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December 16th, 2010, by Augusto Soto

Augusto Soto

Over the last two months China opposed the decision of the Nobel Peace Prize committee and prevented other countries from attending the ceremony in Oslo. Chinese officials highlighted an ideological rift between China and the West. However, at this juncture of multidimensional global crisis we should evaluate the scope of this likely rift with China in the context of a deep polarization within the West itself.

In the context of the announcement of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, Chinese media highlighted an ideological rift between China and the West. On December 10, at the official ceremony in Oslo, for the first time since 1935 the prize was not handed over because neither winner Liu Xiaobo nor members of his family were allowed to travel to Oslo.

Beijing called the award an “obscenity” and proclaimed that it would not be “pressured by clowns” interfering in China’s politics. These statements shocked many Western citizens. But the fact that still at this stage of history Chinese and Western human rights values markedly differ should not interfere in our wide range vision.

Certainly it is disturbing to go back to 1935 to find historic parallel between Liu Xiaobo and German writer Carl von Ossietzky. Laureate Ossietzky could not then go to Oslo to receive the award. On the other hand it is a deep surprise to observe that Nobel Peace Prize 2010 was not given according to the rules established by the founder, Alfred Nobel. Nobel clearly stated that the prize should be given “to the person that in the past year has done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Human rights campaigner Liu Xiaobo has excelled in none of these fields.

It is actually not a total surprise that Chinese organizers decided, albeit out of the blue, to create a prize called Confucius, staging its own alternative ceremony in Beijing one day before the Nobel ceremony in Oslo. Once Beijing agreed on finding a figure of international stature for a Chinese award similar to a Nobel Peace Prize, the natural winner had to be former Taiwanese Kuomintang Party chief, Lien Chan. Of course, we know that in the end, due to current Taiwanese circumstances, he had no other choice but to refuse the award.

Nevertheless Lien Chan is not an “accidental” figure or candidate. In 2005 he was the highest-level official to visit the continent for the first time in decades and he has since significantly contributed to the process of closer ties between both sides of the Taiwan Strait. He embodies a long process of reconciliation after decades of deep mistrust. Furthermore, he symbolizes Taiwan Strait convergence process in the context of Asia’s rise.

In spite of the unsuccessful ceremony, the lesson of this first Confucius Prize is that apart from having fierce human rights campaigners, Asia has other vibrant histories too. Unfortunately, they are deeply ignored by us exactly at the moment when we need the widest global view.

The West bestows most prizes of international prestige and is still the origin of ideologies, ideas and strategies of global impact, but less so than in the past. After all it is well known that Western Marxism decades ago adopted and interpreted by Beijing can no longer explain Chinese reality. On the other side, capitalism and liberal democracy deserve urgent analysis. With an economic crisis underway still portending tremendous impact on Western living standards and in global power, we are witnessing a new acceleration of the information revolution. WikiLeaks overlaps with the economic crisis in these Nobel Peace Prize days.

In major Western countries opinion leaders and various social actors are not only discussing on issues such as greed and virtue, management and mismanagement, but also on transparency and a new way of transparency. The economy, the information and the powers-that-be are under a peculiar scrutiny. As a result there is a new dynamic between State and citizens, perhaps signaling a more acute split within the West than the so called ideological rift between China and the West.

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2 Responses to “Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel: Between Idealism and Realism”
  1. saitam says:

    Buen articulo Augusto, efectivamente el tema de China y los derechos humanos está cruzado con los intereses económicos de varias naciones, lo cual ciertamente no era asi en los tiempos de Tianamen, y esa es la gran debilidad para enfrentar este tema hoy dia

  2. Augusto Soto says:

    Gracias, Saitam,

    Por tu oportuno comentario, que valoro mucho viniendo de quien viene. Hay, como mencionas, intereses de varias naciones en una de las grandes cuestiones de nuestro tiempo.

    Cordiales saludos,

    Augusto Soto

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