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China: More reactions to a first Nobel Prize

Categories: East Asia, China, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, International Relations, Politics

Pending his acceptance speech, discussion around China's first Nobel laureate [1], Liu Xiaobo [2], has ranged from his nomination [3] and the censorship which followed his win [4], his writings [5], suitability [6], the talking points against him [7], his detractors [8], how many people [9] know who Liu is, if any [10], the subsequent house arrest of his wife [11], and whether, if an award for Liu is an award for moderate progress in China, who might have made a better candidate [12].

A number of related quotes collected from popular Chinese social network website Renren [13] can be found here [14] [zh].

From the blogs:

The upside to harmonizing news of the Nobel Peace Prize, Infrared [15]:


If it hadn't been for the the Nobel Peace Prize, I wouldn't have gone and searched for this name.

The Cultural Revolution [16] was my parents’ generation, June 4th [17] was my sister's, and now my generation doesn't really have much going on except to enjoy the spring breeze post-reforms.

Now that I'm in my thirties, aside from mortgages, car payments and kids, there isn't much else to discuss. Which isn't to say that we're afraid of chaos breaking out, we're actually pretty lucky to have grown up in this ‘age of peace’. But one sometimes does wonder, just what are the ideals of our generation? Is our only choice between being young and angry and acting stupid, then mellowing out with middle age?

Every country has its own set of problems, the same way every family does. France is on strike now just over whether or not to push the age of retirement up two years; if it were China, an order would be come down and everyone would just raise their hands in support. To those of us raised in an authoritarian country, democracy at times can seem like child's play, such as legislators in Taiwan fighting each other in session [18], unimaginable.

A few years ago, I saw a video about one democracy activist in Singapore, and it was then that I realized that no matter how bustling a city is, there will always be people willing to forego a xiaokang [19] life to pursue a belief in something, even if that means sacrificing everything and being able to change nothing. For him and his family, this means for life, and people only have one, so is this kind of sacrifice really worth it?

Liu Xiaobo has no children, he and his wife are in consensus that they don't want to burden the next generation. I highly admire this kind of stance, even if I haven't seen his works. I completely detest people who play off nationalism in attacking others, they only come off as ignorant and backwards. If the majority of people in China were like this, China would have no hope. Which is why it's a good thing that the government has blocked news about the Nobel Peace prize, sparing us so much ad hominem blather online.

The impact it might have, Folboy, looking at [20] British newspaper coverage of Liu's award and a Financial Times editorial in particular:



The article suggests that many people are skeptical whether the Nobel Prize Committee, by putting the Beijing government in an awkward position, will be able to spur political reform in China, supposing rather that the short-term result will be a conflict between China and the West. Not only will China's nationalists hostilely regard this as foreigners interfering with China's affairs, but many intellectuals also feel that the international community has not given China the recognition it deserves for the rapid economic growth and increase in personal freedoms over the past thirty years.

The article also says that awarding Liu Xiaobo will have huge impact on China's rapidly-evolving society. Although calls in China for multiparty democracy and democratic elections are not widespread, more and more people, however, are calling for greater freedoms and human rights, and an award for Liu Xiaobo will see people making much stronger demands on authorities for changes to this effect.

The first Han Chinese Nobel laureate: a signal of the world's growing acceptance of Han culture, financial news editor and China Value blogger [21], Luo Mo:




In giving the award to Liu Xiaobo, Western culture has extended an olive branch to Eastern culture. Those in opposition to this might say that while Westerners have indeed extended an olive branch, Liu Xiaobo himself has yet to extend an olive branch to the Han people; with regard to this, I feel that the smartest attitude would be for ignorant types, if they're so sure, to keep from getting into arguments and instead wait until they have a chance to see for themselves [what Liu is about], as the best opinion is one given careful consideration. To not speak out now would not mean to be at fault through lack of action, rather that one would have a much clearer sense of where one stands.

Gao Xingjian [22] has also won a Nobel, but he won it as a citizen of France; what's more, the works considered and for which he won the award were French translations. Speaking of the Han language [23] and of citizens of China to have won the award, Liu Xiaobo is the first. Liu Xiaobo's win illustrates the sincerity of Western culture's interest in Han culture [24]. This is a significant event in terms of exchange of the world's cultures, and the beginning of a new era. Han culture is entering the world on its own terms, but of course it would be more precise to say that Han culture has long been out in the world, and the emphasis now is a sort of mutual recognition of cultures, a line which can be definitively drawn beneath October 8, 2010, the day Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel prize, and the day on which the Han and English language systems reached an unprecedented understanding.

Of course, I don't fully agree with many of Liu Xiaobo's views. I'm merely speaking of the Han language, how Westerners have begun listening in earnest and have now given some sincere feedback, for which I am truly appreciative.

A Nobel Peace Prize's role in a Chinese theory of change, yanbin [25]:



Of course, progress in China will need to come as a result of Chinese people's efforts, but without the vocal support of the international community, this process will be extremely difficult indeed. Of the last two hundred years of historical developments in China, which could be said to have solely been the fruit of the efforts of Chinese people alone?

Awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize more or less proves that western countries and various independent organizations are still paying attention to human rights in China, and to a certain extent they are to be trusted. China's progress can nary rely on external support alone, but nor can it do without this external vocal moral support; with the current capability of the Chinese government, and the ignorance and docility of the majority of Chinese people, domestic dissidents have no hope of making major gains. Awarding Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize will not bring much change to China's current situation; of course, power will continue go unrestricted, which will of course lead to further corruption, and thus of course interest holders will not suddenly see the light; they will surely continue to protect their interests and maintain the current state of affairs. However, the upside to a Chinese winning the Peace prize is in the enormous encouragement it brings. So many people on Twitter said they were unable to hold back a flood of tears, but of course I wasn't there to see that. But I do know that there are still quite a few young people educated in China but who remain dissatisfied with the current government and for the most part those who hear the news of this prize will definitely find cause to celebrate. At least, I don't feel that hope for China's progress can rest on a few unarmed domestic dissidents, who face huge risks, and have no choice but to struggle through peaceful means (ie., violence will lead nowhere).


It remains to be seen how much inertia this news will bring, but it does represent hope, and the world's support for steps made in pressing for China's progress.

The government's first mistake was in trying to ‘exterminate’ Charter 08 [26], My Falling Leaves [27]:



In a power struggle, attacking one's opponent is not enough; in order to gain the upper hand, one also needs to gain a certain amount of strength from one's opponent, and for hostile forces, this has always come from [China's] moderates. This is already common sense in political science in China, so it's shocking that the government has yet to grasp this point. Prior to attacks against the moderate camp of [China's] dissidents, a simple charter, one which reflects views commonly held by intellectuals, could have been controlled, and the braindead post-80s [28] and -90s wouldn't have bothered to pay it attention. But when full-out efforts where made to ban and suppress it, not only were moderates united and radicalized, but it also earned the sympathies of bystanders. The second mistake was in arresting Liu Xiaobo and sentencing him to 11 years in prison, but this goes back to the first mistake. As Liu Xiaobo is considered part of the moderate camp, to treat it as such, how do you expect others to cooperate with you?

It's possible that some feel I'm taking too much of the official view on things, but I see that as necessary. As of today, in my view, any extreme approach taken toward pushing for democracy will only be counterproductive and make acceptance or cooperation difficult, and could Mr. Liu Xiaobo have been any more blunt about that than by saying that we have no enemies?

There's a lot Westerners just aren't seeing, US-based blogger Mak Zhou [29]:

我的闹钟设定的是NPR早上的广播,7点钟的时候模模糊糊听到Liu-Xiao-bo三个字就大致意识到发生了什么。既然我的blog早就给gfw了,豆瓣也十之八九不会转这个,那就干脆不要遮遮掩掩的,扯开说亮话。说实话我对于刘做过些什么没太多了解。我知道他写了08宪章,也知道他参与过六四,但是就仅此而已了。虽然我很反感因言获罪这种荒谬的逻辑,但是不管从理论工作还是实践层面,比他有杰出贡献的人从左到右应该也不止一两个吧。事实上很多的西方媒体提到(后面也会讲到),他的获奖代表的是对在国内的一个群体的支持——亲西方的,想走民主选举道路的政治激进分子和人权活动家(political and human rights activists)。这也是让我很失望的一点,就是西方对中国政治和社会张力的想象依然在一个很狭窄的框架里面。

I keep my alarm set for the NPR morning broadcast, so, still half asleep at 7am when I heard the name Liu Xiaobo, I wasn't totally aware of what had happened. Since my blog has long been blocked and most people on Douban will never link to it, I might as well stop beating around the bush and get straight to the point. To be honest, I'm not fully clear on what all it is Liu Xiaobo has done. I know he wrote Charter 08, and I know he took part in June 4th, but that's about it. While I am quite disgusted by the preposterous logic behind locking people up for their words, whether you consider theoretical work or see things at a more practical level, there are more than one or two people on either the Left or Right who have made greater contributions that him. In fact, many Western media have stated (and I touch on this below) that what Liu being granted the award represents is support for a specific group in China: pro-western political and human rights activists who want to see introduction of democratic elections. This is the point that I find disappointing, that Westerners still imagine politics and social tension in China within such a narrow framework.

Also worth a look:

Young supporters of Liu Xiaobo from Beijing

From Boxun, community activists in Guiyang [32] discussing Liu's career, more photos here [31].

Banner congratulating Liu Xiaobo on receiving the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, reportedly from Central South University. [34]