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China's Nobel Position Seen as Strategic Mistake

Forget human rights: the country's imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo smacks of weakness, say commentators

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Today, Chinese dissident and democratic reformer Liu Xiaobo was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. But, for the first time in 75 years, the recipient wasn't present to receive the prestigious award: he's behind bars in China. All this week, the consequences of China's strong-arm tactics against Liu have invited criticism over the country's human rights record. But could China also be making a big strategic mistake too? Commenters explore how China's Nobel stance may be hurting its own national interests:

  • A Demonstration of China's Weakness, writes Nikolas Gvosdev at World Politics Review. He focuses on the country's "failed" efforts in convincing other countries to boycott the award ceremony:
China largely failed in its efforts. Of the 65 other embassies in Norway, a vast majority have accepted the Nobel committee's invitation to attend the ceremony. Admittedly, the Euro-Atlantic community is disproportionately represented in that head count, given that many countries of the developing South and East do not maintain diplomatic missions in Oslo. But just as critically, the key Southern democracies joined with the West in their intention to be present to honor Liu. In other words, "the world without the West" fractured on this question, with rising democracies like Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa refusing China's request.
  • A Missed Strategic Opportunity, writes James Fallows at The Atlantic:
The award illustrates the... Chinese authorities' frequent cluelessness about what will seem persuasive and admirable in the rest of the world's eyes. It's so evident, from outside, that China could have increased its worldwide "soft power" tenfold if it had released Liu and his family -- or, if it had not have jailed him in the first place. Of course it doesn't look that way to the security forces in Beijing.
  • Makes China a Pariah State, writes Renee Xia at The Los Angeles Times:

The empty chair will speak volumes about the deteriorating human rights conditions in China, a rising economic and political power unchecked by democratic balances. It will also speak of the tremendous sacrifices that Chinese human rights and pro-democracy activists have made, and the urgent need to support their struggle for justice and human rights for those living in China, and for upholding universal values.

  • The List of Countries Who Bowed to China Sends a Message, writes The Telegraph editorial board:
19 countries have been bullied or cajoled into boycotting the Nobel ceremony, or are simply too craven to attend. This international kowtow involves Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam. Few on this list, it may be noticed, are fully functioning democracies and many are supposed friends of the West and recipients of its largesse. We can only hope that when China reflects upon this rather shameful episode, it will understand that accepting criticism is the lot of the superpower, just as America has found
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.