who belongs. To compare this with “the Jewish ruling elite” is absurd and obscene. There is no secret bloc of Jewish elites who run America, but to claim there is forms the foundation of most forms of anti-Semitism, from Charles Lindberg to George Lincoln Rockwell to Ad old Hitler. It was the cornerstone of Nazism. But unlike the case of the CCP, where we actually have a group of elites and we know who they are have a pretty good idea of how they operate, there is absolutely no Jewish equivalent. Those who insist there is such a cabal is reading right out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and are invariably anti-Semitic.

November 13, 2010 @ 1:35 am | Comment

I just want to say that I think “A Jew Behind the Scenes” sounds like a great name for a band.

November 13, 2010 @ 5:54 am | Comment

Chip. Not just a band name. Some of the most influencial figures in the history of US popular music were Jewish…..managers, studio heads, talent scouts, musicologists and impresarios, esp in the ’60s. That’s a history yet to be written,and it should be, but to go into detail here would be off topic.

November 13, 2010 @ 7:37 am | Comment

I’m afraid Hong has succeeded in hijacking the thread. The point is not just about whether you can scream something outrageous in public – although that is one measure of the freedoms we are talking about. The point is his equating Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Lianhai with those who scream outrageous things in public. That’s patently unequal. As FOARP rightly points out, the more appropriate parallel -in Zhang’s case – is with Erin Brokovich. Even Liu’s Charter 08 campaign isn’t equivalent to provocative sloganeering in public or hate campaigns. His was a moderate voice of dissent. No way to spin CCP action.
I don’t in the least condone the arrest of Liu – but I ‘get it’ when I think like the CCP. His ideas – and the risk that they would inspire the masses and start a prairie fire – pose a direct challenge to the CCP’s long-term survival. I can understand their paranoia without condoning their actions. But Zhang’s case,to me, is perverse beyond limits. Shame on Hong and others who spin it and hijack threads.

November 13, 2010 @ 7:52 am | Comment

China Watcher, thanks for the injection of sanity. I counsel others not to interact with Hong Xing and I should follow my own advice.

November 13, 2010 @ 8:35 am | Comment

“I don’t in the least condone the arrest of Liu – but I ‘get it’ when I think like the CCP. His ideas – and the risk that they would inspire the masses and start a prairie fire – pose a direct challenge to the CCP’s long-term survival.”

Chinawatcher. Re: the the masses and a prairie fire. Just who are the masses? China is an urban/rural class-differentiated society. They almost live in parallel universes.

Lets look at urban China. Govt officials & SOE employees = investment in the existing order. The disappointed members of the Ant communities = seem like prime material for fenqing nationalism. The urban rest = just want to get by and not go backwards. Migrant labour = viewed as necessary vermin to be used and discarded. LX and similar figures, don’t resonate beyond their own very small circles, even if they have captured western media attention.

There is a multiplicity of interests in urban Chinese cities, and at the moment, short of a major economic puncture, these interests don’t look like fertile territory for wholesale prairie fire political reform, even in the eyes of CCP officialdom.

Minor piecemeal reforms, yes.

Older generations don’t have any progressive democratic expectations, thats for sure. They’re experienced enough change for one lifetime. Educated young urbanites cynically join the Party to enhance career prospects, while the rest indulge in popular trivia and social networking.

When CP state power is seriously challenged and the Party has to fight to maintain its monopoly, the message propagated by LX and his colleagues will be just one voice amongst many competiting for attention, and very likely a very marginal one at that.

November 13, 2010 @ 8:54 am | Comment

@King Tubby – I can’t let mention of famous Jewish record producers go by without talking abou the most famous of all – Brian Epstein, who was born not far from where I grew up, who lived and died tragically, but without whom the Beatles would have never have gone as far as they did.

@Mike Goldthorpe – That story from the Guardian was amazing, particularly this section:

“BBC Worldwide ran into similar problems last year, when Chinese broadcasters halted dealings following Adie’s documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. She had filmed it undercover while on a tourist visa, having previously been refused entry.”

Whenever people try to make out the Chinese security apparatus as being ruthlessly efficient, I think of exactly this kind of incompetence. Literally, some minor Chinese official OK-ed a tourist visa from Kate Adie, a woman who is, with the exception of John Simpson, probably the most famous living British news correspondent.

November 13, 2010 @ 11:16 am | Comment

@King Tubby: “When CP state power is seriously challenged and the Party has to fight to maintain its monopoly, the message propagated by LX and his colleagues will be just one voice amongst many competiting for attention, and very likely a very marginal one at that.”

If Liu Xiaobo’s voice holds no threat whatsoever and is as marginal as you say it is, why arrest him, why give him an exemplary prison sentence – and why kick up a shindig about foreign ambassadors going to the Nobel ceremony? It seems to me that at least the CCP worries his voice may hold prairie fire potential.
In any case, my bigger point was to point to the perverse nature of the sentencing of Zhang.

November 13, 2010 @ 2:24 pm | Comment

@Chinawatcher. Apologies, I took a few liberties with your post to make a point…..prairie fire is wishfull thinking. Im really looking forward to Dec 6th….Beijing has to be called out on this, but lets look at the roll call at presentation time.

Just feel that most of this LX repression is directed at Western HR audiences ie sod off.

@ FOAP. Even more interesting in the history of Western popular music is the Jewish- Black American connection. Lets see where you take this one.

November 13, 2010 @ 3:20 pm | Comment

Chins’s reaction to the Nobel committee is decidedly imperialistic. The Emporer is not amused. Ironic, considering the CCP likes to present itself as anti-imperialistic.

November 14, 2010 @ 2:38 am | Comment

As they say, youth is wasted on the young. I imagine that sentiment must be doubly or triply true when it comes to the colourful assortment of angry youth on display here. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the MO is eerily similar. Inject themselves into a thread about China; start talking about anything but China, and especially about the US instead; then start making irrelevant and illogical comparisons to try to suggest that the CCP is not as ridiculous as it seems.

I agree with Chinawatcher. The CCP’s treatment of Liu is unjustified. But at least from their unique view of the world, it is at least not inconsistent with their glorious track record. But even judged against that dubious track record, their treatment of Zhang is still off-the-charts disgusting. That’s no small feat, and in some way, you’ve got to hand it to the CCP for plumbing new depths.

I did enjoy this line from East: ” The way the Americans run America does not have to be the way Chinese run China”
—absolutely agree. And I’d be most interested in seeing the day that Chinese are permitted to run China, instead of the CCP.

November 14, 2010 @ 3:18 am | Comment

I did enjoy this line from East: ” The way the Americans run America does not have to be the way Chinese run China”
—absolutely agree. And I’d be most interested in seeing the day that Chinese are permitted to run China, instead of the CCP.

I don’t get it. CCP members are not Chinese? They are foreigners parachuted out of the sky to run China? CCP has 60 million members, aren’t they 99% Chinese people, born and raised in China, ate the same rice and breathed the same air? Was Hu Jintao not born out of a regular Chinese family, as was Wen Jiabao? How are Chinese today not running China?

November 15, 2010 @ 3:49 am | Comment

“I don’t get it. CCP members are not Chinese?”
—as comebacks go, this is a rather old and worn one. Yes, CCP members are Chinese. But they don’t represent Chinese other than themselves. Not a complicated point I was making there, but I guess when you’re trying to defend the CCP, you’re left with grasping at straws.

November 15, 2010 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

Julius: “[T]he CCP made them heroes in the eyes of the West. But for the general Chinese public, they are just dogs…No one gives a bleep. At worst, they are traitors in the eyes of the Chinese.”

Not true. Several professor friends of mine at Peking University, along with a number of graduate students in both the history and literature departments, have expressed to me their sympathy for Liu and disgust at the Chinese government’s handling of his case. Most also appear to have read Charter 08. And what about the groups of Chinese supporters who were rounded-up the night Liu was awarded the Peace Prize because they planned modest celebrations in his honor? Likewise, HK and Taiwanese media outlets were largely supportive as well.

This issue is not going to fade away anytime soon. For those who care about freedom of speech in China, Liu’s Nobel will be the gift that keeps on giving. In the months and years to come, every Western leader who visits China will raise the issue of Liu’s imprisonment during talks with Chinese leaders. China’s leadership really has no good options here (though I recommend a quick release as the best way forward). Think about it – a Nobel laureate sits in a Chinese prison for being the first to sign a document that expresses nothing more subversive than the idea that the goverment should honor the constitution. It used to be that defenders of China’s human rights record would say something like, “China’s different from countries like Myanmar. After all, there’s no Chinese equivalent of Aung San Suu Kyi.” Well, now there is. (I’d love to know what the guys in Zhongnanhai are thinking now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released?)

November 16, 2010 @ 4:29 am | Comment

To Gan Lu,

I was thinking the same thing. On the one hand, Suu Kyi was only under house arrest in her lakefront home, and not in prison. On the other hand, she was under house arrest for the better part of 20 years. So maybe the CCP is thinking: “nah, they’re not comparable at all. Despite the fact that Suu Kyi had a much better view, Liu will be out at least 9 years sooner, so we’re still way better than Myanmar”. I suppose when you’re the CCP, sometimes you have to take comfort in the small victories.

November 16, 2010 @ 8:04 am | Comment

@Gan Lu and S.K.Cheung
Here’s my reading: Liu Xiaobo is unlikely to be released during Hu Jintao’s presidency: but Xi Jinping’s ascension in 2013 could set the stage for that. After all, the arrest and sentencing didn’t happen “under his watch”, which puts a bit of notional distance between him and that act. And as he starts his presidency, and the world is trying to figure out what he stands for, it simultaneously provides the party a chance to score a PR coup and change the narrative about an intolerant China. Some kind of a deal might be worked out to spirit Liu overseas after his release (which could effectively defang him), and – who’s to say – Xi might be hailed as a peacemaker worthy of Nobel Prize himself! I can already see the glowing Time magazine cover story…

November 16, 2010 @ 12:12 pm | Comment

Chinawatcher: “Xi Jinping’s ascension…could set the stage for [Liu’s release.] As he starts his presidency…[it] provides the party a chance to score a PR coup and change the narrative about an intolerant China.”

It’s not quite so easy as that, I’m afraid. Releasing Liu Xiaobo won’t be nearly the PR coup that you describe if he’s not then allowed to travel and speak freely. What if he’s released from prison but kept under house arrest? Then again, what if Liu is allowed to travel and speak publicly? Won’t he then spend the remaining decades of his life traveling the world as a respected Nobel laureate, meeting with the heads of state of western democratic countries, and going on about the importance of political/democratic reform, an independent judiciary, and protected speech and media freedoms?

As I wrote in my earlier comment, there is no face-saving way out of this mess for the regime in Beijing. All the Chinese government can hope for now is to limit the damage. In any case, the damage already done is vast. No wonder they lobbied so hard to prevent Liu from winning.

November 16, 2010 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

To Gan Lu and Chinawatcher:
I also don’t believe Liu will spend anywhere near 11 years in jail. I agree that it may be a nice “gesture” as Xi moves in for him to release Liu. That being said, it would be yet another sad commentary on the “justice system” under the CCP if a guy can be convicted apparently fair-and-square during one regime, then released under another, for no other reason than the changing of the guard. But as you guys say, it’s not like the CCP has any more feet left at which to shoot, so it’s no biggie if she pumps another round into the space formerly occupied by one of her feet.

As for what might happen to Liu after release, who knows. From a domestic consumption/indoctrination standpoint, they might get more mileage in vilifying him if he is abroad, making noise on the speaking circuit. In that sense, he’d be like another Dalai Lama. And we all know how much mileage the CCP has gotten out of the latter.

If the junta in Myanmar gets a Nobel for releasing a Nobel laureate, then I think Xi would be well positioned for scoring one himself. Heck, Hu might even do it himself. I wonder if the CCP will “permit” foreign ambassadors to attend that ceremony in Oslo, should it ever occur.

November 17, 2010 @ 1:08 am | Comment

Gady Epstein has an interesting piece on Xi today. Snip:

But of course we don’t know much about how Xi really thinks because we are not meant to know much. Future top party leaders studiously avoid stepping out of line and into the spotlight, and that is especially true of the rarest ones who make it all the way to the top. The Communist Party, wary of Gorbachevs lurking in the midst, does its institutional best to breed out of its crop of future leaders any genes for risk-taking, independent thinking and other elements of what we might call a personality. They certainly succeeded in the laboratory with Hu, who managed to stay largely anonymous for most of the 10 years he served on the standing committee as the anointed heir.

November 17, 2010 @ 2:02 am | Comment

I would like to see Liu released- the sooner the better. But let’s not project onto Xi the same hopes for enlightenment and change that so many projected onto Hu and Wen for so long.
Chances are that the CCP will just stay like it has, unless it is destroyed. So then even if Liu is released as a gesture (which I can’t expect will actually happen), someone else will take his place in his cell, sooner or later.
In my opinion, it’s good to be an absolute pessimist in matters related to Chinese politics- that way, I’m never disappointed. An additional perk is that I’m also often right…. if that can be a perk for a pessimist.

November 17, 2010 @ 3:31 am | Comment

S.K.: “If the junta in Myanmar gets a Nobel for releasing a Nobel laureate, then I think Xi would be well positioned for scoring one himself.”

I must have woken up in an alternate universe if we’re seriously talking about awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to a group of thugs purely because they’ve finally agreed to release from prison a former Peace Prize winner. (And after only 20 years, no less.) Get real.

If he’s really lucky, perhaps Xi Jinping will be win the World Harmony Prize.

November 17, 2010 @ 4:20 am | Comment

To Gan Lu,

take it easy. I wasn’t seriously talking about anything of the sort, just a supposition in furtherance of Chinawatcher’s point about Xi possibly being in the running for a Nobel at some future time.

November 17, 2010 @ 6:30 am | Comment

I think (hope) it was pretty obvious you were being extremely tongue-in-cheek, SK.

November 17, 2010 @ 9:43 am | Comment

I thought I was, but clearly not enough. I find that my sarcasm/irony is either not well executed, or doesn’t translate well, in print.

November 17, 2010 @ 11:10 am | Comment


In fact, I did think that you were probably (90%) being facetious. Perhaps you missed the irony in my comment?

November 18, 2010 @ 12:00 am | Comment

“If the medal and prize money are not handed out during the ceremony, it will be the first time since 1936 – when German journalist Carl von Ossietzky was refused permission to leave Nazi Germany.”

Look at that – the only comparison anyone can get to China’s actions is that of Nazi Germany….

November 19, 2010 @ 8:57 am | Comment

Although seeing far too many parallels, I always shy away from comparing China with Nazi Germany. It’s too much of a shock tactic.
But this time with the Peace Prize, they’ve really brought it upon themselves… one really shouldn’t be taking policy lessons from Hitler…

November 19, 2010 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

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