Feature

China: An ugly Nobel tantrum

When Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, Beijing responded with a disturbing display of belligerence.

The Nobel selection team needs to create a new award, said the San Francisco Chronicle. It could be called “biggest boneheaded overreaction” to the Nobel Peace Prize. China won that award hands-down this year, after the 2010 Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu, 54, a literary critic, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last year for advocating basic human rights. Beijing responded to the prize with a disturbing display of belligerence, putting Liu’s wife under house arrest and banning all dissidents from leaving the country. It called the Nobel judges “clowns” and conjured up a Confucius peace prize for a former Taiwanese vice president who didn’t even bother to pick it up. China’s propagandists sure made a mess out of this one, said Economist.com. By leaving an “empty chair” in Oslo, they re-created a powerful image last seen in 1936, when the Nazis barred anyone from accepting the award for pacifist Carl von Ossietzky.

China sure didn’t act like a “new great power in the making,” said Will Hutton in the London Observer. Instead, the regime revealed its “profound and psychotic weakness.” The ruling party  is keenly aware of “its own vulnerability and lack of legitimacy,” and is deeply threatened by dissidents such as Liu, who has called President Hu Jintao the leader of “the communist mafia.” China’s rush to economic power has caused great strains within the country; the masses are increasingly restless, and insufficient world demand for Chinese exports has made the economy “a bubble about to pop.” Without economic growth, the regime “has no prop” for its continued power.

Beijing is hardly on the ropes, said Jamie F. Metzl in The Wall Street Journal. Let’s not forget it managed to bully or coax 19 nations, including U.S. allies Afghanistan and Iraq, into steering clear of Oslo. By promoting a concept of “absolute national sovereignty,” China is providing cover for such dictatorial regimes as Sudan, Iran, and North Korea. The Chinese insist that human rights and democracy are “Western values” that the rest of the world is free to ignore, said Doug Saunders in the Toronto Globe and Mail. “Something dangerous is happening” in China—“something far too similar to darker moments in world history.”

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