Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I have never seen China so angry. This time they have abandoned all attempts at even a pretense of integrity. Sixty-five nations were invited to Oslo for the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace. About 19 or 20 declined. I suppose you could say that some of them would agree with China. Russia, for example, has had it's own issues with the peace prize. They don't respect it. But countries like the Philippines have said privately that they were afraid of angering China. But to read the headlines in the China Daily, you would think support for China was all but unanimous.
What would you be led to believe if the only information you had about the peace prize controversy came from headlines like, "'Most nations' oppose peace prize to Liu," or "100-plus nations, organizations back Beijing's peace prize stance?"
Whatever you think about Liu Xiaobo, there is absolutely no integrity in China's position relative to this issue, and that is why China is losing the propaganda war, at least internationally. Within China, it is a different matter, because Chinese people have learned from painful experience that their lives will be much less complicated if they stay out of politics. And in today's China, you are allowed to be apolitical. It wasn't that way during the Cultural Revolution. During those days, if you weren't saying, "Long live Chairman Mao" every other sentence, you could be accused of being "counter revolutionary." But in today's China, the neutral option is allowed. So to people in China, Liu Xiaobo's decision not to be neutral is viewed as prima facie evidence that he is a troublemaker. That is, if they have heard of him. Most have not. Which again points to China's sense of desperation in responding to this issue. A Global Times editorial said, "The Nobel committee has no reason to believe their political judgment is better than that of 1.3 billion people. The West has no authority to overrule Chinese people's values and judgment." The statement is disingenuous. Their own research shows that well over 70 percent of the public doesn't even know who Liu Xiaobo is. And you wouldn't need the research. The person who wrote that editorial knows very well that information about this issue is strictly controlled in China. Trust me, this one is not about how the Chinese people feel. It is about how the Communist Party feels about their image before the watching world. In their desperation to counter the negative image and downplay the Nobel ceremony, China quickly invented their own "Confucius Peace Prize," giving the award to Lien Chan. Lien Chan is a former KMT leader from Taiwan who supports reunification with China (which is the official KMT position) and has visited China and met with mainland leaders.
Unfortunately, in the rush to throw the whole fiasco together, somebody forgot to tell Lien himself about the "award." He only heard about it when the media called to ask him what he thought. In his absence, they grabbed a little girl who happened to be handy, and gave the "award" to her. Poor kid looks like she's trying to figure out what the whole thing is all about. She and a lot of other people. I guess her parents can't be too disappointed with the 100,000 RMB in prize money. But what a farce!
China really doesn't get diplomacy. Every time they do something like this, they end up looking stupid. It's as if they had gone out and hired a western ad agency and said, "Money is no object; just help us to look as ridiculous as possible."
As I have said before, I do not agree with Liu Xiaobo's idea that American style democracy is the cure for China's ills. China is not a Christian country. Democracy requires a strong, underlying moral foundation, and this China does not have. I believe American style democracy would be a disaster in China at this point. But Liu Xiaobo does have some good ideas that ought to be discussed. Cantankerous? Perhaps. Controversial? Certainly. But criminal? No. That isn't working.
What is his crime? China says that he is guilty of "subverting state power." But what does that mean? What, exactly, did Liu Xiaobo do that constituted "subverting state power?" Answer: He advocated implementation of a multi-party democracy. He wrote this proposal (along with several others) in a charter, and put it on the Internet. It was signed by 10,000 people, including several top Communist Party members. So you can see why the CCP considers Liu Xiaobo a criminal. This is China's conundrum. China holds out the irrational hope that she will be able to convince western countries that Liu Xiaobo should be considered a criminal deserving an 11 year prison sentence just because he has called for an end to one party rule. It's a vain hope. Western countries worship multi-party democracy.
But even though I don't agree with China's assessment of Liu Xiaobo, once they decided not to participate, they should have just ignored it. That's what a confident, self-assured nation would have done. And that's what the largest number of respondents in their own survey advised. China chose to ignore that wise counsel, which shows that they don't really care what their own people think. But they are hopelessly obsessed with what the rest of the world thinks. This is one propaganda war China is going to lose. Most people are impressed with the tremendous economic progress China has made, beginning with Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, which have lifted some 400 million people out of poverty. But when it comes to human rights, China is not respected. You can fake a peace prize, but you can't fake human rights.